No sooner after it reported that Oskar Sundqvist would be sidelined indefinitely with a lower-body injury, the St. Louis Blues put that “indefinitely” in more certain terms. The team has announced that Sundqvist is out for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL in his left knee. Sundqvist will undergo surgery when the teams returns to St. Louis from their current road trip. The Blues hope that Sundqvist will be ready for 2021-22 training camp and will re-evaluate the injury at that time.
The injury occurred early in the Blues’ Friday night game against the San Jose Sharks. Sundqvist appeared to collide with teammate Kyle Clifford and went down in visible pain. He had to be helped off the ice by Ryan O’Reilly and Sammy Blais, placing no pressure on his left leg. Sundqvist did not return to the game, missing the second and third periods entirely. Despite what seemed to be a serious injury, the Blues did not make any snap judgements, merely stating that Sundqvist would be sidelined for the time being while they awaited the results of an MRI. That MRI apparently took place on the road, revealing a torn ACL.
The ACL injury is a difficult one to overcome in hockey. The knee ligament plays a crucial part in the mechanics of skating. A torn ACL takes a while to heal from surgery regardless, but to get back to skating strength is whole other level of timely recovery, rehab, and re-strengthening. The injury always ends a season and, depending on the severity, usually takes at least six months prior to a return and then often a period of time to re-adjust to game speed. The outlook for Sundqvist, as noted by the team, is a return for training camp at the very earliest. A sixth-month period from the date of surgery will line up with late September. The Blues know too well that all recovery periods for ACL injuries are merely speculation and that the return to full strength is not an easy, straightforward path; the team has seen both Robby Fabbri and Carl Gunnarsson suffer ACL tears in recent years that ended their seasons and impacted their play upon return.
In Sundqvist, St. Louis loses a reliable bottom-six forward who has gained ice time and special teams responsibility in each of his four years with the club. A member of the 2019 Stanley Cup-winning roster, Sundqvist provided nine points in 25 games and top-six minutes en route to a title. He was on a similar scoring pace early this season with nine points through 28 games and has recorded 31 and 23 points respectively in each of the past two seasons. Sundqvist’s absence leaves a hole at third-line center for the Blues and his penalty kill ability and physical style will be missed as well. Sundqvist joins a laundry list of injuries for St. Louis; he’s their third season-ending injury behind Gunnarsson and Alex Steen (unofficially retired), while defenseman Colton Parayko and forwards Ivan Barbashev, Jacob de La Rose, Erik Foley, Mackenzie MacEachern, and Robert Thomas are also on Injured Reserve and Zach Sanford and Scott Perunovich are otherwise sidelined as well. With the injuries mounting up, suddenly the Los Angeles Kings biting at the Blues’ heels in the West Division look like a real threat to steal the final playoff spot.