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McDonald Ready to Get Started

After several concussions, Andy McDonald is healthy and ready to go

Wednesday, 09.5.2012 / 10:02 AM CT / St Louis Blues - Features
By Louie Korac  - Correspondent
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McDonald Ready to Get Started

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Andy McDonald knows the score.

The Blues forward understands that Father Time catches up with everyone, and for McDonald, who turned 35 on Aug. 25, it's only natural to have those after-hockey thoughts and think about how much more gas he has left in the tank.

But as he enters his 12th NHL season -- his fourth full season in St. Louis -- he thinks Father Time will have to wait a while longer for him to hang up his skates. If he is as refreshed and energized as he was while skating with Blues players informally at their practice facility this week, there are quite a few more miles remaining in those speedy skates.

"Physically, I feel 25 again and I'm really looking forward to this year," McDonald said. "I'm really looking forward to it. I feel better this year than I did last year. I think you play so many years with injuries and things going on, you don't realize what good health is. I feel great. I had a really good offseason. I'm healthy."

McDonald, who has 468 points in 648 career games, also was healthy going into the 2011-12 season, a year in which the Blues had one of the best seasons in franchise history, going 49-22-11 and finishing second in the Western Conference with 109 points. However, McDonald's season was derailed when he suffered another concussion in the third game of the season in Dallas. That was Oct. 13; he wouldn't see NHL action again until Feb. 12, missing 51 games.

It was the sixth concussion of McDonald's career, and he admitted that during the recovery process there were times where he didn't know if he would play again. With a wife and two young children to think about, his long-term future was a consideration.

But McDonald went through the treatments, got some rest and followed concussion protocol, vowing to return. He played an abbreviated 25-game schedule last season and finished with 22 points. He then scorched the San Jose Sharks in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with four goals and four assists in five games before the Blues lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.

But the return to action was a different feel for McDonald, considering it wasn't the customary off-season program that builds a player up for the ruggedness of an 82-game season.

"Physically, I probably wasn't where I wanted to be because you really take advantage to having the offseason to get your strength," McDonald said. "When you go through a concussion, there's a good portion of the time where you're not doing anything, you're not training. To come back in and try to play and not kind of have that summer to train and get ready made it a little bit tougher. But I was probably just a little bit lighter and probably strength-wise, I could have been a little bit stronger.

"I was so happy to be back playing and I was pretty happy about my health at that point. I feel like I'm in better shape this time around. I will have my conditioning back, I will have my strength back. I'm a lot better off now."

McDonald, who is experimenting with wearing a new helmet -- one he hopes will help protect from another concussion -- could play the upcoming season on a line with Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko, the team's first-round pick in 2010. It has the potential to be one of the more lethal third lines in the League.

McDonald, who's entering the final season of a four-year contract, is eager and anxious to play a full 82-game season -- something that's only happened twice in his NHL career. Plus, McDonald would love to prolong his career here, perhaps even finish it in St. Louis.

"I feel better now mentally than I did last year," McDonald said. "I had some lingering things from years with concussions.

"I don't think I realized what 100 percent was until last season, being able to come back and get the treatments and go through all that and to get to a point where I really felt confident that I was 100 percent. That's why I'm so upbeat about this season. I've had a great summer and I'm really looking forward to playing a full year with this kind of health."



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