There are several ways to quantify David Perron's absence from the NHL: 97 games or 14 months or 393 days.
The wait for Perron, the St. Louis Blues and hockey fans is over on Saturday, as he'll return to the lineup against the Chicago Blackhawks after completing his comeback from a concussion.
Perron last played on Nov. 4, 2010, suffering a concussion on a blindside hit from Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks that eventually cost Thornton two games under the NHL's still-new Rule 48. We anticipate VERSUS will break into coverage and build an evening of programming around his incredible and emotional return from oh right he wears No. 57 not No. 87 …
In fairness, VERSUS doesn't air hockey on Saturday night and Perron isn't Sidney Crosby, although Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wondered if the 23-year-old forward can make an impact in the lineup like Crosby has (2 goals, 9 assists):
Perron is not Crosby, but he's similar in that he's a skilled forward. Perron has said that when he first returned to the ice, details such as his shooting accuracy were missing from his game. But that's been several weeks now and he looks really good in practice.
After missing 14 months, Perron may not feel like his old self until toward the end of the season, but he'll still be able to contribute and my guess is that it won't take him very long. Hitchcock plans to play him on a line with Patrik Berglund and Chris Stewart and play him regular minutes, so that will speed up progression.
Back on Nov. 19, Coach Ken Hitchcock was asked if he'd be eased in the lineup. "Easing" doesn't sound like something Ken Hitchcock does, and he confirmed as much:
"To me, it's not so much working him in," Hitchcock said. "It's like any other player coming back from injury. When you're cleared, you're cleared and you just play.
"We're not there yet. We're not cleared to play yet. If a player's cleared to play, then you evaluate later on as to how much you play him. I find that in this League, easing into things ... the only restrictions you have when you do start to play is how many minutes you play based on your energy. You can't worry about the other stuff. You've just got to play."
There was a thought that Perron's concussion could cost him another season last summer, and thankfully that proved inaccurate. As we've said before: He's the real poster child for the unpredictability of brain injuries, having actually returned to the game to score a goal against the Sharks last year before missing the next 97 games.
Now, he's finally back, joining a Blues team that's fifth in the West with 30 points, one behind Chicago. He also joins a Blues team that's the only one under 10 percent efficiency on the power play in the entire NHL (8.8 percent, 7 goals in 80 chances). Perron's going to help change that.