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Blues make hefty move, allow Tkachuk to practice

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues were impressed with Keith Tkachuk's first day on the ice Thursday, especially considering he'd missed nearly two weeks of training camp.

"He looked good," captain Dallas Drake said. "We had a pretty
short practice but I thought he looked really good."

So good that Tkachuk, suspended at the start of training camp Sept. 16 after failing a physical, may play in the opener at Detroit next Wednesday. Tkachuk did little skating during the NHL
lockout that wiped out last season, and reportedly showed up for
the start of camp about 25 pounds overweight.

"I wasn't as prepared as I should have been," Tkachuk said.
"But I'm telling you right now, if you watched me skate today I'm
definitely prepared now."

Coach Mike Kitchen said the team was "kind of leaning" toward
dressing Tkachuk in the opener.

"A lot of it will be how comfortable he is on the ice,"
Kitchen said. "It's getting in traffic and making plays, his
timing, that type of thing. He'll have plenty of practice."

Tkachuk, the second-highest paid player in the NHL at $7.6
million, worked with a personal trainer during the suspension, and had done some skating at area rinks. The Blues took the drastic
step of banishing him instead of letting him work his way into
shape with the rest of the team, and last week the NHL Players'
Association filed a grievance on behalf of Tkachuk.

Tkachuk passed a physical Thursday morning.

"We wanted him back," general manager Larry Pleau said. "We
need him back. He can be a heck of a player in this league."

Added coach Mike Kitchen: "It's nice to have our big guy back
in the lineup."

Tkachuk, who led the Blues with 33 goals and 71 points in
2003-04, wouldn't say if he deserved the suspension.

"We've got to move forward," he said. "That's two weeks ago,
it's over and I'm here now."

Tkachuk met with teammates and the coaching staff separately
before hitting the ice. Drake said it wasn't a long talk with
players.

"He said 'Guys, I apologize for the situation I put you in, I
put everyone in a bad spot a little bit,"' Drake said. "We didn't
expect much from him, we were just happy he was back."

The same went for Tkachuk.

"It was awesome being out with the guys," he said. "I don't
know if it was a combination of adrenaline and training, but I felt
unbelievable."