A lot of things were essential to the Blues' successful 5-1 road swing and a surge that has the team contending for penthouse position in the Western Conference. Pardon the expression, but the return of Andy McDonald is no small factor.

The diminutive forward missed 51 games with concussion symptoms after playing in only three games at the season's outset. For much of the time, the 5-foot-10 McDonald was unable to lift weights or exert himself in any fashion. He lost eight pounds along the way, mostly in muscle mass.

While the Blues were eager to get the 34-year-old winger back, they had no right to expect dramatic results, at least not initially. Frankly, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock had yet to coach a lineup that included McDonald. He didn't know what to expect.

"I didn't even remember him," said Hitchcock, who had only coached against McDonald. "I more remember him from Anaheim. I just remember him (in St. Louis) and (Brad) Boyes playing catch on the power play. It was bing-bing-bing and in the net. Our sticks were turned over half the time."