Tyson Nash can't wait to play.
The Blues left wing was cleared on Monday for contact in practice for the first time since he had two offseason operations - one on his stomach, one on his right knee.
The Blues, however, can wait, which is why Nash will be on the injured reserve list when the season starts on Thursday. He probably will miss the season's first half dozen or so games.
"We want to make sure everything is perfect," coach Joel Quenneville said Monday. "His style of play is demanding, and we know it's a long season."
Nash appreciates that the Blues aren't rushing him back, but he is eager to return. The pesky winger, who was third on the team in penalty minutes with 110, hurt his knee twice last season and hasn't played since March 22.
He initially was injured on Feb. 11 when his knee buckled as he went to hit Dallas' Joe Nieuwendyk. He returned for two games before reinjuring the knee on a clean check by Colorado's Jon Klemm on March 22. He had reconstructive surgery soon after, followed by another operation to fix a separate abdominal injury.
"I got a new knee and a new stomach - new guts," Nash said. "I feel pretty good. I need a little more practice. It's hard to say when I'll be ready, but I hope it's sooner rather than later."
Nash said "my head is telling me I want to come back in the middle of October, but whether that is going to happen is another thing."
By starting the season on injured reserve, he will miss at least the first two games, but he could be reactivated any time after that. Quenneville has told Nash that even when he feels ready to play, he would be kept out another seven to 10 days.
"They want me to be 100 percent, not to play a day here and a day there," Nash said. "They want me for good."
Early returns on Monday were positive.
"He looked 100 percent to me," winger Dallas Drake said, "but there was no contact, and you never know what will happen. They're being cautious and giving him some extra time."
The Blues missed Nash in the playoffs last season and don't want to risk losing him again.
"It's tough to measure what you miss," Quenneville said, "but he can change the course of a game; his enthusiasm is contagious. He made improvements last year as a player instead of just being a banger. He got his game to different levels. It would have been nice to see him compete in the playoffs."
It's been a long rehabilitation process for Nash, but he's just about right on schedule. In the summer, he spent two hours a day working on his knee and building the strength in his right leg, which is just 1 1/2 inches smaller than the left.
Monday was a major milestone.
"Today was one of the first days I was able to throw my body around, and it was pain free," Nash said. "We'll build on that and go on from there."
Now, Nash has to take that final step. He's been skating since the first day of camp, but he's been missing out on the contact. On Monday, he did the hitting, but the contact will soon be going the other way.
"I feel pretty strong," Nash said. "My knee continues to keep getting stronger. It's not feeling great, but in eight or nine months, it will feel better than great.
"I've got to work on my skills a little bit, get my game down a little more. The wind's not there, the puck skills aren't there."
He laughed. "Not that I ever had them."