When we get healthy and McDonald, Huskins, Sobotka and Crombeen return, sounds like Cole, Grachev, Porter and Reaves are headed back to Peoria.
They would only need to send two forwards down, not three. They only have one non-injured forward in the pressbox, though Sobotka and Crombeen are imminent.
Of Grachev, Porter and Reaves, only Grachev is waiver-exempt so he's the easy first choice. Reaves signed his first contract when he was 20 and is 24 now (will be 25 by the time McDonald gets back) but it doesn't matter because he only had three waiver-eligible years.
Although they clearly value Porter, I think they would sooner risk Porter than Reaves. Of course, if any forward is hurt (or traded) by the time McDonald is back, it's not an issue. Frankly, I saw someone cite late January for a McDonald return and that would be quite surprising. I wouldn't be bummed but I'd be very surprised. He's a well-conditioned athlete but he's barely begun skating again and there's no rush. They're winning and they have this roster issue. Last game before the All-Star break is Jan 24th, four weeks and a day. There's no need to get him back before the All-Star break. I'd guess mid-Feb to mid-March, sometime in there. We don't even know how he's responding to the light workouts yet.
As for lines when Sobotka and Crombeen get back, because it sounds like they're very near, Grachev is sent down and they probably go:
When McDonald gets back, IF the whole roster were healthy and nobody'd been traded (two HUGE assumptions), some ideas:
McDonald – Backes – Stewart
Perron – Berglund – Oshie
Steen – Arnott – Sobotka/D'Ags
Sobotka/D'Ags – Nichol – Langenbrunner
Reaves, Crombeen extra
Porter sent down
Steen – Backes – Oshie
McDonald – Berglund – Perron
Sobotka – Arnott – Stewart
D'Ags – Nichol – Langenbrunner
[Nichol being the first guy sitting to get Reaves or Crombeen in with D'Ags or Sobotka shifting to center]
I appreciate Steen's versatility, but he has to be getting top 2 line ice time no matter what the combos are. The guy brings too much everything to be riding the pine.
If you keep them at LW, one of McDonald, Perron and Steen is going to be on a "third" line though I can't imagine all three wouldn't see significant ice time. Steen also would get special teams time. I wouldn't be worried about him not seeing the ice enough.