By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- After getting Keith Tkachuk and Paul Kariya back in the lineup Tuesday, the Blues will welcome another top-six forward tonight.
Andy McDonald, who suffered a mid-body strain late in the second period Saturday at Los Angeles and who sat out Tuesday's 4-1 win over Columbus, will return to the Blues' lineup tonight against the Minnesota Wild.
McDonald, who leads the team with 14 goals and is second in points with 27, has skated all week and actually felt like he would be in the lineup Tuesday but was held out as a precaution.
McDonald skated this morning and felt no ill-effects and was deemed fit to go.
"The plan is to play tonight," McDonald said this morning. "The morning skate went well, each day it's gotten better so I'm looking forward to getting back in the lineup."
McDonald felt a twinge and did not return for the third period of a 4-3 win over the Kings.
"I just kind of over-extended and turned a different way," McDonald said. "I don't know the reason, the mechanism behind it. It was just a little bit of a strain and hopefully, it won't bother me anymore."
Blues coach Davis Payne said there won't be any precautions taken tonight. Once McDonald gets into the game, it will be full bore; no holding him back.
"Andy doesn't play a slow game, so we expect him to pick right up where he left off and be skating and putting pressure on the defense, attacking in the offensive zone and doing a good job from a 200-foot perspective," Payne said.
With that in mind, the Blues will only make one alteration to the lineup tonight, with Cam Janssen being the odd man out with McDonald's return. Derek Armstrong will also be a healthy scratch.
Tonight's lines will likely stay the same with one exception:
Paul Kariya-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
Brad Winchester-Patrik Berglund-David Perron
Alex Steen-Jay McClement-Brad Boyes
Andy McDonald-Keith Tkachuk-B.J. Crombeen
* Forward D.J. King, who has missed all but four seconds this season because of a broken right thumb and who only played one game last season because of a shoulder separation, says he's fit and ready to get back into the lineup.
King, 25, has been regularly skating with the team for a couple weeks now. He is likely going to head to Peoria on a conditioning stint.
"I feel like I'm ready to go," King said Thursday morning. "I'm eager to get back at it. It's a long process, but it's something I've unfortunately went through before so I know how to mentally stay together. I'm getting really close, so I'm eager get back.
"Obviously, it's really frustrating, but you can't let it get to you because mentally, you have to get over it. You can't do anything about it."
The D-pairings will remain the same, with Darryl Sydor a healthy scratch for the ninth time in the last 11 games.
Eric Brewer-Erik Johnson
Barret Jackman-Roman Polak
Carlo Colaiacovo-Mike Weaver
Chris Mason will start in goal for fifth consecutive time.
Payne touched this morning on Sydor's value and the veteran's take on not playing.
"It's tough for a veteran guy to be out of the lineup," Payne said. "The conversations we've had with him, we know what we've got. He's a phenomenal pro in his approach of staying ready, staying positive. He doesn't want to be out of the lineup, but he certainly understands and supports the decision that's going on there.
"... We'd love to see him in there, but right now, this is the group we're going with. He understands that and he'll certainly be ready when he's called."
The Blues (19-19-7, 45 points), winners of two straight, trail Minnesota (24-20-3) by six points in the Western Conference standings and are 1-1 against the Wild this season. Each team has won at home.
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The Wild, fresh off a 5-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks Wednesday at Exel Energy Center, enter tonight's contest with a four-game winning streak and those wins have come against the likes of Calgary, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Vancouver.
Since starting the season 7-12-2, the Wild have surged forward by going 17-8-1 in their last 26 games.
"They come at you," Payne said of the Wild. "They certainly have real good pressure with their forecheck and we've got to find ways to deal with that. That's the way the game's played. It's going to be up-tempo and fast and people are going to be finishing hits out there. ... It's going to be pressure on pressure."
The forward combinations for the Wild will likely have:
Andrew Brunette-Mikko Koivu-Antti Miettinen
Guillaume Latendresse-Kyle Brodziak-Martin Havlat
Cal Clutterbuck-Eric Belanger-Owen Nolan
Robbie Earl-Andrew Ebbett-Derek Boogaard
* Mike Russo of the Minneapolis Star tribune is reporting that Clutterbuck is questionable (ill).
The D-pairings may also have a wrinkle in them as well, because Russo is also reporting that John Scott, who pummeled Vancouver's Alexandre Bolduc in a fight last night, has also fallen ill and is questionable, which would leave Minnesota with five d-men.
Greg Zanon-Marek Zidlicky
Nick Schultz-Kim Johnsson
John Scott-Shane Hnidy
Josh Harding will get a rare start in goal, only his 11th game of the season after Niklas Backstrom played Wednesday night in a 5-2 win over Vancouver.
The Blues should expect a physical game, as the Wild comes in fresh off three fights in the game against Vancouver Wednesday, with Scott, Boogaard and Hnidy all tussling in a three-minute span in the third period.