By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The Blues will do some more player juggling when they face the Colorado Avalanche tonight.
Defenseman Kris Russell will miss the game with the flu and the team has recalled defenseman Ian Cole to step in and play tonight.
"We're going to get him a complete day off today and have him ready for tomorrow," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Russell. "Ian Cole is going to come in and play today and we'll see how our roster looks for tomorrow, but we're anticipating giving this full day off, Russ will be alright and be ready for tomorrow."
Defenseman Kent Huskins (ankle) is not quite up to speed conditioning-wise yet and is unavailable. The Blues will also go into the weekend without center Jason Arnott (shoulder), winger Matt D'Agostini (concussion symptoms), forward Andy McDonald (concussion) and of course winger Alex Steen (concussion symptoms), who hasn't played since Dec. 27.
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The last time the Blues and Avalanche played was on Jan. 7, a 4-0 Blues beatdown in which they outshot the Avs 39-15 in that game in what arguably was the Blues' most thorough game from start to finish.
"It's hard to judge it," Hitchcock said. "We played really well and they came off an emotional win in Chicago (the previous night). They had another emotional win last night (a 4-3 overtime win over Carolina in Denver). I think it's whichever team has the energy.
"We've got to guard against that first game back mentality, and they've got to guard against the euphoria of winning with one second or whatever was left in the hockey game. They've got to guard against that. It's two teams coming off of pretty big wins. One coming off the road and one coming in late, so this will be an interesting game to see who grabs momentum."
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Hitchcock was in his usual joking mood when a reporter was asking him regarding the status of McDonald, who is speculated to be returning to the lineup Sunday night against San Jose.
"Not playing today," Hitchcock said. "We'll see tomorrow."
The reporter said: "I know you're tired of answering these questions ...
"You're right, I'm dead-ass tired," Hitchcock said, getting a laugh from the media contingency. "Hope that makes Fox Sports."
The reporter went on to offer to Hitchcock if McDonald plays and we don't catch up with the coach Sunday, he offered the following:
"Don't even go there. Until I see the whites of his eyes or his number and his name on the bench, I'm not going there. I've been down that path before and when he's ready to play, he's ready to play. If it's tomorrow, that's great. I'll deal with that tomorrow."
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Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk has hit the skids with his offensive production, going pointless in his last nine games. He has one assist since the Avalanche were last in town. His last goal came against Colorado on that Jan. 7 night, when he tallied a goal and an assist.
When asked if he'd like to see more offense, Hitchcock said: "Nope, I'd like to see a little more simplification. I think Shatty's forcing it a little bit too much and I think he's trying to hit the home run and we'd rather see him get back to singles.
"I think it's like any young guy that's got great offensive instincts. When it's not going well, you start forcing it trying to hit the home run, trying to swing for the fences. We'd like him to just simplify it a little more. ... It's all about building good minutes, and if you build good minutes, the offense takes care of itself. When you force the offense or force the issue defensively, you push too much in the offensive zone and you end up chasing it back to your own net and getting yourself in all kinds of trouble."
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The Blues held an optional skate. Here's their probable lineup:
David Perron-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
Jamie Langenbrunner-Patrik Berglund-Chris Stewart
Chris Porter-Vladimir Sobotka-B.J. Crombeen
Evgeny Grachev-Scott Nichol-Ryan Reaves
Carlo Colaiacovo-Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk
Ian Cole-Roman Polak
Brian Elliott gets the start; Jaroslav Halak is the backup and is expected to start Sunday against San Jose barring an Elliott shutout.
Arnott was placed on injured reserve Friday, exactly one week after injuring his left shoulder against Los Angeles but he did skate Saturday, which is a good indication he's not far away from returning. Russell is expected to return Sunday night against San Jose.
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The Avalanche, who won 4-3 in overtime at home over Carolina Friday night, didn't skate Saturday. Here's their projected lineup:
Gabriel Landeskog-Ryan O'Reilly-Peter Mueller
David Jones-Paul Stastny-Milan Hejduk
TJ Galiardi-Jay McClement-Daniel Winnik
Cody McLeod-David Van Der Gulik-Chuck Kobasew
Kyle Quincey-Erik Johnson
Jan Hejda-Ryan O'Byrne
Shane O'Brien-Tyson Barrie
Semyon Varlamov will get the start; Jean-Sebastien Giguere will back up.
Winger Matt Duchene (knee) is out indefinitely. Center Kevin Porter and defensemen Ryan Wilson and Matt Hunwick are expected to be healthy scratches.