Oshie deemed fit, ready to play; Hitchcock mum on lineup; Elliott receives honor
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Ken Hitchcock is playing that card again, which means he's not talking.
Not about personnel, not about injuries ... nothing.
It can only mean one thing: the playoffs are here, and Hitchcock is closing shop as long as the Blues are part of the equation for the ultimate prize.
But the Blues, who host the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference quarterfinals beginning with Game 1 Tuesday night at Scottrade Center, could welcome back an energetic addition.
Forward T.J. Oshie, who last played against these very same Kings March 28, hasn't seen a game since. It's been 15 games since Oshie, who blocked a shot and has since had surgery on his left ankle to repair a stress fracture, has deemed himself healthy and as Hitchcock would say: "available for selection."
"I'm as ready as I'll ever be, I think," Oshie said after Monday's practice at the St. Louis Outlet Mall's Ice Zone. "I feel good. It's going to be up to the coaches whether I'm in or not."
Oshie, who was running practice and line drills with familiar faces David Perron and Patrik Berglund, rotating on the right side with rookie Vladimir Tarasenko, gives Hitchcock another option as his team heads into its series with the Kings.
"I can't tell you. I don't know yet," Hitchcock said after practice Monday. "He's day to day for the rest of the series because we're not really sure. Today, to be honest with you, was his real first practice with a full team. We'll see how he feels in the morning. I said this before, the problem isn't today, it's how does he feel tomorrow. We'll evaluate how he feels tomorrow. If he feels OK, he's obviously going to play. If he doesn't, then we'll do something else. He's going to be that way the rest of the series.
"We'll see what they (the Kings) ice for a lineup tomorrow, we'll see what we ice for a lineup. Certainly not going to tell you folks. If I'm not telling the player, I sure as heck aren't telling you guys."
Oshie finished with 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists) in 30 games this season. The Blues went 12-3-0 without him in the lineup.
"If I don't bring anything else, I hope I bring some energy to the guys," Oshie said. "I hope I can bring some tenacity and kind of pick up where I left off. I was feeling pretty good there before I got hurt. I just want to inspire the guys to work a little bit harder.
"One big hit can lift the team up, one big blocked shot can get a team going or a hard backcheck preventing a goal. It's little things like that that can turn around a series. Hopefully I'm able to do one of those at least."
Hitchcock feels he has an impact player at his disposal once Oshie returns.
"I don't know that he can be a difference-maker, but he certainly carries the conscience of the team," Hitchcock said of Oshie. "When he's in the lineup, we're better. I don't care if it's just 5-on-5 if that's all he can contribute right now, but we're better if he's in the lineup."
The Blues ran their regular lines of previous games with Oshie mixing in with Tarasenko, something Hitchcock cautioned not to read too much into.
"I can tell you right now that every sweater that's out there other than Jamie (Langenbrunner) -- he's not quite ready yet -- is eligible," Hitchcock said. "We're not even going to let some of the players know until tomorrow, who's in or who's out. We'll adjust accordingly.
"... I'm sure everybody is going to read that because there's four yellow (jerseys), somebody from the yellow is going out," Hitchcock said. "It would be a big mistake if you read into that one."
* Elliott receives honor -- Blues goalie Brian Elliott, who will get the start in Game 1 against the Kings, was chosen as the National Hockey League's second star of the month for April.
Elliott, who revived his season with a stellar month, was 11-2-0 with a 1.28 goals-against average and .948 save percentage with three shutouts.
Elliott set the franchise record -- previously held by Brent Johnson in 2002-03 -- for the most victories in the month of April and also set a franchise mark for most consecutive shutout minutes on the road at 201 minutes, 17 seconds.