By LOUIE KORAC
CHICAGO -- Brenden Morrow got a scare Tuesday night against the San Jose Sharks, but after taking part in the team's optional skate prior to meeting the Chicago Blackhawks tonight at United Center, the veteran left wing declared himself good to go.
Morrow, 34, took a shot from behind by the Sharks' Brent Burns that sent him crashing into the sideboards and he left the game for a stretch in the first period but returned to finish the game. Morrow sat out Wednesday's practice in St. Louis but was on the ice Thursday morning and gave the thumbs-up after testing his neck area.
"Yeah, I was just out, moved around a little bit and made sure everything was working properly and where it should be," Morrow said. "I've had some neck problems and I've put in a lot of time (rehabbing). I'm trying to keep it healthy and it freaked me out a little bit and got a burner going. It's just letting it settle down. That nerve gets a little irritated at times and it was just about letting it settle down and I think its run its course."
Burns received a minor boarding penalty on the play and there was some question whether Morrow was trying to apply a reverse hit on the play, which he said was not the case.
"No, I definitely wasn't reverse-hitting," Morrow said. "I think it was (Joe) Thornton's puck that came across and I just wanted to make sure the d-man didn't jump by me so I wanted to take the low angle at it. I think just as when I was turning to go back up, I actually wasn't prepared for it. I didn't know (Burns) was there. I know there was a defenseman more than likely going to be pinching on the puck, so I just wanted to make sure I met him. I was a little off-balance at the time."
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The Blues will also get their first look at left wing Magnus Paajarvi, who was acquired from the Edmonton Oilers in the off-season that sent David Perron the other way.
Paajarvi, 22, will take the place of Maxim Lapierre, who will be in New York Friday for an in-person hearing following the boarding major Tuesday night that injured Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle.
"To me, if he plays like he practices, we're going to have ourselves a heck of a good player," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Paajarvi. "He's been great at practice. He's waited patiently for his spot, and now it's time to play. ... I didn't know much about him other than watching him on video, but he's a better offensive player than I thought and we're going to find out. He's got great instincts transition-wise and he has the ability to put a lot of pressure on defensemen. One step with him and he's gone. He's a very similar player to [Viktor] Stalberg that was here last year."
Paajarvi has waited patiently for his chance and is eager to make his Blues debut.
"I feel like I've done what I needed to do and what I need to do every day," Paajarvi said. "Hopefully I can bring my abilities when I get the chance.
"Patience is a very big factor here, especially for me. Mentally you can feel you're not on the team, but that hasn't been the case yet. I feel very comfortable on this team. I feel like I fit in with this team on the ice and off the ice as well."
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Blues captain David Backes will play in his 500th career game tonight. Backes, a 2003 second-round pick (62nd overall), becomes the second American-born player to play in 500 games in a Blues uniform.
"It seems like yesterday I was walking into that room for the first time in Pittsburgh (in 2006)," Backes said before facing Chicago Thursday. "Five hundred's gone fast but to do it with one organization and one place, that's quite an honor and humbling. Hopefully there's many more to come. It's something I thought would never happen to get to this level, but to play 500 games, it's something special."
Backes remembers that first game in Pittsburgh. He picked up an assist on his first shift.
"I actually flew from Chicago to Pittsburgh to play a game. Just the whole whirlwind of it, being in awe of all the guys and actually playing an NHL game," Backes said. "My first shift, I get hammered along the boards. I think I gave Radek Dvorak a hand pass behind the net and he passes out to Doug Weight and he scores on my first shift. The whole thing was just kind of a blur, but it's been great."
Keith Tkachuk played in 640 of his 1,201 games with the Blues.
"That's pretty cool. Good company," Backes said. "Every 100's probably celebrated. If you get to celebrate a few of those hundreds, it's a good career. At five, to think that I'm only a half way to 1,000, you think of those guys that play 1,000, 1,500 games, you're like, 'Wow!' That puts it more into perspective on how amazing those guys are that they've been able to have that longevity. I'm proud and honored to be in this league and have this opportunity. Five hundred tonight ... hopefully we'll make it a good one."
One particular Blackhawk respects Backes and spoke well of him this morning.
"He's a good player," Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane said of Backes. "He's had a pretty good career so far. I had a chance to room with him at the Olympics last time (in 2010), so I got to know him pretty well. He's a physical guy, a guy I kind of stay away from on the ice. He's very strong. He's just a man. Congratulations to him."
Backes has 130 goals and 306 points in his career and is a plus-41. He was asked if 1,000 games can be reached.
"If you do the math, that's eight more years," Backes said. "We'll take it one game at a time, and hopefully we can have another conversation like this in 500 more. One game at time and not take anything for granted and make the most of all opportunities. That's what we're focused on."
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The Blues and Blackhawks will meet for the second time in this season. The Blues won the first meeting in St. Louis Oct. 9 when Alexander Steen scored with 22 seconds remaining off an odd-man rush in a 3-2 victory.
The game still lingered for the Blackhawks, whose only regulation loss came in St. Louis but coach Joel Quenneville said he's finally gotten past it.
"I’m over it now," Quenneville said with a big grin. "It bothered me a bit. It's one of those games where you say, ‘It's tough to give up a point, potentially two,’ but you have to move on."
Added Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews: "We let one go there. We wanted to get off to a good start on the road. We know they’re going to come back hard. They had a tough game the other night (a 6-2 loss to San Jose). So we have to take advantage of being in our own building and be more aggressive."
Hitchcock said the Blues need to be ready from the outset tonight.
"Joel's using the right motivation, talking about the disappointment of the end of the game and I'm sure his players will be focused," Hitchcock said. "In all the games I've seen Chicago play, they've had great first periods so we've got to be ready for that."
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After tonight, the Blues will play Friday in Winnipeg before jetting off for a couple days for a team bonding period in Charleston, S.C. After Friday, the Blues don't play again until Oct. 25 but will be playing their first road game tonight after starting off with five in a row at home (4-1-0).
"This is good for us to get on the road," Hitchcock said. "We just got far too comfortable at home and our game that started with great energy and great focus, we got sloppy the longer we stayed there. It felt like we had been at home for a long, long time. I think our sloppiness started to show in the Rangers game and it fed into the San Jose game. We weren't ready for the competition."
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Tonight's Blues lineup:
Alexander Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
Brenden Morrow-Derek Roy-Chris Stewart
Jaden Schwartz-Patrik Berglund-Vladimir Tarasenko
Magnus Paajarvi-Vladimir Sobotka-Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Jordan Leopold-Kevin Shattenkirk
Barret Jackman-Roman Polak
Jaroslav Halak gets the start in goal; Brian Elliott is the backup and is scheduled to start Friday in Winnipeg.
Adam Cracknell and Ian Cole are healthy scratches. Lapierre is suspended pending his hearing with the NHL Department of Safety's Brendan Shanahan.
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The Blackhawks' probable lineup:
Bryan Bickell-Jonathan Toews-Patrick Kane
Patrick Sharp-Michal Handzus-Marian Hossa
Brandon Saad-Andrew Shaw-Joakim Nordstrom
Brandon Bollig-Brandon Pirri-Marcus Kruger
Duncan Keith-Brent Seabrook
Niklas Hjalmarsson-Johnny Oduya
Nick Leddy-Sheldon Brookbank
Corey Crawford is the starter in goal; Nikolai Khabibulin is the backup.
Michael Kostka and Ben Smith are healthy scratches. Michael Rozsival (illness) is also out.