Thursday, January 2, 2014

(1-2-14) Kings-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues will get one player back from a lengthy injury when they host the Los Angeles Kings tonight at Scottrade Center and are in a holding pattern with a couple others.

The Blues (27-7-5), who play host to the struggling Kings (25-12-4) at 7 p.m. (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM), are in a holding pattern concerning captain David Backes (undisclosed upper-body injury) and Chris Stewart (mouth). Both will be game-time decisions tonight. 

Backes has missed the past two games and four of seven with unrelated upper-body injuries. He's taken part in skates the past four days.

"It's better everyday," Backes said. "I feel pretty good without contact. The next thing is making sure that when I get hit, I can be a force out there rather than just be a hockey player not touching anyone.

"We're working on it and we'll see how it progresses. [Wednesday] was a testing phase and making sure we're alright. Everything is going according as planned. Hopefully I'll be in the lineup very shortly."

Stewart, who left a 2-1 victory against the Minnesota Wild Tuesday after taking a puck in the mouth off the stick of Jason Pominville, has gone through standard concussion protocol and has been cleared to play. He does have stitches in his upper lip and had dental work done Wednesday.

"A little bit of dental work yesterday morning. Not the ideal way you want to start off the new year," Stewart said. "... I didn't lose any (teeth), just pushed a couple back, got them realigned there, a couple wires and stuff like that. Nothing too serious.

"... You obviously want to take precaution with concussions these days. Just follow the concussion protocol. I felt good the last two days and I'm ready to go tonight."

Stewart said it was a scary moment and something he's never been through before. He was wearing a protective face shield at the morning skate.

"It's a little different when you can see the puck coming and you can kind of brace yourself and kind of expect it," he said. "When it happens so quick like that, it catches you by surprise.

"I just went back and got stitched up."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock was non-committed to either player.

"We want to see where David Backes is at. We want to see how Stewart does," Hitchcock said. "I wouldn't count out or count in either guy. Stewart still has to pass protocol and Backes, we're just working him and see how he feels today.

"(Backes is) feeling good. We'll just see. We're going to bang him around a little bit and see how he feels and see what his thoughts are. We're in a position right now where we're not willing to take chances. If this was a playoff hockey game, that would be something different, but we're not willing to take setbacks and chances right now. If he's not at 100 percent, then we won't go."

The Blues will get fourth-line right wing Ryan Reaves back into the lineup.

Reaves, who broke his right hand during a fight to the Dallas Stars' Brenden Dillon on Nov. 23, has missed 17 games following surgery.

"I'm a player today ... finally back in the mix. Not bag skating for once," Reaves said. "I started skating after two and a half, three weeks. It hasn't been too bad. It wasn't really sore. The healing went well, the doctors were happy with it. I'm kind of before my projected time, so that's always a positive sign.

"I'm ready to go. The doctors are happy with my progress. Obviously going out after five weeks and throwing as hard as you can into somebody's face isn't going to be the best thing for it, but it's ready to go."

Hitchcock feels Reaves is ready too.

"He's lost weight, he's quicker than when he was playing," Hitchcock said. "He's 100 percent now. We waited the last possible date, the same thing we're doing on (Jordan) Leopold."

Leopold, who will miss his 26th straight game with tendon damage in his right hand, has been an active skater for a couple weeks as well.

"If Leopold does as well as we think he's going to do today and tomorrow and the next day, then he should be ready for the weekend," Hitchcock said.

The Blues also recalled goalie Jake Allen from the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League on Thursday. Allen will back up Brian Elliott against the Kings because Jaroslav Halak has been battling illness the past few days.

Allen is third in the AHL with a 2.17 goals-against average. In 23 games, he's 14-7-2 with a .922 save percentage and two shutouts.

The 23-year-old made his NHL debut last season, going 9-4-1 in 15 games, with a 2.46 goals-against average and .905 save percentage. He led all NHL rookies in wins, GAA and save percentage.

"(He) tried to fight through it, to be around (the team) but he didn't get any better yesterday so we opted just to do what we did with everybody else, keep him away from the team," Hitchcock said of Halak. "So he's going to stay at home. 

"Jake's trying to get here from Chicago. He'll get in at some period of time, but we just told Jaro it's best to stay at home right now for a day or two until you're cleared up. It comes and goes. He feels good for a couple hours and then he doesn't feel good. He's at 70 percent, and first of all, that's not good enough to play and it's not getting any better. A couple days away will really help him."

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The Blues' probable lineup:

Jaden Schwartz-Vladimir Sobotka-T.J. Oshie

Magnus Paajarvi-Patrik Berglund-Vladimir Tarasenko

Brenden Morrow-Derek Roy-Chris Stewart

Chris Porter-Maxim Lapierre-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk

Ian Cole-Carlo Colaiacovo

Brian Elliott will start in goal. Jake Allen will be the backup.

The healthy scratch is Adam Cracknell. David Backes (undisclosed upper body), Alexander Steen (concussion), Roman Polak (ankle/foot), Jordan Leopold (hand) and Jaroslav Halak (illness) are out of the lineup.

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The Kings' probable lineup:

Dwight King-Anze Kopitar-Jeff Carter

Dustin Brown-Mike Richards-Justin Williams

Matt Frattin-Jarret Stoll-Tyler Toffoli

Kyle Clifford-Trevor Lewis-Jordan Nolan

Jake Muzzin-Drew Doughty

Willie Mitchell-Slava Voynov

Robyn Regehr-Matt Greene

Martin Jones will start in goal for the Kings. Ben Scrivens will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Daniel Carcillo, Colin Fraser and Alec Martinez. Goalie Jonathan Quick (groin) is still on injured reserve.

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