By LOU KORAC
CHICAGO -- To nobody's surprise, Blues captain David Backes is out of the lineup when the Blues face the Chicago Blackhawks at 7:30 p.m. today (FSN, KY 98-FM).
Backes, who was the recipient of a hard hit from Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook at the 15:09 mark of the third period in Game 2 on Saturday, did not take the ice on Sunday and was not on the ice for the Blues' morning skate.
"He's out, won't play today," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who would not elaborate any more on Backes' condition.
"He's our No. 1 center, he plays the most minutes on the hockey club, he plays in every situation," Hitchcock said. "It has to be shared. Not one person's going to be able to take the slot. We don't have that.
"We don't have somebody that can come in and say, 'OK, you've got to take his minutes.' Somebody's going to have to do extra work killing penalties, other people have got to be added, we're going to have to do a better job on faceoffs, other people are going to have to step up and take faceoffs, especially on the right side. There's like anything else: what would Chicago be like with losing (Jonathan) Toews? For us, Backes is Toews."
"It's going to be a tough loss for us to lose Dave," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "But they lost a pretty key player as well (Seabrook). We've got to take advantage of that.
"We all have to [assume leadership] collectively. One guy can't try and step up and try to be the captain for this team. We all have to lead each other. It really just comes from playing the right way, keeping our emotions in check and playing a really solid team game."
The Blues will get Patrik Berglund (upper body) back in the lineup. Berglund has missed three games after sustaining an injury in the final road game of the regular season against the Dallas Stars. Berglund has practiced with the team three times in the past four days with limited contact, but Hitchcock insisted that's not the case.
"It's a big hole (filling Backes' spot), but I think we're more equipped with Berglund in our lineup," Hitchcock said. "We're more equipped to handle this than we would have been without 'Bergie' here.
"First of all, assuming that he hasn't had a lot of contact ... we've been beating him around the boards for a week now. He's been running into every coach and every alumni we could find. He's been beat around as hard ... he hasn't participated maybe in full practices. We really only have had one that he wasn't around for. He's been declared fit to play. I don't think there's going to be an issue there. I think it's a little bit like Osh (T.J. Oshie). You're walking into a hornet's nest, and that's why we're starting him on the lower side of the roster to see where he's at from being able to keep up mentally. I think the first game back for Osh was really rich, walking into something like that having not played for a little while. We expect the same with Bergie. If he can just get his shifts and get his feet wet ... we're going to play him with Brenden (Morrow). The lines you saw today are the lines we're going to start the game with. If we can play him with Brenden and Revo (Ryan Reaves), they play well on the road together. Hopefully we can build some good minutes with the line and get them more comfortable as the game goes along and as the series goes on."
Morrow, who was scratched in Game 2, had been nursing a foot injury sustained April 10 before facing the Minnesota Wild. He played in Game 1 but will return Monday night.
"It's kind of a numbers game right now," Morrow said. "We've got a lot of guys that are getting healthy at the right time. Coach's decisions now."
Vladimir Sobotka, who took the knee-on-knee contact from Blackhawks left wing Bryan Bickell in the third period of Game 2, took his regular position at center with Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko.
- - -
The Blues have moved on from all the extracurricular activity and residue from the hit that Seabrook inflicted on Backes, as well as the "wakey, wakey Backes ... wakey wakey" comment made after Backes was wobbly on his feet.
Alexander Steen, one of the players on the ice who went after Seabrook after he hit Backes, was asked what Blackhawk players said.
"You think I’m going to tell you? No," he replied.
"That's for you guys. I’m not talking about that stuff. I'm focused on Game 3."
Morrow, a veteran with years of playoff experience, said the Blues will use it as motivation, not redemption.
"It's motivating us, but I don't think we're looking for any redemption other than winning hockey games and doing what we did at the end of the game and capitalizing on the man advantage," Morrow said. "It's a physical, hard series but I don't think this is the time to belooking for redemption.
"They're the champions and they've got what we want. There's all the makings of a good series in it."
"I think if you let it affect you and you try to react and kind of approach it with an eye-for-an-eye mentality, you're the one who ends up on the bad side of things," Shattenkirk said. "Last game, after the hit and everything, we did a good job of going out there and using that penalty to score a goal, a big goal for us.
"We can't be focused on revenge tonight. We have to be worrying about winning the game and I think that's why you see that. There’s no time for that."
For Hitchcock, it's all about living in the moment.
"Just keep moving forward. It is what it is," said Hitchcock, who also was done talking about events from Game 2. "We won the first two games, held serve. Regardless of what happens here, we've held serve. We've just got to keep playing. We've got to play our best game today. We've got to play a lot better than in the first two games if we expect to win. We can play better, I think our players will, but we're going to need to. I more look at it the last two games we've played here, we didn't play that well, and we've really goot to amp up our game if we expect to win in this building. It's a tough building to win in, we won an early game in the year, played very well and we need to copy the first game we played in here. We did great things and then we got into the track meet in the last two meetings and they've got a quick team if you get into the track meet. We need to avoid the track meet, get into our game and see if we can put our best game out there tonight. Our players know that."
- - -
With the Blues holding a 2-0 series lead heading into Game 3, they can expect nothing but Chicago's best. If the Blackhawks fall into an 0-3 series hole, working out of it will be a major obstacle.
"I think we expect to see them come out flying off the start and really trying to win the game in the first five minutes," Shattenkirk said. "I think that's the way they like to play a lot, but we have to be ready for that push. It's going to be even more so tonight.
"Any time you get to play at home in front of your fans, you kind of get that extra boost. We just have to make sure that we're not trying to win it in the first five minutes but we’re not losing it either. So it’s an important start. ... The quicker we can get on top of them and get to our game, that seems to at least slow them down a little bit. And really just not allow their guys to get in the game and feel the rhythm of the game."
The Blues, who held a 2-0 series lead last season against Los Angeles but dropped four straight, can learn from that experience.
"You realize in the playoffs you're never out of it and they are going to keep battling," Schwartz said. "We learned first-hand last year how tight the games were and how they stuck with it and we’re going to have to do the same and carry that going forward."
- - -
Tarasenko, who leads the Blues with two goals in the series, hasn't missed a beat since the thumb injury he sustained March 15 at Nashville that forced him to miss the final 15 games of the regular season.
"Looks like the same player," Hitchcock said of Tarasenko. "Probably would have been a 35-goal scorer if he would have finished the year healthy, but he's right where he was when he left. He's right up to speed, which is ... I said this before at the start of the playoffs, he did a great job in getting himself getting ready to play. His fitness level, he was on the ice for long, long days and long, long hours. He did a great job in getting himself fit to play."
- - -
Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith, who is the alleged perpetrator who taunted Backes with the "wakey, wakey Backes," wouldn't admit to saying it but never denied it either.
"There's lots of things that get said out on the ice in the course of a hockey game, especially in playoffs," Keith said. "I'm an emotional guy. It's an emotional game. I don't remember everything that gets said out there.
"I didn't even see the hit, to be honest with you. I'm playing the puck and I shot the puck around, and the next thing I know, I see 'Seebs' getting in a fracas so I jump in there. I don't know what was going on."
Keith was asked again.
"I don't know how many times you want me to say the same thing," he said. "Skating around, didn't see the play, come in there to help support 'Seebs.' Like I said, there's lots of things that get said over the course of a hockey game. I don't remember everything that gets said."
Bickell also defended himself after hearing of Hitchcock being critical of his knee-to-knee collision with Sobotka.
"I think I’m going to finish my checks," Bickell said. "I think things like that are going to happen. They’re going to try to get out of the way and avoid hits. I’m not a guy that’s going to be throwing my knees out or hitting guys high. I’m pretty honest, and I’m going to be finishing checks and things like that are going to happen. But I haven’t heard anything yet.
"They are hockey plays. I’m going to try to finish my check every time. I don’t think I’m a dirty player that looks to throw knees out or hit high. I’m just an honest checker. Things like that are going to happen. Guys want to get out of the way to avoid hits. It happens that way and I just need to keep going."
- - -
The Blues' probable lineup:
Steve Ott-Alexander Steen-T.J. Oshie
Jaden Schwartz-Vladimir Sobotka-Vladimir Tarasenko
Brenden Morrow-Patrik Berglund-Ryan Reaves
Chris Porter-Maxim Lapierre-Adam Cracknell
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk
Jordan Leopold-Roman Polak
Ryan Miller will get the start in goal; Brian Elliott will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Ian Cole, Carlo Colaiacovo, Derek Roy, Magnus Paajarvi, Dmitrij Jaskin and Niklas Lundstrom. David Backes (upper body) is out.
- - -
The Blackhawks' probable lines:
Bryan Bickell-Jonathan Toews-Brandon Saad
Patrick Sharp-Michal Handzus-Marian Hossa
Kris Versteeg-Andrew Shaw-Patrick Kane
Brandon Bollig-Marcus Kruger-Ben Smith
Duncan Keith-Sheldon Brookbank
Johnny Oduya-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Nick Leddy-Michal Rozsival
Corey Crawford will start in goal; Antti Raanta will bethe backup.
Brent Seabrook will serve the first of a three-game suspension. Healthy scratches include Jeremy Morin, Peter Regin, Joakim Nordstrom, David Rundblad, Klas Dahlback and Jason LaBarbera. The Blackhawks report no injuries.