Backes, others questionable against Ducks; Allen to get start Thursday
By LOU KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The news wasn't as doom and gloom some Blues fans may have been anticipating regarding captain David Backes on Wednesday.
Backes, who left the 4-3 overtime victory against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday late in the first period with an upper-body injury after hitting the left side of his head on the ice after colliding with Stars defenseman Trevor Daley in the Stars' zone.
The Blues held an optional practice Wednesday afternoon and Backes, as well as other players coach Ken Hitchcock said were "banged up," was not a participant.
There was some concern of a potential concussion, particularly with Backes' history of head injuries, and although it hasn't been ruled out, Backes also hasn't been ruled out for a home game Thursday against the Anaheim Ducks.
"There is no health report," Hitchcock said after practice. "We'll give you a better evaluation tomorrow. We had guys take the day off. A couple guys got banged up yesterday and took the day off, so we'll know better tomorrow exactly where the injured guys are at. We really don't know, to be honest with you.
"I would say nobody's ruled out. A couple guys that got banged up (Tuesday) aren't ruled in yet. We're expecting to be pretty close to the same roster, but we're not sure yet. ... There's a chance our lineup won't change one bit other than Jake Allen's the goalie. ... We're hoping that everybody's available. We'll kind of figure it out tomorrow. We got a better evaluation today. Everybody that was hurt last night's feeling better today."
One of 13 skaters (including goalies Brian Elliott and Allen) was Paul Stastny, who has been out of action since sustaining a shoulder injury Oct. 18 at Arizona. It was Stastny's third consecutive day of work with teammates and seventh day overall on the ice.
Hitchcock was asked of Stastny's availability for Thursday, and he didn't dismiss it.
"I'm assuming no," Hitchcock said. "Close, but ... let me get back to you on that one."
* Oshie scare -- Blues right wing T.J. Oshie also took a dangerous tumble to the ice after he was shoved from behind in the crease and into the Stars goal, which resulted in Oshie smacking his face on the goal post.
After being attended to by trainer Ray Barile, Oshie stayed in the game but was one of the skaters given the day off Wednesday.
"That was really a dangerous play," Hitchcock said. "He got pushed from behind. Some of those injuries, too, you don't know ... that's why you wait on things. You don't know in 24-48 hours whether guys are going to be OK or not. Sometimes they recover right away, sometimes it pops up. He hits his jaw, David hits his head ... you don't know that stuff.
"... The one that worried me was Oshie's hit. That's a guy in a dangerous position, and he gets pushed from behind. That one scared me."
* Gunnarsson's debut -- Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson's long-awaited debut came Tuesday in Dallas.
Gunnarsson, who was on the ice -- and practically on top of Elliott -- when the Stars scored the first goal of the game, skated with Barret Jackman and totalled 12 minutes, 53 seconds of ice time.
"He was a good sore but sore," Hitchcock said of Gunnarsson, who did not practice Wednesday. "... Let's just leave it at that. We're assuming he's like the rest, he's going to play tomorrow."
Hitchcock said that it will take Gunnarsson roughly five games before he's in top form, and then he'd like to get his Swedish defenseman paired with Kevin Shattenkirk.
* Allen's turn -- Allen will get the start in goal in the second meeting between the teams in 11 days.
The Ducks won 3-0 in Anaheim on Oct. 19, and Elliott was in goal that night.
Allen is 1-1-0 on the season with a 2.02 goals-against average and .915 save percentage.
"I don't know ... it's his turn," Hitchcock said when asked about Allen getting a start. "Like I said to you guys before: we have a schedule that we'd like to stay consistent with on both goalies and we prefer that Jake gets into a regular routine so that he can grow as a player, too. Develop as a player. This allows him to stay in this routine. It's pick your poison. Another good opponent on Saturday night (Colorado) so it's pick your poison. We just felt like if we're going to stick to a consistent routine, this is a chance to stick with it.
"I look at (Allen) as a veteran player, because he's been with us for so long. He's been up with us for a period of time. I know there's some growing pains that you go through with some of these guys, but that's how we treat him. Our expectations for both guys are pretty high."
* Scouting the Ducks -- The Ducks (8-2-0) come in off a 1-0 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks, the start of a four-game, six-day trip that will also see them go to Dallas on Friday and Colorado on Sunday.
John Gibson stopped all 38 shots and Devante Smith-Pelly scored a shorthanded goal in the third period that proved to be the difference in the game.
"It's a good test for us," Hitchcock said. "We've got a chance to build some momentum now. We've got two big wins against significant opponents. We get another significant opponent. We get a chance to build some positive momentum if we can just keep going. The last two games have been playoff games and that's what it's felt like. It's felt like you coached in a playoff game. Every shift matters, every play matters, every mistake gets magnified, every good play is embraced. The caliber of opponents that we've started the year with has made it feel like the playoffs already. Just got to keep getting points when you can."
The Blues improved to 4-3-1 with the win Tuesday, and they did so against a potent Stars lineup minus Stastny and Backes.
"We talk about it all year how we've got so much depth," center Maxim Lapierre said. "We've got to use it when it's time. Last night was the time.
"I think it's good news because we showed a lot of character coming back in the game, missing two great players even though we know not everybody played their best games. I think we're getting better every night, but we still have a long way to go before we're what we think we are."