Saturday, November 1, 2014

(11-1-14) Avalanche-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- The captain is back.

Blues center David Backes, who missed a 2-0 victory against the Anaheim Ducks Thursday because of concussion-like symptoms, was back on the ice Friday and again for the morning skate Saturday.

Although Backes was non-committal about his availability, coach Ken Hitchcock confirmed Backes' status for Saturday night's game against the Colorado Avalanche (7 p.m. on FSN, KMOX 1120-AM).

"Backes will play, don't go to the bank on the rest of the lineup," Hitchcock said. "That's about all I can tell you, but Backes will play and the rest we'll take through the rest of the day and make sure we've got 20, whether we go back to 11 (forwards)and seven (defensemen). Some guys that skated today felt good. Some guys didn't feel great, so we'll just take it through the day."

Backes was more vague.

"I don't know. There's still a lot of time between now and the game," he said. "I felt good in the skate this morning, but these things aren't black and white, yes or no's. It's a fluid, dynamic thing. Hopefully I feel well the rest of the day and will be good to go tonight.

"Heck of an effort by the guys against Anaheim. I was able to sit at home and watch it. A lot of guys put a lot of gutsy efforts in and picked up a ton of responsibility and did a phenomenal job with it, guys like 'Lappy' or 'Jori,' other guys that stepped up. They played a few more minutes than they're used to, but with that responsibility, there was no drop-off than having the regulars in the lineup."

The Blues know they will be without right wing T.J. Oshie, who also sustained a concussion against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday, as well as former Avalanche Paul Stastny, who will miss his sixth consecutive game with a shoulder injury sustained on Oct. 18. Stastny did skate again Saturday and appears close to a return to action.

Joakim Lindstrom, who also missed the game Thursday because of the bacterial infection affecting team players for the past two weeks, resumed skating Saturday after missing practice on Friday.

"I think all of us thought we were done dealing with it, but then I got it and then ... it's a little bit of everything," said Lindstrom, who played for Colorado in the 2011-12 season. "High fever and stuff. That was probably my main thing. A little adversity for the team to start off with, but I think we've handled it pretty well so far.

"I'm eager. I miss playing. That's the worst thing, sitting on the side and watch. I'm eager to get back and I'm ready to go. ... It's been a long time since I had to sit out a game for that type of flu. Knock on wood, but it was good to see them play so well  when you're not playing, too."

With the lineup still "fluid," using one of Hitchcock's words, the only lines set for tonight are ones centered by Jori Lehtera and Maxim Lapierre. Patrik Berglund could see time with Backes and Jaden Schwartz, and Magnus Paajarvi, who was on right wing on the Backes line during the morning skate, could get time there.

"Don't read too much into it right now," Hitchcock said of the lineup. "We've got the blender going this morning and that's what popped out of the blender, so I wouldn't read too much with what's going on right now. 

"Backes is cleared to play, so we'll put a line together whether it's with Schwartz and Berglund. Maybe Magnus will get a little bit of time. We'll see how it goes. He played a good game the last game. We'll see, but I don't know if I would go to the bank ... the two lines I would go to the bank on would be Lappy's line and Lehtera's line. The other two, I wouldn't go to the bank on right now. We've got to see on the health side."

If the Blues (5-3-1) have learned anything after their end-of-season blitz of injuries, it's not to take anything for granted. 

"Hopefully it's a flip of last year and maybe we get a few of these injuries out in October and November and then be healthy going into the playoffs and be able to have a ton of momentum rather than the opposide," Backes said. "But you never know what's going to happen with injuries. It's a funny game, but we feel we've got a deep team and we can rely on a lot of guys 1-25, 30 ... there's guys in Chicago where on a lot of teams, are regular NHLers that can step up if we need to go that deep. We feel good about our depth, we feel good about our guys that have stepped up and perform so far. We'll see what the lineup's like tonight and we're going to need another gutsy effort against another good opponent."

- - -

The Avalanche, who have points in five straight games (2-0-3), were anxious to face Stastny, a former teammate. Stastny had a handful of Avalanche players over to his house Friday night, including former Blues defenseman Erik Johnson and Matt Duchene.

Stastny spent the first eight seasons if his career in Colorado before leaving as an unrestricted free agent this past off-season to sign a four-year contract with the Blues.

"A few of us went and saw him last night and obviously, any team's going to miss a guy like that when you lose him," Duchene said. "It seems like he's liking St. Louis. It would have been fun to play against him tonight, but hopefully he gets back in the lineup soon."

Johnson, who spent the first three seasons if his career in St. Louis, said the Avalanche have moved past not having Stastny as a teammate anymore. However, he is certainly missed.

"We were pretty close; he's close with a few guys in here," Johnson said of Stastny. "I know guys definitely miss him, but he's got to do what's best for him and he thought it was coming here. We respect him a lot. He's a great guy and we  think he's going to be a great player here."

Johnson, the top overall pick in 2006 who is in his fourth full season with the Avalanche after being traded to Colorado for Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk in 2011, still looks back on his time in St. Louis fondly.

"I was really disappointed at first when I left St. Louis," Johnson said. "I really liked it here a lot. Just appreciated living here. I got to know a lot of good people. It's a good town. But then you kind of let it sit for a bit and you realize this might be best for your career. When Patrick (Roy) came in, things just really took off for me. I couldn't be happier playing here in Denver.

"You always wish things could have worked out maybe differently, but things happen for a reason and I'm really excited to be in Denver, happy to be in Denver. I get a lot of quality playing time. I'm really happy for the opportunity."

- - -

There are rivalries on the ice between players. That's natural. But when that rivalry, or heated blood, between head coaches exists -- like the one between Hitchcock and Roy -- it really brings out the best in two teams.

Hitchcock made the comments early in the season when Roy had heated words in the Avs' season opener against the Ducks, when Roy pushed a pane of glass that fell towards Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau after the two had heated words.

Hitchcock made the point that that stuff doesn't belong in the game. Roy responded by saying Hitchcock should mind his own business.

Then it boiled over in the teams' last meeting, when Roy called Backes "gutless" for when he took down and popped rookie Nathan MacKinnon late in that game. The comments were addressed to Hitchcock in his postgame press conference by a Avalanche reporter, who was told "not to bring that stuff over here." 

The heat generated by Hitchcock and Roy from a season ago was brought up again today. Both have since cooled off. But rest assured, if a situation arises again, words won't be short.

"I don't really know him that well," Hitchcock said of Roy. "I don't think he knows me either. I coached against him when he was a player. We had a good time together in the World Championships when we played in their cities. All that is just gamesmanship. 

"I can tell you when it was Colorado-Dallas, there was no love lost between either organization. There was a tremendous rivalry, some of the best hockey ever. It wasn't us against Patrick, it was always Eddie (Belfour) against Patrick and stuff like that. It made for fascinating theatre. I don't really know Patrick that much, so it's the dialogue that goes with coaches. You're looking for an edge on both side. It's kind of fun to be honest with you."

Roy said the too much is being made of the situation.

"I think it is," Roy said. "Obviously I'll always (be) responding if something is said by the other coach, but other than this, yeah."

- - -

Hitchcock likes to go in segments of 10 games, and for the Blues, tonight marks the 10th game of the season.

"I look at it as our 10th game, so this is the end of a segment," Hitchcock said. "To go 6-3-1 at the end of a segment would be awesome for everything that we've gone through. That's number one. Number two, I do look at it. Anybody that's around us, we want to keep. We got some good news yesterday on a couple teams in our division; we want to take advantage of it today. It's our chance to do it ourselves. It's two things: it's the division and then it's that 10-game segment. We want to really play well."

And the key to facing the Avalanche?

"I think number one for us, don't allow them to play on the move," Hitchcock said. "They're one of the best teams in the West in being able to play on the move. We've got to get them stopped, we've got to get them playing in their end more than they want to. If we can do that, we give ourselves a chance to beat them every night. We did a great job until we ran out of bodies towards the end. We played a game here where we were kind of under the weather, but before that, we did a heck of a job of making them play a little more uncomfortable than they wanted to and that's got to be our formula whether we can catch up to them or not."

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Alexander Steen-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko

Jaden Schwartz-David Backes-Magnus Paajarvi

Dmitrij Jaskin-Patrik Berglund-Joakim Lindstrom

Steve Ott-Maxim Lapierre-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson-Kevin Shattenkirk

Barret Jackman-Ian Cole

Brian Elliott will start in goal. Jake Allen, fresh off a 24-save shutout -- his second in the NHL -- on Thursday, will be the backup. It will be Elliott's 100th game in a Blues uniform.

Chris Porter and Jordan Leopold are expected to be the healthy scratches. T.J. Oshie (concussion) and Paul Stastny (shoulder) are out. 

- - -

The Avalanche probable lineup:

Gabriel Landeskog-Matt Duchene-Ryan O'Reilly

Jamie McGinn-Nathan MacKinnon-Jarome Iginla

Alex Tanguay-John Mitchell-Dennis Everberg

Cody McLeod-Marc-Andre Cliche-Maxime Talbot

Jan Hejda-Erik Johnson

Nate Guenin-Tyson Barrie

Brad Stuart-Nick Holden

Semyon Varlamov will start in goal. Reto Berra will be the backup.

Daniel Briere and Zach Redmond are healthy scratches. Patrick Bordeleau (back), Ryan Wilson (shoulder) and Jesse Winchester (concussion) are out injured.

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