By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- There will be an infusion in the lineup for the Blues when they host the New York Islanders on Thursday.
Three players who appeared not to have a shot at playing tonight all will be in the lineup when the puck drops at 7 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).
The Blues (18-8-2) will have captain David Backes (facial lacerations), Alexander Steen (lower body) and Jay Bouwmeester (groin) in the lineup ready to go when the Blues and Islanders play for the second time since Dec. 6.
Backes, who took a puck to the mouth that required 12 stitches and did some damage to his lower lip, was wearing a full face cage Thursday after not practicing the past two days. Steen, who's missed two games after sustaining an injury against the Nashville Predators, practiced in full Wednesday but was not part of the morning skate. Bouwmeester, who's missed the past eight games since injuring his groin Nov. 22 against the Ottawa Senators, has taken part in the past three days' worth of skates and all are deemed fit to play.
"Both guys participated at practice, had no ill effects today," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Bouwmeester and Steen. "Both feel good enough to play today. Backes will give us what he's got.
"It's huge. I mean it's three experienced players that were really playing well before they got hurt, especially the Backes-Steen-(T.J.) Oshie line, which was very effective for us, so it's huge. Obviously Bouwmeester and (Alex Pietrangelo) were really having a good run there. I think it's made us deeper ... it's forced us to play more guys, but it's made us deeper. [Chris] Butler's come in, played very well. (Petteri) Lindbohm's come in and added to our group, too. So all of the sudden, our group has gotten deeper. It's allowed a guy like (Chris) Porter to move the ladder. He's had good games for us, and especially (Joakim) Lindstrom, who's been forced up the ladder because of it. We've got more people involved in the game now and we've got better play from people who've had to play better to absorb these guys being out of the lineup, so it's win-win right now."
Bouwmeester was activated from injured reserve, and the Blues put Carl Gunnarsson on IR.
Backes avoided serious injury and was back on the ice Thursday in his customary position: in front of the net working on tipping shots from teammates, including Oshie, who's shot caromed off a deflected stick and struck Backes in the mouth.
"I don't think he would call it that, but that's the price you pay for playing the game he's playing and it's a high price," Hitchcock said. "I think all of us appreciate it because he's not a guy to jump out of the way on those shots. He absorbs those shots, he hangs in there until the last possible minute. That's why he leads our team in power play goals, that's why he's led the league in power play goals the last three years scoring the same type of goal. He's led the league in being able to do the things he does at net-front. I don't think it's going to change. I know he took a shot there and you've got to admire that."
Oshie has seen this happen to a teammate before.
"I still get chills about hitting Walt back in the face five, six years ago," Oshie said of Keith Tkachuk, who lost teeth in that incident. "That one wasn't tipped. This one was tipped.
(Backes) is the type of guy that's going to go right back out there and stand in front of the net and not think twice about it. He's a absolute leader; he's a warrior. I'm never not going to feel terrible about that puck coming up and hitting him in the face. ... It's an unfortunate part of the game that happens. But it goes to show you how tough hockey players are. He's out there (Thursday) and he threw me 10-15 pucks and went and sat in front of the net and told me to rip 'em by him. It made me feel better that he's right back out there and he's taking it the right way."
Hitchcock was non-committal on who would come out of the lineup in favor of Steen and Bouwmeester, but Porter and Lindbohm are the likely candidates.
"I don't know. I've got to think about that. I'm not sure yet, but somebody's got to go out," Hitchcock said. "Whoever it is, we're going to sit out a good player. That's what happens when you've got depth. Hopefully that player understands that and when it's his turn, he'll take advantage of it."
Bouwmeester said it's been a cautious approach to making sure his injury is properly healed but a frustrating one also.
"That's why you do things the way you do them," Bouwmeester said. "You kind of ease into things and test it a little bit. That's the process.
"It was different. Obviously everyone wants to play. It's not fun sitting out, but it is what it is. Guys miss different games for different reasons. I probably aggravated it a couple times, but you never know. They're funny things. Sometimes they're quick, sometimes they take more time."
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Oshie had a bust night Wednesday night. Oshie was named the 2014 winner of the Missouri Athletic Club’s (MAC) "Sports Personality of the Year."
Oshie was honored at the MAC’s Jack Buck Sports Awards presented by Maryville University on Wednesday night.
Oshie becomes the sixth Blues player to win the award joining Al MacInnis (1999), Brendan Shanahan (1995), Curtis Joseph (1993), Brett Hull (1990) and Mike Liut (1981).
Hull was on hand to present Oshie the award.
"It was amazing," Oshie said. "I don't know if I've really ever won an award. I've definitely haven't had to speak in front of so many people before. But to have Hullie get up there, I don't know if many people saw it, but the things he said were very humbling. It gave me the chills. Made me more nervous after Hullie spoke. At one point, he said if he could go back, he would like to be little more like me. If I could do something different, it would be a lot like him out on the ice. He's a great friend. It's amazing that I'm even on nickname basis calling him "Hullie." It's great and it meant a lot more that he was there for it."
Does he remember what he said?
"I don't know. I don't know what I said," Oshie said. "I don't remember anything that was said up there. I know I made a little joke that wasn't even written down. A couple people giggled, so that was nice. When it was over, I sat down and was just happy someone was clapping."
Last season, Oshie posted a career-year, setting new high marks in points (60), goals (21), assists (39) and plus/minus (plus-19).
The Everett, Washington native was also the star of the United States' matchup with Russia at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, converting on four of six shootout attempts to lead the USA to a 3-2 victory.
The “Sports Personality of the Year,” an award Jack Buck established in 1970 to annually honor the top St. Louis sports figure, is voted on by members of the MAC.
The Jack Buck Sports Awards Banquet is regarded as the premier sports dinner in St. Louis and has honored some of the biggest names in sports history including Bob Gibson, Joe Torre, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Jimmy Connors, Marshall Faulk and Albert Pujols.
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With Jake Allen in goal tonight, Blues teammates want to help the 24-year-old redeem himself after Allen was pulled after the first period when the Blues and Islanders met this past Saturday.
Allen allowed three goals on 12 shots as the Blues fell behind 3-0 but rallied for a 6-4 victory.
"A lot of times when a goalie gets pulled, in my opinion, it's very rarely his fault," defenseman Chris Butler said. "We didn't do a good job in front of him. You hang out to dry and give up backdoor chances and empty nets. It sucks for him to have to come out of the game that the coach feels he needs to pull a guy to get everyone else going. That's the unfortunate part of being a goaltender. We all know he's going to be ready for tonight. Last game certainly wasn't indicative of his play. It was more on the team game."
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The Blues' projected lineup:
Alexander Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
Jaden Schwartz-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko
Patrik Berglund-Paul Stastny-Joakim Lindstrom
Steve Ott-Maxim Lapierre-Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Chris Butler-Kevin Shattenkirk
Barret Jackman-Petteri Lindbohm
Jake Allen will get the start in goal. Martin Brodeur will be the backup.
Healthy scratches are likely Chris Porter, Magnus Paajarvi and Ian Cole. Brian Elliott (knee) is on injured reserve but he did skate at the optional today. Carl Gunnarsson (upper body) is out.
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The Islanders' projected lineup:
Nikolay Kulemin-John Tavares-Kyle Okposo
Anders Lee-Brock Nelson-Michael Grabner
Mikhail Grabovski-Frans Nielsen-Kyle Clutterbuck
Matt Martin-Ryan Strome-Eric Boulton
Thomas Hickey-Lubomir Visnovsky
Brian Strait-Nick Leddy
Calvin de Haan-Matt Donovan
Jaroslav Halak will get the start in goal. Chad Johnson will be the backup.
Cory Conacher and Griffin Reinhart are the healthy scratches. Josh Bailey (lower body), Matt Carkner (back), Johnny Boychuk (upper body), Travis Hamonic (upper body) and Casey Cizikas (upper body) are out with injuries.