By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Whatever decision goalie Martin Brodeur makes as he takes a week to ponder his future, the Blues hope the veteran comes back.
The 42-year-old Brodeur, who was granted a leave of absence by the Blues on Wednesday, went back to his hometown of Saint-Leonard, Quebec to spend time with his family and decide what the future holds for him.
But the Blues (27-13-3), who host the Detroit Red Wings (23-11-9) today at 7 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM), they hope that Brodeur, who has been relegated to being the No. 3 goalie, will remain with the club moving forward. They were surprised by Brodeur's request.
"Yeah, selfishly, yeah," coach Ken Hitchcock said when asked about wanting Brodeur back.
"Kind of caught everybody off guard. We didn't know what was going and still don't know what's going on. I've gotta tell you, him being here, man it was really helpful. It was helpful to every piece of this organization between trainers, coaches, players, management ... he was a real helpful guy. He shared information that you just can't buy, you can't pay for. I'm hoping that whatever he decides with him and his family, that he comes back to us and we can help him a little bit maybe in something that he wants to do, but he can help us a bunch. Selfishly, we're hopeful that he does come back."
Brodeur, the winningest goaltender in NHL history with 691 wins, has a 3-3-0 record, 2.87 goals-against average and .899 save percentage in seven games with the Blues. Brodeur was a healthy scratch the past five games after goalie Brian Elliott returned from a knee sprain, behind him and Jake Allen. His last game was Jan. 2, a 29-save performance in a 4-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.
The Blues signed Brodeur to a tryout after Elliott was injured Nov. 25 against the Ottawa Senators. Brodeur signed a one-year, incentive-laden contract Dec. 2.
Elliot returned Dec. 30 and has made five appearances (four starts), allowing 10 goals. He is 11-5-1 and ranked first in the NHL in goals-against average (1.95) and fourth in save percentage (.928) heading into Thursday.
Brodeur has a record 125 shutouts, and a lifetime .912 save percentage and 2.24 GAA.
The three-time Stanley Cup champion and four-time Vezina Trophy winner spent the first 21 seasons of his career with the New Jersey Devils. He became a free agent after the 2013-14 season.
"I don't want to close the book on that," captain David Backes said of Brodeur's tenure with the Blues. "I think he's going to take a week here and do some searching and get some rest for him. But he's a very capable goalie, I think he's shown that and a very capable guy in the room. Whatever sorts itself out, hopefully he's still with us and he can provide us with more insight, more veteran know with-all and be a part of us winning games going forward. Who knows how it sorts out, but we wish him the best and some great soul searching in the next week or so.
"Yeah, he was great to have here. He is great to have here. ... Three goalies, I don't know how you figure that all out; that's management and coaching, but he's a character guy in the room, a guy with experience and he's phenomenal."
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Even though Detroit moved to the Eastern Conference it's still strange to think that tonight will be their only visit to St. Louis.
A team the Blues had some intense rivalries with as part of the Central Division and old Norris Division, the Red Wings were accustomed to making three and sometimes four regular season visits to St. Louis, and the Blues vice versa to Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
But it's been relegated down to one visit for each team in each city.
"We're just introducing their players to our players," Hitchcock said. "I think it's hard to do, it's hard to duplicate. We miss playing Detroit. It's a great rivalry, it's obviously an Original Six team. We miss having that opportunity to play them. Playing then twice a year just doesn't seem to be right with the proximity of the two cities and stuff like that. That's the way it is right now."
Backes was one of those players that remembers vividly the past.
"There's plenty of memories battling those guys, especially the first couple years in the league," Backes said. "It's still fresh and would love to have a great outing against these guys. That being said, I think the rivalry start(ed) many years before that, the playoff history between these two teams. They're a good team in the East, we're a good team in the West. There's two points up for stake and there should be plenty of incentive to go and play well."
Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall, although he misses those rivalry games with the Blues and Chicago Blackhawks, said it's been best for the organization to play in the East but misses these games.
"I do and I don't. It goes both ways," Kronwall said. "They're always fun, intense games when we play them. You miss that part of it, but at the same time, you do like the part of being in your time zone more often.
"They're always fun games, very intense. The Blues are one of the hottest teams in the league right now. It should be a good matchup for us."
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Steve Ott, who missed the optional practice Wednesday because he was sick, did not skate this morning either but Hitchcock said he will be ready.
"Ott will be ready tonight, as will Osh," Hitchcock said. "Everybody will be on board right now. We're going to take that through the day. I think we'll base that on percentages of how healthy the rest of the lineup is. We've got a little bit of a bug going through us. We'll see how it goes. We'll see which players are at 70 (percent) or 80 (percent) and which players are at a 100. It depends."
It's expected that Joakim Lindstrom, who has been a healthy scratch the past six games and eight of nine, will replace Dmitrij Jaskin.
"The team has been playing well. I'm excited to be back in and give it my all," Lindstrom said. "I can control my work ethic each and every day and I think I've done a pretty good job of trying to get better, stay positive and confident. It's part of being a professional."
Lindstrom has six points in 28 games but Hitchcock said he's worked well to get back into the lineup.
"He's been a great soldier for us. He's been a good player," Hitchcock said. "We decided we wanted to engineer our team a certain way. That's why Jaskin came up, that's why he played. Obviously there's a huge size difference. We wanted a more physical response when we got to playing those teams from the West Coast, but we've got no issue playing Lindy. He's a good player for us and he's a real pro. He probably deserved to play a little while ago, but the physicality that 'Jask' brought in is something that we ... when you're playing on that side of the pond, if you're not playing big and strong, you have trouble playing against those teams."
There has been some speculation that Lindstrom pondered thoughts of returning back to Sweden if he would continue to sit out. But the 30-year-old who signed a one-year contract worth $700,000, said he's where he belongs.
"I'm definitely committed here," Lindstrom said. "I haven't had any thoughts of those. I'm committed to being here. I'm here for the long run, do whatever it takes to contribute to the team, whether it's playing 25 minutes or five minutes. Whatever it takes to help the team."
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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
Carl Gunnarsson-Kevin Shattenkirk
Barret Jackman-Ian Cole
Brian Elliott will get the start in goal. Jake Allen will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Martin Brodeur, Dmitrij Jaskin and Chris Butler. Chris Porter (ankle) is out indefinitely.
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The Red Wings' probable lineup:
Henrik Zetterberg-Pavel Datsyuk-Justin Abdelkader
Tomas Tatar-Riley Sheahan-Gustav Nyquist
Stephen Weiss-Darren Helm-Teemu Pulkkinen
Drew Miller-Joakim Andersson-Luke Glendening
Niklas Kronwall-Jonathan Ericsson
Kyle Quincey-Danny DeKeyser
Brendan Smith-Xavier Ouellet
Petr Mrazek will start in goal. Tom McCollum will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Daniel Cleary and Brian Lashoff. Johan Franzen (upper body), Jimmy Howard (groin), Jakub Kindl (elbow), Jonas Gustavsson (shoulder) and Tomas Jurco (back) are all out with injuries.