By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Paul Stastny will return to the lineup for the Blues, who host the Carolina Hurricanes today (7 p.m. on FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).
Stastny, who's missed the past two games with an upper-body injury stemming from being hit on the left cheekbone by a deflected puck Jan. 8 at Anaheim, has been practicing with the team since Tuesday and felt then he could be ready for tonight if he had good practices on Wednesday and Thursday morning, which he did.
"A couple days ago, it was a little fogginess, but (Wednesday), I felt good," Stastny said. "Every day's been better, which is what I think the doctors were explaining we were hoping for. Good to go.
"... The next three are at home and we'll try and go from there. We're finding ways to win and now we'll try and build on that."
Stastny is one of several players out of the lineup with injuries,
"I knew it wasn't like a jar or nothing felt loose," Stastny said. "That's the most important thing. It just really hurt. I knew I was bleeding a lot. Everything happened so fast, so I guess the first thing you do is to see; that's the most important thing. You don't know how it's going to swell.
"I don't think you think anything. You're more irritated how bad it hurts."
Stastny said the fogginess he felt the first couple days has subsided. Chewing food apparently seems to be better as well.
His teammates are glad to have him back.
"We all know what he's capable of, plays both ends of the ice, plays penalty kill, big, big part of the power play," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "Certainly your No. 1 center if you want to go with that. He's been great for us all year. He's a two-way player that really impacts the game in every aspect. When you get a guy like that back, it's important."
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Defenseman Carl Gunnarsson, who was hurt in the win against Los Angeles, took part in the morning skate, his first time with the team since sustaining the upper-body injury.
Gunnarsson is week-to-week and won't play tonight.
"Good to see 'Gunny' out there, but I don't think he'll play," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Nice to see that he's skating and we'll take it from there."
Captain David Backes was not part of the morning skate but is expected to play.
Hitchcock, who initially said Backes (upper body) was taking a maintenance day and "he'll be fine tonight," wanted to make sure his captain got through the day Thursday and was fine following the pregame skate.
If Backes is in, which is expected, Ty Rattie, who scored his first NHL goal Tuesday, will be a healthy scratch.
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The Blues (25-14-7) have won two straight games but are aware of Carolina (19-18-7), which has won three in a row and looking for a season-high four-game winning streak.
"Carolina plays like all the teams coming here," Hitchcock said. "Jersey's quick, Carolina's quick, Montreal's quick, Pittsburgh's really quick. Our challenge is we're not built like they are and they're not built like us. Who controls the tempo, who controls the critical ice game is going to have success. For us, when we control critical ice game, we're good and when we don't, then we're chasing from behind and that's not what we want to do."
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The Blues will see Eddie Lack in goal. He is 5-0-0 with a 1.74 goals-against average and .935 save percentage against them, all coming in games when Lack was part of the Vancouver Canucks.
Pietrangelo is on a four-game point streak (one goal, three assists). Patrik Berglund has three goals and an assist the past four games, and Jori Lehtera has an assist in three of the past four games.
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The Blues' probable lineup:
Alexander Steen-Paul Stastny-Troy Brouwer
Robby Fabbri-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko
Patrik Berglund-David Backes-Scottie Upshall
Dmitrij Jaskin-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves
Kevin Shattenkirk-Alex Pietrangelo
Chris Butler-Colton Parayko
Joel Edmundson-Robert Bortuzzo
Brian Elliott will start in goal. Jordan Binnington will be the backup.
Ty Rattie is expected to be the healthy scratch. Jaden Schwartz (ankle), Steve Ott (hamstring), Jay Bouwmeester (upper body), Jake Allen (lower body), Carl Gunnarsson (upper body) and Magnus Paajarvi (upper body) are out with injuries.
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The Hurricanes' probable lineup:
Kris Versteeg-Eric Staal-Elias Lindholm
Joakim Nordstrom-Jordan Staal-Andrej Nestrasil
Jeff Skinner-Victor Rask-Brock McGinn
Brad Malone-Jay McClement-Riley Nash
Ron Hainsey-Justin Faulk
John-Michael Liles-Brett Pesce
Noah Hanifin-Jaccob Slavin
Eddie Lack will start in goal. Cam Ward will be the backup.
Chris Terry and Michal Jordan are healthy scratches. James Wisniewski (knee), Nathan Gerbe (ankle) and Phillip Di Giuseppe (concussion) are out with injuries.