By LOU KORAC
CHICAGO -- Defenseman Colton Parayko doesn't have much of a stomach for things that tend to look gross.
When Parayko saw the picture of his mouth after being hit with a puck in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Friday that resulted what looked like a firecracker exploding that shattered his upper lip, it even grossed him out.
"It was kind of gross," Parayko said. "I don't really have a strong stomach for that stuff. I have a weak stomach. It kind of upset my stomach, I'm not very good with that stuff."
Parayko missed roughly eight minutes after getting stitched up (he thought 12 stitches) but came back to finish the game.
"It's kind of gross but crazy how good the doctors are and how fast they put it back together," Parayko said. "It just shows how good they are and what they can do to help you out.
"Yeah, (the doctor) did a really good job and did it in a really good manner, made sure that I was comfortable and really took good care of me in a dire situation kind of thing. He was really good."
It's been a rough week for Parayko, who came down with the flu and had to miss a 2-1 victory at the Detroit Red Wings to begin the three-game trip, which culminates with a Central Division game today (6 p.m. on FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM) with the Chicago Blackhawks (32-15-4).
"Yeah. Starting with the flu and then a puck to the face," Parayko said. "That's what's going to be in 82 games. It's not going to be picture-perfect. Come on one more game, have a good game and get a nice little break. Have one game and leave it all on the ice for a good week at least."
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Blues captain David Backes will play in his 700th NHL game tonight for the Blues (2815-8).
Backes, who played his 500th NHL game here at United Center, was drafted by the Blues in the second round of the 2003 NHL Draft.
Backes will become the fifth player in Blues history to play in 700 games with the franchise, joining Bernie Federko (927), Barret Jackman (803), Brian Sutter (779) and Brett Hull (744).
"It's gone by pretty quick," Backes said. "It feels like yesterday I was flying to Pittsburgh for my first game. It's been a heck of a ride and hopefully a lot more to go with a lot of success to come."
Backes is seventh in franchise history in goals (197), eighth in assists (246) and seventh in points (443).
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The last time the Blues were in this building, they overcame a 5-2 first-period deficit, won in overtime on Vladimir Tarasenko's goal and the "Roar Bacon" phenomenon began.
"That was incredible," Parayko said. "Obviously with the "Roar Bacon" thing. The comeback was pretty fun and then the overtime was even crazier and then getting the win was pretty cool. Obviously it's a tough building to play in and a really loud and fun building. It's always fun, especially the rivalry."
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said it was so long ago that he doesn't remember much of the Blues' first two meetings with the Blackhawks but does remember one aspect of that game here on Nov. 4.
"I can't even remember, other than the first game was absolutely crazy," Hitchcock said. "Neither team looked like they could defend against the other team. I thought the game back in St. Louis was more of the structure and discipline that both teams can play with. Both teams in their own unique way are tough to handle. They're tough for us because of their motion and mobility on two of their lines, we're more tough for them because we can grind it out down low and effectively get the puck to the net.
"It doesn't look like either team is in control of each other and it's kind of, I don't want to say last goal wins, but whoever's offense seems to have bigger control in the hockey game ends up winning."
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The Blues will make one lineup change tonight, inserting Scottie Upshall in for Ryan Reaves to give the Blues a less of a physically-imposing lineup but one with a little more speed.
Upshall, a healthy scratch Friday at Colorado, will play with Kyle Brodziak and Dmitrij Jaskin.
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With one game remaining before a much-needed All-Star break that will keep the Blues off the ice for seven full days before resuming practice Feb. 1, tonight marks the opportunity to leave everything on the ice and for all intents and purposes, put the Blues within two points of first in the Central Division.
"I think we have faced a lot of adversity, a lot of injury issues where we've plugged holes and had different linemates and had to kind of go with the flow and ad-lib on the fly," Backes said. "The way we've stuck together and built character in here is going to pay out in droves as we go down the home stretch. Hopefully we'll roll all the bodies in as healthy bodies and we've got more tools at our disposal."
Said Parayko: "First three-quarter, right? This is a game where we want to put it all on the line. Kind of a game you want to leave yourself with ... over the break, you don't want to be thinking, 'Oh, we could have done this or should have had a win kind of thing.' It's one of those ones you want to leave with it feels good to leave on a break with a full win."
The Blues wrap up seven games in 13 days in this stretch that came on the heels of nine games in 15 days on two separate occasions.
"I don't know that it's like, it's this 9 in 15 twice that, this is now five, almost six weeks, one hockey practice," Hitchcock said. "We're so fortunate that we've got good veteran players that can carry the day without practicing, but we've got a list that's three pages long that we want to work on, I'm sure Chicago does, you can't work on it. You have to decide whether you're going to have energy or structure with no energy and we've opted for energy, just as the Hawks have. So you just close your eyes and hope like heck you've got better energy at the end of the day. We're both lucky that we both get rest in the second half and we'll have some actual hockey practices that we can get better at. I don't think you can get better just playing games. There are so many things that both teams need to work on, you at least need 30 minutes on the ice once or twice a week to get it done. I'm looking forward to that too."
The fact that the Blues could only be two points back of the division lead, which was once at 10 when the Dallas Stars occupied first place, is a testament of sticking with things.
"I don't think anybody catches a championship team until you beat them in a playoff series," Hitchcock said of the Blackhawks. "You can talk all you want about the regular season. We're like that, we're trying to get in, you have to beat them because there's an emotional gear that championship teams go to that not many teams can sustain. Just when you think you've got them, they go to another gear. If you're even going go to beat them, you've got to beat them in a playoff series before you can say that."
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Brian Elliott, 5-6-1 with a 2.60 goals-against average and .909 save percentage lifetime against the Blackhawks, will start his eighth straight game tonight.
Since Jake Allen (lower-body injury) went down Jan. 3, Elliott is 5-1-2 with a 1.97 GAA and .942 save percentage.
"I've seen spectacular play," Backes said of Elliott. "It seems like he was given that job when Jake goes down and he's just run with it and carried us on his back for quite a few games, made some key saves, had tons of key moments in games and given us a chance to put a few in and get him a win. When he's had two or three goals scored for him, he's been pretty dynamic in getting those wins piled up. A huge part of our success as of late and we'll need that going forward to continue that."
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Hitchcock was mixing and matching players working on the power play Sunday morning at the skate.
The Blues are 0-for-13 the past five games and 0-for-17 going back six games since they scored on two straight power plays (both by Patrik Berglund) against New Jersey on Jan. 12.
"I think there's two things happening. One, we don't start with the puck as much as we did, we're losing a lot of faceoffs, and then we're not entering as clean as we did," Hitchcock said. "We'll hopefully be better at that tonight. That's what puts you out of sync. In order to be a successful power play you've got to be a minute-plus in the zone, and we're at 40 seconds, so it's not allowing us. We're kind of one and done. It's not like we're getting outworked. We're doing a good job when we get it in there, it's that we're not starting with the puck and we're chasing it back down the ice a little too much right now."
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The Blues' probable lineup:
Alexander Steen-Paul Stastny-Troy Brouwer
Robby Fabbri-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko
Patrik Berglund-David Backes-Ty Rattie
Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Dmitrij Jaskin
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Carl Gunnarsson-Kevin Shattenkirk
Joel Edmundson-Colton Parayko
Brian Elliott will start in goal. Jordan Binnington will be the backup.
Ryan Reaves and Robert Bortuzzo will be the scratches. Jaden Schwartz (ankle), Steve Ott (hamstring), Jake Allen (lower body) and Magnus Paajarvi (upper body) are out with injuries.
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The Blackhawks' probable lineup:
Andrew Shaw-Jonathan Toews-Marian Hossa
Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane
Andrew Desjardins-Phillip Danault-Teuvo Teravainen
Richard Panik-Dennis Rasmussen-Brandon Mashinter
Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Trevor van Riemsdyk-Brent Seabrook
Erik Gustafsson-Michal Rozsival
Corey Crawford will start in goal. Scott Darling will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Jiri Sekac and Rob Scuderi. Marcus Kruger (wrist) is on injured reserve.