Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Blues completely healthy heading into Game 1

Backes, Brouwer join rest of group; Hitchcock declares everyone 100 percent

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The Blues stepped onto the ice at the Ice Zone on Tuesday and -- drumroll -- all players were accounted for.

Yes, that's not a misprint.

ALL players were accounted for, including captain David Backes (lower body) and Troy Brouwer (presumed to be a maintenance day), who missed Monday.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues captain David Backes will be available for 
Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against
the Chicago Blackhawks.

Jake Allen (lower body) and Steve Ott (colitis, hamstrings) made their way onto the practice ice Monday, but with Backes and Brouwer making their way on, the Blues had 26 skaters on at once, giving it more of a training camp feel.

But it's good news ahead of the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and a first-round matchup with the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.

Game 1 is slated for 8:30 p.m. Wednesday (FS-MW, KYKY 98.1-FM).

"I feel pretty good, ready to go," Backes said before joking. "Now I've got to make sure I can crack the lineup and get a spot in one of the four lines for Game 1.

"This is the first day since the middle of the summer that we've had every body available to us as a team, and that's impeccable timing because this is when you want all of your weapons on hand, and we have that. We'll have plenty of depth and ability to go and do whatever we need to with all the people available for the first time. Great for the guys in here sticking together to get where we've gotten. Now it's a coaching decision on who gets to wear the jersey for the game and give us success."

It had to be a sight for sore eyes for Blues coaches to have a selection of completely healthy bodies available at their disposal.

The thought of it all had coach Ken Hitchcock apparently so excited, he cut his presser Tuesday down to a whopping 25 seconds.

"It was good. First time all year," Hitchcock said of the healthy bodies. "Nice to see, got some choices now. See how it goes tomorrow."

Are all bodies able to play Wednesday?

"Yeah, 100 percent," Hitchcock said before walking off to, "We're ready to go. So let's play. Thanks."

Backes, who missed the final three regular season games after sustaining an injury April 3 against the Colorado Avalanche, said his target all along was Game 1.

"That was my mindset from the get-go, that Game 1 I'd be full bore," Backes said. "When you get the adrenaline running, you can play through a lot of stuff. Even with little-to-no-adrenaline today, we're feeling well. So we're a go."

Backes will join familiar linemates Alexander Steen and Patrik Berglund.

"I think we've been playing good hockey together," Berglund said. "Get out there, work hard and try to create many chances and be solid in our own end."

Steen added: "They're two big boys. I'll try and send them into the corners as much as I can. It's hard-working guys, big bodies, try and hang onto the puck and create some momentum that way both for our line and our team. Especially before my injury, I thought we were playing pretty good hockey. Looking to get back to that as quick as we can here."

It was a quick-spirited, brisk-paced practice that lasted roughly 45 minutes, but just the thought of everybody available feels unreal at this point.

"It's a good feeling to have everybody out there," Berglund said. "I think everybody looks good, everybody looks excited obviously this time of year when you need to amp it up. It's fun to see everybody out there.

"It's pretty crazy, it's been a crazy year, but I said that before too, all the teams go through a bunch of injuries. It's something you have to deal with every year."

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