Tuesday, May 3, 2016


Backes talks net-front presence; time set for Game 5; Reaves to 
remain in for Game 3; Stars mum on goalie, Seguin, Eaves practice

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- When Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said following a 4-3 overtime win Sunday in Game 2 of the Western Conference Second Round Series against the Dallas Stars that David Backes was one of two players he's ever coached that would absorb shots without a second thought, it put the Blues' captain in rare company.

When Hitchcock coached Raffi Torres in Columbus, he would be the first to be able to stand in the slot and take any sort of punishment, whether it be getting hit with pucks, getting cross-checked, slashed, punched, elbowed, you name it.

Backes, who netted his second overtime goal of these Stanley Cup Playoffs to become the second Blue all-time to accomplish the feat (Pierre Turgeon being the other in 1999), talked about how he came to the conclusion that he would put his body at risk every time he pitches camp in front of the net. 

"I probably have to give credit to my years of playing baseball, guys pitching inside," Backes said Monday. "It's similar speed knowing that there's a chance you get hit but the reward for standing in there is well worth it. Sometimes you've got to react and there's a trust factor with the guy shooting the puck as well knowing that they're going to keep it at net-high or below, which is four feet, which means I'm going to get hit somewhere below the neck which you can heal from any of those. I've gotten a couple up higher but it's kind of a mindset that that's something we need done and I'm willing to go in there and stand there and guys hopefully shooting right by me and into the net and we get to celebrate as a group." 

It's more an acquired trait that requires plenty of repetition, and trust in the lines of Alexander Steen, Kevin Shattenkirk, Alex Pietrangelo, Vladimir Tarasenko and even Colton Parayko, who's become the new bomber of the blue line.

"It's a trust that's built on repetition, no question," said Backes, who has three goals and three assists in nine playoff games. "It only takes one or two stray ones that you've got to build that back up again. 'Steener' shoots it real hard, 'Shatty' shoots it hard, 'Petro' shoots it well, a guy like Colton starting the year, we had to have a little talk before we even had the first shot of, 'Hey, dial it back to like 70 percent. Let's build this up and maybe you can start humming a few in there.' You do that after practice time and time again. You know that in a game situation it's going to be second nature and it's proven successful for us for a while here."

Parayko admires Backes for taking the risk playing the slot.

"He always goes to the hard spots; the net-front is not an easy spot to be in," Parayko said. "You are getting pushed around, you’re getting hacked and whacked. It’s a gritty area and that’s a place that is huge if you have guys willing to go there, so kudos to him."

* Reaves stays in -- Right wing Ryan Reaves may have only played a team-low 6 minutes 18 seconds Sunday, but it won't affect his lineup status according to Hitchcock for Game 3.

Reaves, who had five hits on his stat line, made his impact early in the game when the Blues jumped to a 3-1 first-period lead. He was impactful in ways that helped the Blues establish a solid team forecheck.

"Oh yeah. He played really good," Hitchcock said of Reaves. "Like I said on the broadcast, if the coach was a little smarter he would have had him out there more."

* Game 5 set -- The NHL announced Monday afternoon that Game 5 at American Airlines Center will be a noon puck drop on NBC.

There was some discussion whether the Blues and Stars would get the noon time slot or the 6 p.m. puck drop, but that prime time space will be reserved for Game 5 of the series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.

* Stars non-commital on goalie; Seguin, Eaves skate -- Stars coach Lindy Ruff was mum on who he would start in Game 3.

The Stars started Kari Lehtonen in Game 1 (he made 31 of 32 saves) and again in Game 2 but was lifted for Antti Niemi after giving up three goals on five shots.

Niemi stopped 19 of 20 shots but was the losing goalie when he allowed Backes' overtime goal.

"I’m going to remain consistent with what brought us success through the regular season," Ruff said. "Umm-hmm, I'll let you guys know about five minutes after warm-up Tuesday."

Niemi gave the Stars a chance when he kept the game 3-1 early in the second period after making a point blank pad save on Troy Brouwer's shot from close range.

"I thought he stepped in and gave us a strong performance," Ruff said of Niemi. "There's been some ups and downs with the goaltending, but that's not unlike a lot of the series out there."

As for center Tyler Seguin (lower-body injury) and Patrick Eaves (foot), both skated in the Stars' optional before departing for St. Louis but did not accompany the team for Game 3.

Seguin has played one game since March 17 (Game 2 of the first round series against the Minnesota Wild) when he sustained a cut that partially tore his Achillies' tendon but re-injured another area in the lower body recently.

Eaves was hurt in Game 1 against the Blues after being hit with teammate Stephen Johns' shot from the right point.

"Both skated today," Ruff said, "both progressing."

Ruff didn't rule out Game 4, saying, "They have flights into St. Louis every day."

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