By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The flu bug has been slowly biting Blues players one by one in recent weeks.
Alexander Steen is the latest victim after missing the morning skate Saturday ahead of the Blues' clash with the Anaheim Ducks (19-7-5) at Scottrade Center (7 p.m. on FSN, KMOX 1120-AM).
Steen, who leads the team with 20 goals and is second to Alex Ovechkin's 21 goals for the overall NHL lead, will be a game-time decision for the Blues (19-5-3).
It all started when Chris Stewart was the first to get sick when the Blues were in Buffalo but he played. Kevin Shattenkirk missed the Nov. 25 home game against the Minnesota Wild because of illness, and left wing Magnus Paajarvi sat out a 3-2 loss Monday against the Los Angeles Kings.
"Same rules ... doesn't feel well, stay home, stay away from the rest of us," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Steen, who also leads the team with 32 points in 27 games. "Everybody else has been able to play that's been sick.
"We'll see how he feels later in the day. Rather than infect the rest of us, he didn't feel well and just stayed home."
If Steen is unable to go, Jaden Schwartz will step into the slot vacated by Steen and play with David Backes and T.J. Oshie.
"He's a similar player with more speed probably," Hitchcock said of Schwartz, the 14th pick in the 2010 NHL Draft. "Not the size that Alex brings to the table. Alex is a big player, but if we have to go this way, the lines you saw today will be the ones that will play. If Steener's back in, the ones we finished with (Thursday), those are the ones we'll play with."
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The Ducks come into St. Louis on the heels of their third consecutive shootout game, a 3-2 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Veteran right wing Teemu Selanne is not expected to play against the Blues, which is common when the Ducks play back-to-back games this season. Only once has Selenne, 42, played in a back-to-back role, and that's because the Ducks were beset with injuries.
"Yep," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said when asked if the team had made a decision regarding Selanne. And when asked if he would share that information, he simply said, "No."
But it is expected that St. Louis native Pat Maroon will play against the Blues for the first time in his NHL career.
Maroon, 25, grew up following the Blues and will have 70 or so members of his family in the building to see him, including his 5-year-old son Anthony.
"He loves being around the guys," Maroon said of his son. "I take him to skate with me in the summers so he gets to see everyone. He's really excited about this kind of stuff. ... He obviously knows who everyone is. He knows everyone. His favorite player is (Corey) Perry so hopefully he'll get to meet him tonight.
"It's very exciting. Obviously my family and my son get to watch me tonight. ... I probably left 70 passes, but it's going to be fun for me. Growing up, having season tickets in the old arena watching some Hall of Famers. Now I get the chance to play against my hometown, the St. Louis Blues and playing in this arena so I'm very excited about that."
Maroon, who has two goals and two assists in 19 games for the Ducks this season, missed out on his chance to play against the Blues last season when he was sent back to the American Hockey League when the Ducks came to town because he was an emergency recall.
Maroon led Oakville High School to a Mid-States hockey championship, played for St. Louis Junior Blues as well as the St. Louis Bandits, where he won North American Hockey League MVP.
But Maroon loves his time in Anaheim.
"It's been really fun, he said. "I got the chance to play with (Ryan) Getzlaf and Perry when (Dustin) Penner went down this season. Unfortunately, we don't want to see Penner go down, but I got the chance to play with them and it was probably one of the funnest things I've been through. Those are the moments that you'll never forget.
"And Teemu Selanne is probably the nicest guy on and off the ice. He's the biggest role model any rookie can ask for; comes in every day, works hard. He tells you what you need to hear. Watching a Hall of Famer like that is very cool to sit next to someone like that on the bench and watching him every day, even if it's practice or working out. it's one of those things you grow up as a kid and you dream of. I got to do that."
Boudreau said Maroon fits in well.
"He's big, he's strong," the Ducks coach said. "He's got better hands than people think. He competes and the guys love him."
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Ask Hitchcock, he would have loved to play the Ducks on back-to-back nights if Anaheim would have played a different opponent.
"I would have rather played them on a back-to-back if it was after L.A.," Hitchcock said. "Yesterday was a skating game for them. I don't think there was a lot of physical play but there was a lot of skating in the game.
"The game against L.A. was a playoff game to me. It was a very well-played game by both teams. Both teams were really hard on it. They're a lot like us. They've got a lot of depth up front. Sure, they've got top players but they've got a lot of players underneath playing awfully well. They get really good production from their second and third lines. I think you see the emergence of some of those young defensemen. They're really starting to feel it."
Boudreau calls tonight's challenge a different element.
"I think it's two different dynamics," he said. "Size and aggression is definitely St. Louis' forte and they've got the defense now to join the rush and get all the points which is something they hadn't had before. Chicago is speed, skill and the mobility of their 'D' is probably their greatest asset. It's a little different dynamic but same degree of toughness to succeed in either one of the buildings."
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The Blues' probable lineup (with Steen in the lineup):
Alexander Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
Jaden Schwartz-Vladimir Sobotka-Vladimir Tarasenko
Brenden Morrow-Derek Roy-Chris Stewart
Magnus Paajarvi-Patrik Berglund-Maxim Lapierre
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk
Ian Cole-Roman Polak
Jaroslav Halak will start in goal; Brian Elliott is the backup.
Healthy scratches include Carlo Colaiacovo, Adam Cracknell. Jordan Leopold (hand) and Ryan Reaves (hand) are on injured reserve.
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The Ducks' probable lineup:
Dustin Penner-Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry
Emerson Etem-Nick Bonino-Kyle Palmieri
Daniel Winnik-Saku Koivu-Andrew Cogliano
Matt Beleskey-David Steckel-Patrick Maroon
Cam Fowler-Ben Lovejoy
Bryan Allen-Sami Vatanen
Mark Fistric-Hampus Lindholm
Frederik Andersen starts in goal; Jonas Hiller is the backup.
Healthy scratches include Teemu Selanne, Alex Grant and Tim Jackman. Francois Beauchemin (upper body), Sheldon Souray (wrist tendon), Luca Sbisa (hand tendon), Viktor Fasth (muscle inflammation), Jakob Silfverberg (hand), Mathieu Perreault (lower body) are all injured.
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