Friday, October 31, 2014


Backes back on ice, questionable for Saturday; Oshie, 
Stastny ruled out; CDC false rumor; fourth line prominent Thursday

ST. LOUIS -- Get them back one by one is all the Blues are looking for. 

If they can even get one player back from the rash of injuries and sickness that has ravaged the team in recent weeks, it's a step in the right direction.

Captain David Backes, who missed the 2-0 victory Thursday against the Anaheim Ducks and the final two periods of a 4-3 overtime victory against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday, was back practicing with Friday with a couple handful of teammates.

Backes, who was dropped by a hit by Stars defenseman Trevor Daley, passed all concussion protocols and was able to ride a bike and get in a skate. His status for Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche is questionable. 

"I skated today. I don't know," Backes said without elaborating too much. "... I don't have any definitive results for you or anything like that."

Coach Ken Hitchcock did.

"We'll evaluate him in the morning," Hitchcock said. "He got through today, so we'll see how he feels in the morning and make the decision. It's a fluid situation with him."

T.J. Oshie, who also sustained a concussion against the Stars, did not practice. Paul Stastny (shoulder) did, but both are ruled out against the Avalanche.

"Oshie's not going to play; obviously Stastny's not going to play and the two or three guys that went down today from yesterday, we'll get you a better evaluation in the morning whether they feel good enough to play either," Hitchcock said. "... We'll get further evaluation, but it's nice to see David back on the ice with us. How he feels in the morning will determine that. 

"He was able to get a bike ride in and get a skate in today, so that's Step 1 and then how he feels throughout the day is going to be the determining factor. Obviously if he feels 100 percent, then he'll be able to play. If not, we'll just keep moving it forward."

Backes wasn't particularly pleased in the manner in which the play went down in the Stars' zone.

"All of the sudden, I was getting hit when I wasn't expecting to get hit," Backes said. "There's no puck around and I've not played in five periods. That's all I know.

"If you can hit guys when they don't have the puck, then that's legal, that's great for my game. But I don't think we want that in the game. That's my take."

Hitchcock said concussions are in no way easy to determine. He was just glad to have Backes quick.

"You don't know," Hitchcock said. "You just follow the procedures. If the procedures are all met and he feels fine, then you go. If he doesn't, then you go with that. That's always the stuff with concussions, you don't know whether it's day to day. A guy like 'Osh' hasn't been around the facility yet."

* Fourth line prominent -- A group that normally gets anywhere from 5-13 minutes of ice time was asked to grab top-line minutes in the Blues' victory against the Ducks.

Being shorthanded by four guys that play top-nine roles, guys like Maxim Lapierre, Ryan Reaves, Chris Porter, Magnus Paajarvi and even Steve Ott, who will get top-nine minutes more so than the others, was asked again to fill voids created by the losses of Backes, Oshie, Stastny and Lindstrom.

The difference with the way they were used, according to Hitchcock, was getting them on the ice "on the fly." There was even a meeting and some video to dissect some advantages of how to get that message across on the ice.

"They want to do the right stuff," Hitchcock said. "For them, if they manage with their size and their skating ability and they physicality, if they manage the game the right way, they're really effective. We were able to get them out a lot yesterday on the fly, which I think really helped them. I think that gave them a chance to really have an impact in the game because we followed it up quite a bit with a shift that kind of ended up in the offensive zone, so they were able to come out a lot of times in the offensive zone and they were able to re-establish another forecheck, which helped us manage the minutes pretty well. I know Lappy played a lot, but there was a lot at the end of the game when we got down ... between Lappy and Bergie, they shared that fourth line spot. That line really with Ott and Revo really played as a third line yesterday. They gave us good minutes and then they scored.

"That was what the meeting was about. The meeting was, 'what good is physicality if you're just chasing checks?' That was what the meeting was about. It's never a question of work with those guys, but they're smart work, and that's what I think they did yesterday. They worked really hard, they had great sticks, they picked off passes. This is two of the last three games where they've picked off passes. You've got to be smart, you've got to have a great stick and that's what they did. They really did a nice job there."

Reaves, who scored his second goal in three games after going without a goal for 54 straight games, said it's more than just throwing their bodies around.

"I think we knew we were going to be getting more minutes because of the bodies we were missing,"said Reaves, who played 7:59 with two shots (one on goal) and only one hit. "We discussed over the last couple days just playing a little bit smarter and not running out of position to get hits. In the Dallas game, we were trying to generate momentum by strictly playing physical and not playing in the offensive zone, wearing them down. I think that's sometimes when we get in trouble and teams just kind of throw it out of the zone and we're all caught deep because we're all trying to get a hit in. You just play a little calmer, a little smarter, getting our hits when we can. If they're not there, just making sure we're not running out of position and go hit something that isn't there.

"I think we can still play physical and definitely get our hits when the opportunity arises, but I think we've got to chip in and help the offense a little bit. Over the first five games, we have no points. If you're going to roll four lines, we've got to chip in once in a while. That was a big discussion with us. We need to start helping out, playing a little smarter and not getting caught running in and backchecking and making it a track meet with our line."

Lapierre, who logged the most minutes (19:40) since donning a Blues uniform, said it's no big deal. It's what they expect from themselves.

"I think we're kind of making a big deal about it right now a little bit," said Lapierre, who was 8 of 11 in the faceoff circle, one assist, four shots, two hits and two blocked shots. "We're all guys that used to play a lot. We're accepting our role here and it's OK like that, but I don't think it's that much of a deal. We just have to go out there and do our job, which is what it's supposed to be every night. Hockey's a tough game and you're going to miss players all the time. There's never excuses. Yes, we're happy with our effort we had yesterday, but it's supposed to be like that every night.

"Whatever you play, 20 minutes or five, you've got to do your job on the ice. We all took a step in the right direction last night. We've got to build from there. ... It was a simple, team win. Everybody did the details."

Ott (17:05 time on ice, 4 of 7 in the faceoff circle and two blocks), Porter (7:29 time on ice, two shots and one hit) and Paajarvi (10:15 time on ice with two shots -- one on goal -- and one hit), all got time on the power play, some were asked to kill penalties and play in prominent situations and take important faceoffs.

But more importantly, if the Blues are going to roll three lines, they want to figure prominently in scoring chances.

"I think when you're only rolling three and you're only leaning on those guys to score, they can't do that every game," Reaves said. "You can't just lean on six guys to score every goal. You've got to chip in and help out once in a while when you're on the ice. That's what you're there for. Obviously you're not going to asked to score 50, but I think it's always a bonus when a team can roll four and be successful.

"We've had a couple meetings with just us three and then we had one with Hitch a couple days ago after the Dallas game, talking about some things we can correct, some things that will work to our line and playing to our strengths. I think it worked yesterday."

* Berglund line shines -- The task at hand for Patrik Berglund's line with Jaden Schwartz and Dmitrij Jaskin was a great challenge: neutralize the Ducks' big guns with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry along with Matt Beleskey.

Not only did they blanket that trio, but they had eight of the Blues' 29 shots on goal while creating multiple scoring chances.

"I wish we could just bottle the first period," Hitchcock said. "The first period was perfect. The first period was exactly the way the line and Bergie in particular needs to play. That's a real building block. 

"If we can have that every night, every shift, if we can have that level of consistency and that level of execution, that's what we're looking for. There was a lot of really good performances there. It's a good sign."

Schwartz led the trio in time on ice at 20:42, followed by Berglund (20:00) and Jaskin (13:36).

* Notes -- There was some commotion at Scottrade Center leading up to the Blues' optional skate, where it was reported that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) was in the building looking for answers to the recent rash of bacterial infections that's affected multiple Blues players.

Hitchcock was interviewed on the radio station for Hockey Night in Canada and made a joke about the CDC should be in the building, but the false rumor was not taken as a joke and and reports that the CDC was at Scottrade Center went rampant, with Twitter and emails to club officials seeking confirmation.

The Blues hosted "Friends of Kids with Cancer" to the rink today to watch practice and visit with players in the locker room but those plans were squashed.

Saturday is "Hockey Fights Cancer" night at Scottrade Center.

. . . Brian Elliott will get the start in goal for the Blues against the Avalanche after Jake Allen stopped 24 shots for his second NHL shutout on Thursday.

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