Blues Get Healthier for Game 1

Thursday, 04.17.2014 / 12:44 PM
Chris Pinkert  - St. Louis Blues

ST. LOUIS - David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Vladimir Tarasenko, Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, Brenden Morrow, Barret Jackman and Alex Pietrangelo.

That’s the list of players who were unable to play in the regular season finale on Sunday against Detroit.

Now, here's the good news. Of that injured list, only Oshie and Berglund won’t be ready for Game 1 tonight.

And here's the better news: Hitchcock reiterated at practice yesterday that everybody would be back at some point in the series.

“We’ve got guys in various stages, guys getting various treatments to get ready to play,” Hitchcock said. “As I said before, at some time during the series, everybody is going to be in. But I can’t tell you if it’s Game 1, Game 5 or 6 or 7 or whatever.”

Perhaps the most surprising player to return tonight is Tarasenko, who had surgery on his right hand on March 19 and wasn’t expected to be evaluated until after the end of the first round.

“He deserves an awful lot of credit. He’s worked extra hard to be in the best shape of his life right now, which is going to allow him to be able to keep up at this time of the year,” Hitchcock said. “I think if he doesn’t put all the extra work in that he’s done on ice, off the ice, everywhere, I don’t think we would have been able to play him.”

Tonight, the Blues begin their first-round playoff series against the Blackhawks, a team they haven’t faced in the postseason since 2002. The Blues won the regular season series 3-2.

The Blackhawks are reportedly getting injured forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane back tonight. Toews sat out the final six games of the regular season with an upper-body injury. Kane missed the final 12 games with a lower-body injury.

LEOPOLD IS BACK

Defenseman Jordan Leopold will take Carlo Colaiacovo’s spot on the blue line tonight.

Due to injuries, Leopold has played in just 27 games this season and only three of the team’s eight games in April.

“It’s a new season, everybody starts fresh. I’m excited to be part of it,” Leopold said. “It’s an opportunity for me. Whatever it is, everybody puts their game on a higher pedestal and I have to rise to the occasion and have fun.”

Hitchcock said in the last two games with Chicago, the Blackhawks have controlled the play in the Blues’ zone and has kept the team hemmed in. Playing Leopold, Hitchcock said, will give the Blues a more physical presence that can still move the puck out of the zone.

RALLY AND GIVEAWAY ITEMS

With a full house expected, the Blues are encouraging fans to head downtown early to avoid traffic congestion. Outside Scottrade Center, the Blues will hold a pregame rally beginning at 5 p.m. with live music from Whiskey Dixon, appearances from Louie, Angella and the Blue Crew and prize giveaways.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m., and all fans are encouraged to be in their seats by 6:45 p.m. for the pregame show.

All fans in attendance will receive a “It’s Time We All Bleed Blue” T-shirt courtesy of Dobbs Tire & Auto, Enterprise, Ford and BMO Harris Bank.

BLUE NOTES

The Blues and Blackhawks are meeting for the 11th time in the playoffs and for the first time since 2002. The Blues have won the last two matchups (4-0 in 2002 and 4-1 in 1993).

The Blues have faced the Blackhawks more than any other team in their history. They’ve met 291 times in the regular season and 341 times including the postseason.

David Backes has five points (two goals, three assists) in his last six games against Chicago. Both Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo each have five assists in their last five games against the Blackhawks.

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