Blues expect most injured players back for Game 1 -

Blues expect most injured players back for Game 1

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By Scott Bierman By Scott Bierman

(HockeySTL) -- Sunday’s regular-season finale was more of an American Hockey League matchup than an NHL rivalry game, as it was supposed to be. When the Blues took the ice for warm-ups prior to their battle with the Red Wings, they were without eight of their regulars.

Barret Jackman (undisclosed), Alex Pietrangelo (undisclosed), Brenden Morrow (foot), David Backes (foot), Vladimir Sobotka (undisclosed), Vladimir Tarasenko (hand), T.J. Oshie (upper-body) and Patrik Berglund (upper-body) were all absent from the Blues’ lineup due to their respective injuries.

Of those injuries, six occurred on the Blues’ recent two-game road trip. And according to Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock, only one player might have been able to fight through the pain and play on Sunday.

To compensate, the Blues made multiple call-ups and had to take a different approach to the game. That approach, unsurprisingly didn’t work.

The players who sat out for the Blues accounted for 49 percent of the Blues’ scoring this season, and obviously left an irreplaceable void.

“It’s guys who have contributed all year,” Blues goaltender Ryan Miller said. “You kind of feel for them, pushing it trying to get wins, trying to get points and they come up with injuries. We want to see them back in the lineup. They have worked all year for it.”

The Blues are now headed into the postseason riding a six-game losing streak, which can be largely attributed to the injuries, and will get the tough Chicago Blackhawks in the first round, which starts on Thursday.

The Blues can’t afford to be lacking offense against the Blackhawks, but in order to put up points they need their top players back. And it looks like that is a strong possibility.

"We'll have a lot different lineup (in the playoffs) than what played (Sunday),” said Hitchcock. “A lot of guys are going to be back in (on Thursday). They couldn’t play (Sunday), but we have five days before we have to play again so we have lots of time. “

And Hitchcock also expects his club to be fully healthy at some point during the series.

“I can guarantee you right now that everybody that was out (Sunday), at some period of time, they’re going to be in,” he said.

Though Hitchcock wouldn’t tip his hand, of the players currently out, all but Berglund, Tarasenko, and Morrow appear to have a good chance of returning to the lineup for the playoff opener.

The team will practice on Tuesday, so it will be more obvious at that time who will be healthy enough to return before the weekend. The one that could be up in the air is Tarasenko.

The young forward, who has been out for nearly five weeks, is still sporting a cast on his right hand after undergoing surgery to repair a thumb injury he sustained in March.

As of last week, Tarasenko was not yet able to shoot consistently, but he is inching closer. Depending on how he practices and feels this week, he could perhaps add some firepower to the lineup early in the series.

But no matter who is ready, the Blues, as a team, will have to be.

“Whoever is in the lineup, we have to make up a mindset of pushing through,” said Miller.

The Blues sent down Sergey Andronov and Ty Rattie on Sunday, indicating their level of confidence in getting some of their forwards back into the fold. But in order to do so, the club will focus more on resting than working.

“The one difference the last ten days has made for us, the only difference, is that we have to adjust our schedule,” Hitchcock said. “We may need more rest than work to get back focused again. That part is what it is.”

Chicago is also expected to get two of their top players back in Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Both players have been sidelined for the past few weeks, but returned to the ice on Monday to practice. Blackhawks coach, Joel Quenneville, has said that both are expected to be at 100-percent for Thursday.

“I think both are expecting to get some of their top players back in the fold here, who have helped get the teams the record they’ve got,” said Hitchcock.

The two teams have four days before they begin playoff play. After a long second half of the season, the break is a blessing for the struggling Blues and their injured players.

“This break will do us a lot of good,” Hitchcock said. “We can get re-energized, re-focused, and come back and get ready to play.” 

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