While the Blues hit the ice for their first playoff practice Monday at St. Louis Outlet Mall, they did so without a couple of key players.
Forwards David Backes (lower-body) and Troy Brouwer (unknown) were not skating with the team.
“No update on either one of those guys,” head coach Ken Hitchcock said after practice. “We will let you know tomorrow.”
Brouwer, who has missed a few practices recently, is the only Blue to play in all 82 games this season and was in the lineup Saturday for the finale. It is possible that Monday was just an extra day for the forward to recover from the issue that kept him out of the practices down the stretch. However, Hitchcock wouldn’t say if Brouwer would join the team on the ice Tuesday.
Backes, who missed the last three games of the regular season with a lower-body injury, did not skate but has indicated that he would be able to return in the first round, perhaps as early as Game 1 on Wednesday.
“There’s nothing holding me back at this point,”Backes told fans at Scottrade Center following Saturday’s game.
But Hitchcock didn’t share the same certainty. Aside from not playing, Backes hasn’t practiced with the team in over a week.
“Until a guy practices, it is pretty hard to put a guy in,” said Hitchcock.
There is a possibility that the captain skates Tuesday, though that isn’t confirmed. If he does, there would be a chance he suits up for the first game against Chicago.
While Backes and Brouwer’s readiness is up in the air, goaltender Jake Allen is a lock to back up Brian Elliott in Game 1.
“I’ll be back Game 1,” Allen said Monday. “Ready to go.”
Allen also missed the final three games of the season with a lower-body issue. Though he has skated a few times in the last week, Monday was his first practice with the team since sustaining the injury in Colorado.
“Jake looked great so obviously we will take him through the rest of the day but if he comes through fine it looks like he is 100 percent to go,” said Hitchcock.
Brian Elliott has been named the Game 1 starter by Hitchcock but Allen expressed his availability, if needed.
“I feel pretty good honestly,” said Allen.
Injured forward Steve Ott is also targeting a round one return. Ott, who was recently diagnosed with colitis, described as the inflammation of the lining of the colon, was a surprise participant Monday.
The veteran forward skated hard Sunday and then elected to try joining the team’s practice today.
“It was a little bit of a surprise that he skated yesterday and a really big surprise that he joined us today,” said Hitchcock.
Ott hasn’t played in a game since Dec. 5 when he tore both hamstrings during a collision with the boards. He had worked his way back and was expected to return before the regular season ended. That expectation ceased due to the colitis diagnosis.
“It’s disappointing,” said Ott. “I obviously wanted to get a game in (before the season ended). But to be honest with you my goal all along was to be a helping piece in the playoffs at some time and that is still the main goal.”
Ott was expected to miss a minimum of two weeks as a result of the recent diagnosis, but he may be ready to go ahead of the initial schedule.
“He’s had a miraculous recovery, which is really good to see,” said Hitchcock. “He had a good practice today. He’s going to be a player that could maybe come into this series at some point and really help us.”
Ott isn’t ready for game action yet and doesn’t know how soon he will be, but there seems to be a positive outlook on the possibility of a first round return.
“I feel alright. It continues the progress and I’m trying to be an option later on when I feel that it’s go time,” said Ott. “When I am ready and the situation arises, collectively we will all work on it from there.”