ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues were hoping a couple key pieces would be ready for tonight's Western Conference heavyweight battle with the Vancouver Canucks, but will have to wait at least one more game.
Defenseman Barret Jackman, who injured a hip Tuesday in Montreal, and left wing Alexander Steen, out since Dec. 27 due to concussion symptoms, will miss tonight's game. Jackman took a twirl on the ice at this morning's skate and Steen took part in the entire skate, but coach Ken Hitchcock decided they will need one good day to practice and feels they will be ready for Saturday's home game with Minnesota.
Here's what the Blues lineup will look like, as well as what lineup the Canucks likely will ice tonight.
"He'll play Saturday probably, but he's not ready for tonight," Hitchcock said of Jackman, who was checked into the side boards by the Canadiens' P.K. Subban. "Steen -- same thing. He feels OK, but he wants to have a full practice with us, so he'll play again Saturday.
"It'll be good to get those guys back on the weekend. That's kind of what we're hoping, both guys get a good practice in tomorrow and then they're ready to go."
Steen, who will miss a seventh consecutive game, feels he's close.
"I feel much better. It's a different injury," Steen said after skating. "It's my first time going through it. It's kind of a lonely feeling because you don't know what to expect or what the next day's going to bring. It's weird not having a timetable and not being able to push yourself through something, but a lot of credit to the doctors and the training staff. Everybody's been really supportive and have done the right things.
"I felt like I could have played a while ago, but sometimes you want to make sure everything is in order. ... I'm starting to feel really good, feel like myself again."
Added Hitchcock: "He's got no issues now. We haven't really had a practice. ... Having (Steen) get a good skate with the group tomorrow will be good for us and getting him back is going to be a huge boost for everybody. We're looking forward to it."
Hitchcock said he things Ian Cole can pick up Jackman's competitive edge.
"He plays with a real edge. He's a real feisty, competitive guy," Hitchcock said of Cole. "Plays with a real edge. He's got a little bit of meanness to him. It's who he is. He's a spirited player. We're asking a lot of him. He hasn't even played 50 games in the NHL and all of a sudden, he's playing against the other teams' best players.
"We're a week from getting healthy on the back end where we get both Jackman and (Kris) Russell back. But Cole's making a real niche for himself. He's a real competitive guy."
The Blues are looking to get Russell (groin) back into the lineup sometime in the next week. Also, forward Andy McDonald (concussion) continues to make progress but still is wearing a red no-contact jersey. He traveled with the team for the first time for Tuesday's game in Montreal, which is a good indicator he's ready to shed the no-contact jersey.
The Blues have been mixing and matching lineups for some time now with all the injuries, but continue to persevere. With a win tonight, they can claim the top spot in the West.
"We're competitive," Hitchcock said. "We don't wow you off the rush, but we score off the grind. If we get some room off the grind, that's where we get all our goals and we're willing to work for our chances. This is a real competitive group right now."