ST. LOUIS - As if the Blues haven’t been challenged enough this season, the team issued a press release Monday stating that captain David Backes and goaltender Jake Allen would miss the rest of the regular season with lower-body injuries.
Both players were injured in Sunday’s 5-1 win against the Colorado Avalanche. Hitchcock said Backes was injured on the play that led to Troy Brouwer’s empty-net goal in the final minutes. Allen, who made 11 saves in the first period, did not return for the second period.
“They’re hurt. They’re not able to play,” Hitchcock said during a press conference prior to Monday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes. “We can’t tell you a time frame because we don’t honestly know. Obviously, the sense of urgency with playoffs around the corner is there, but believe me, if they were able to play, they’d be playing.”
The injuries come at a time when the Blues have a lot on the line. With three games to go, the team has a chance to claim first place in the Central Division and first overall in the Western Conference. The club is also trying to fend off the Chicago Blackhawks, who are four points behind in the standings.
The club said both Backes and Allen will be evaluated after the regular season ends, but is there hope they could both be available for Game 1?
“You know what playoffs are like,” Hitchcock said. “You try to play, and if you’ve got to play at 80 percent, you play at 80 percent. You hope you’re at 100, but none of us can honestly tell you right now until these things are moved a little further down the dial here. This is what not we hoped for, but it’s just what our season has been about.”
Hitchcock expressed confidence that the team will manage despite the injuries as they have all season. It’s almost easier to name who hasn’t sustained a significant injury than to list who has: Jaden Schwartz, Paul Stastny, Alexander Steen, Kevin Shattenkirk, Patrik Berglund, Robby Fabbri, Steve Ott, Brian Elliott and Allen have all missed a significant number of games this season.
Hitchcock said he’s never seen anything like it. During his tenure in Columbus, he was without several players due to injury, but never this many impact players in one season.
“We’ve had to really coach this year, and it’s been at times rewarding because of it,” Hitchcock said. “The players have responded the right way, the team has responded. I don’t see it changing. We all hopefully come next week and we’re at 100 percent, but you don’t know that stuff.
“If you give us a couple days, we’ll make this adjustment and we’ll be fine.”