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Blues Get Boost From Elliott's Return in Vancouver

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues

VANCOUVER - Blues goalie Brian Elliott is returning to the lineup at the perfect time.

In the last two games, the Blues have given up an uncharacteristic amount of goals (13) in back-to-back losses against the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers. They look to snap a two-game losing streak tonight against the Vancouver Canucks (9 p.m., FSMW, KMOX).

Elliott’s return will also give Jake Allen a break after he’s had to start 10 consecutive games since coming back from a lower-body injury.

“You want to get back to your two goalies,” Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We’ve been so fortunate because both guys have been on their own and both have played really well. But at the end of the day, when you’re traveling like this and you’re playing so many games, you’re going to get worn down and we’ve reached the edge on both guys where we’re getting close to worn down with them, then the other guy came backed and helped us.

“Our timing has been perfect on it, and now it’s time for Brian to start sharing some of the load here.”

Elliott will return to the lineup as the NHL’s leader in save-percentage (.929) and ranks third in goals-against average (2.14). Before sustaining a lower-body injury on Feb. 22 against San Jose, Elliott had started 18 consecutive games in Allen’s absence, going 12-3-2 with a 1.91 goals-against average, a .939 save-percentage and one shutout in that stretch.

The Blues goalie is happy to return with 10 games remaining in the schedule, giving him ample time to get up to speed before the postseason begins.

“It’s good to get the opportunity to get back in there,” Elliott said after Friday’s practice. “I’ve been practicing well here for almost two weeks now, so it’s good to get back in game action.”

Hitchcock hinted that Elliott has been ready for awhile now, but couldn’t be activated from long term injured reserve until 10 games and 24 days passed since the injury. Both of those deadlines passed Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.

“I didn’t think (the injury) was as bad as it could have been,” Elliott said. “Luckily I’ve been able to kind of rest it up and get back out there and feel good. Knock on wood, hopefully it feels good.”

FACING VANCOUVER

The Blues won the previous meeting between the teams this season, way back on Oct. 16. In that game, Kyle Brodziak scored the game-winner in a 4-3 victory at Rogers Arena. After tonight’s game, the Blues and Canucks will meet again, this time at Scottrade Center on March 25.

The Canucks lost a 2-0 contest last night against the Oilers but lost more than the game. Forward Radim Vrbata sustained a lower-body injury and Head Coach Willie Desjardins said he could miss a good amount of time.

Vancouver is ravaged by injuries, missing as many as nine players from their lineup. Seven rookies have been inserted, and Ryan Miller is expected to start tonight in goal.

Despite the injuries, the Blues expect a good game from the Canucks.

“These guys always give us a good game, they have a good collective group,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “We’ve had a couple days to recharge, and we get a little bit of a boost with Moose coming back. But we’ve got to play at our level and not theirs.”

PROJECTED LINES

The Blues held an optional morning skate at Rogers Place today, but here are tonight’s projected lines based on Friday’s practice. Carl Gunnarsson is expected to return to the lineup from a lower-body injury.

Forwards

Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko

Robby Fabbri - Paul Stastny - Troy Brouwer

Dmitrij Jaskin - Patrik Berglund - David Backes

Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves

Defense

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Kevin Shattenkirk - Carl Gunnarsson

Joel Edmundson - Colton Parayko

Goalie

Brian Elliott

CENTRAL DIVISION STANDINGS

The Blues can tie the Dallas Stars for first in the Central Division with a win tonight against Vancouver AND a Stars’ loss to the New York Islanders.

The Blackhawks are idle tonight after beating the Winnipeg Jets last night.

1. Dallas Stars - 72 GP, 42-21-9 - 93 points
2. St. Louis Blues - 72 GP, 41-22-9 - 91 points
3. Chicago Blackhawks - 72 GP, 42-24-6 - 90 points

BLUE NOTES

The Blues’ penalty kill gave up a season-high four goals Wednesday night in Edmonton. “We’ve let it slip on special teams a little bit the last two games, and we’d like to start getting it back tonight,” Hitchcock said. “I can tell you right now, it’s not going to happen overnight. When you slip as much as we did on those ends, we’re going to have to go through a little bit more pain here. If we can just get one end of it working, I think by the time we get back home, everything is going to be working fine.”

The Blues haven’t allowed a power-play goal to the Canucks at Rogers Arena since Feb. 17, 2003, going 16-for-16 in that five-game stretch.

David Backes scored two goals Wednesday in Edmonton, tying Pavol Demitra for sixth on the Blues’ all-time list in goals (204). Backes is also moving up the charts in several other key categories. If you missed that story, click here.

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