ST. LOUIS - Overcoming obstacles and a significant amount of injuries is nothing new for the Blues. Earlier this season, the club found itself without Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund, Jaden Schwartz (who remains out) and Kevin Shattenkirk due to injuries.
Entering tonight’s 7 p.m. game against New Jersey (FSMW, KMOX), the Blues face a plethora of injuries yet again.
Here’s who will be out of the lineup tonight.
Paul Stastny - The Blues center was hit in the face by a deflected puck Friday in Anaheim but was back on the ice today wearing a cage. Stastny said he’s hopeful everything feels fine tonight and that he can practice tomorrow. Optimistically, he has an outside chance to play Thursday vs. Carolina.
Jake Allen - The Blues goalie was sustained a lower-body injury Friday in Anaheim and has been labeled week-to-week. Expect Brian Elliott to take over between the pipes for the next few weeks.
Jay Bouwmeester - The Blues’ top-pairing defenseman was hit hard Friday in Anaheim by Ryan Getzlaf and left the game in the first period. He’s been labeled week-to-week.
Carl Gunnarsson - Injured in the second period Saturday against Los Angeles, Gunnarsson has been labeled week-to-week with an upper-body injury.
Magnus Paajarvi - The Blues’ forward was slashed on the hand, hit along the boards and crushed beneath a falling Kings player on the same play. Paajarvi is week-to-week with an upper-body injury.
Of course, the Blues are still without Schwartz (ankle) and Steve Ott (hamstring), too.
So the next stretch of games won’t be easy, but the Blues know everyone in the locker room will need to step up to get through this.
"It's been that type of season. We've battled through this thing and nobody feels sorry for us in the League," Hitchcock said after Monday’s practice. "We've got to get points, we've got to finish this thing strong. We're lucky we get a nice week-long break at the All-Star break, which will add healing time. But in the meantime, we've got seven games to play and we've got to get points."
With the injuries, the Blues have recalled Ty Rattie, Chris Butler and Jordan Binnington from the Chicago Wolves. Rattie will fill in for Stastny, while Butler slots in on defense.
“We’ve carried a great spirit,” Hitchcock said of the team’s ability to battle through injuries. “It’s not the cleanest game… but at the end of the day, you go through parts of seasons where you have to win on sprit and emotion and we’re in that stage right now…. We’ve done a great job in keeping this thing going and the players deserve all the credit in the world for continuing to not lose sight of the big picture. Finding a way to get points, finding a way to keep things going. This is just another challenge and I’m sure we’re going to meet it head on.”
Hitchcock indicated today that Monday’s practice lines would be the ones he’d use in tonight’s game. Here’s what we’d expect to see:
Robby Fabbri - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko
Scottie Upshall - Alexander Steen - Troy Brouwer
Patrik Berglund - David Backes - Ty Rattie
Dmitrij Jaskin - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves
Kevin Shattenkirk - Alex Pietrangelo
Chris Butler - Colton Parayko
Joel Edmundson - Robert Bortuzzo
“There are some unknowns where we’re pulling people from fourth line roles into first or second line roles,” Hitchcock said. “We’ll see how they handle it and make adjustments.”
FACING NEW JERSEY
The Blues have dominated the Devils in recent meetings. St. Louis has won four straight games between the teams, with three of those wins coming via shutouts. The Blues’ PK has been perfect, too, going 11 for 11 in those games while the power play has connected 33.3 percent of the game (4 for 12).
The Devils are 2-3 since the start of the new year and are battling an injury problem of their own. Leading scorer Michael Cammalleri, who has 35 points (14 goals, 21 assists) in 38 games, has missed five games with an upper-body injury and is not on the road trip.
The Devils will be looking for their first win in St. Louis since Dec. 30, 2008. The Blues have won the last three meetings between the clubs at home.
With a win tonight, Hitchcock would become the Blues’ second 200-win coach, joining Joel Quenneville. Hitchcock also will become the sixth coach in NHL history to earn 200 wins with at least two different teams.
Tonight begins a four-game homestand for the Blues, which is good news for Elliott. Since the start of the 2011-12 season, Elliott ranks fourth in the NHL in home-winning percentage (.707) and home goals-against average (2.08).