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Blues Host Ducks with Reinforcements Coming

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues

ST. LOUIS - Reinforcements are coming soon.

Alexander Steen (upper-body), Steve Ott (hamstring) and Brian Elliott (lower-body) were all skating with the team at today’s morning skate as they work towards returning from injury.

When you consider that the Blues have won four in a row without each of those players, that’s an encouraging thought.

“It’s exciting to see them out there,” said Blues forward Jaden Schwartz. “They’re having fun and a couple of them have been out quite a while. I know what that’s like - you start getting anxious. It’s fun to have them out there. We didn’t expect that and didn’t know they’d all be out there at the same time. We’ve missed them and it’ll be a big boost and a big help when we get them back.

“Everyone has a little bit bigger smiles out there today,” Schwartz added. “It’s exciting and we’re all looking forward to the day they’re going to start playing games again.”

None of those players will play tonight, but they are expected to travel with the team on the five-game road trip, which begins tomorrow in Dallas.

But first, the Blues host the Anaheim Ducks (7 p.m., FSMW, KMOX) - a team that lost in regulation on Wednesday against Colorado for the first time since Feb. 8. Anaheim is 12-1-3 in their last 16 games.

The Blues and Ducks have split the season series, but Anaheim took the last meeting 4-3 in a shootout on Jan. 8.

“They played well and we played hard, it was a hell of a hockey game,” Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said of the most recent meeting. “Pretty physical. Both teams didn’t give much. There’s a lot of good stuff for both teams to learn from (that game). They have six or seven different players on their team between injuries and trades (since then), and we’ve got to adjust to that. They play a real honest game, they play very collective on the ice - that’s why they’re having such a good season right now.”

Tonight’s game is the second game of a very difficult stretch for the Blues, who played Chicago on Wednesday, host the Ducks tonight and face the division-leading Dallas Stars tomorrow.

“We have a real tough schedule to close out the season,” Blues goalie Jake Allen said. “I think you want it that way. It’s going to be keeping us on our toes heading into the playoffs. It’s better heading in than a weaker schedule and taking your foot off the gas.”

“Just one game at a time. We’ll worry about Dallas tomorrow,” Schwartz said. “We know it’s a back to back and it’ll be tough. Anaheim is on a roll lately and we know how intense and competitive these games are. It’s fun to play against top teams, it’s a good measuring stick.

“We’ll be ready.”

A MEET AND GREET

Brendan Buehler, a 16-year-old who attended practice Wednesday, was hoping to have Vladimir Tarasenko autograph his Blues sign after the skate.

Because practice was optional, Blues Chairman Tom Stillman took the sign and went to the locker room in search of Tarasenko, who had already headed home.

As a result, the Blues invited Brendan back to Scottrade Center, where Tarasenko met with him and signed his jersey before practice.

"This is more than I could have ever hoped for," Lisa Buehler, Brendan's mom, said.

In addition to Tarasenko, Brendan also met Blues forward Ryan Reaves and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.

PROJECTED LINES

Forwards

Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko

Robby Fabbri - Paul Stastny - Troy Brouwer

Patrik Berglund - David Backes - Dmitrij Jaskin

Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves

Defense

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson - Kevin Shattenkirk

Joel Edmundson - Colton Parayko

Goalie

Jake Allen

BLUE NOTES

David Backes has points in four consecutive games (two goals, two assists) and with a goal Wednesday vs. Chicago, has tied Al MacInnis for sixth on the Blues’ all-time points list at 452. Next up is Pavol Demitra, who ranks fifth in club history with 493 points.

Jake Allen has won four consecutive starts and 22 games this season, which ties a single-season career high. In his career vs. Anaheim, Allen is 3-0-0 with a 0.87 goals-against average, a .966 save-percentage and one shutout.

The Blues have won two straight games against Anaheim at Scottrade Center, outscoring the Ducks 4-1. Since 2010, the Blues are 8-2-2 at home vs. Anaheim.

Troy Brouwer, who has scored in two consecutive home games, will play in his 600th NHL game tonight.

The Blues have scored a power-play goal in seven straight games at Scottrade Center, going 11 for 29 (37.9 percent). The Blues haven’t scored a PPG in eight consecutive home games since the 2001-02 season.

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