ST. LOUIS - Already with four consecutive shutout wins, the St. Louis Blues lineup expects to be even better tonight with the return of two-way forward Alexander Steen, who is back after missing 15 games with an upper-body injury.
Despite being out of the lineup since Feb. 20, Steen still ranks second on the club in points (47) and will center a line with Patrik Berglund and David Backes tonight.
“I wasn’t overly concerned about how many games (I’d miss), or if I was going to play before the [Stanley Cup Playoffs],” Steen said about rehabbing his injury. “The main concern was getting it good enough to play again, and here we are. I’m excited to get back. It’s been awhile. I missed the boys and missed being a part of the action.”
Here’s what some of the Blues had to say about getting Steen back:
Brian Elliott: “I think a lot of guys look up to a guy like him. With his presence on the ice, I think it’s another dangerous weapon that we have. It’s awesome to have him back. He’ll slide right in and pick up where he left off.”
Patrik Berglund: “We’ve missed him. He’s both a leader on the ice and also off the ice in the locker room, so it’s big for us to have him back. We’ve been struggling through injuries like every team does throughout the year. It’s just something you have to go through, and right now we’re more excited that in the last full stretch before the playoffs, we can get all the boys back and hopefully stay healthy.”
Ryan Reaves: “It’s huge. He’s our best all-around player for sure, a leader in the locker room. He does everything on the ice the right way. He leads by example. It’s the biggest boost we can get.”
Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said Steen won’t be eased slowly into the lineup, mainly because of what is at stake in the remaining six games: home-ice advantage, a Central Division title and perhaps the first seed in the Western Conference. Expect to see Steen in all situations right away.
“We’ve got to get him up to speed and see what he does,” Hitchcock said. “We’ll space out his time a little bit more, but he’s going to have to get used to doing everything. We’ve got to keep playing to win here. Points and home ice is the next goal for us and we don’t want to lose sight of that... So if he can help us in any way, we’re going to use him.”
The Blues haven’t given up a goal since March 16 in Edmonton, where the Oilers scored an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third period.
Since that moment, the club has won four games via shutout and have gone a franchise-record 240 minutes and 17 seconds without allowing a goal.
Elliott, who has posted three of the four shutouts, hasn’t given up a goal in 180 minutes. Allen, who blanked the Eastern Conference-leading Washington Capitals on Saturday, is at 81 minutes and 51 seconds.
“Other than getting good goaltending, it’s timely everything. Timely saves, timely scoring, timely penalty-killing,” Hitchcock said. “You look at our game in Washington… we made them pay for their mistakes, and we didn’t pay for our mistakes, but both teams made quite a few of them. I think the timing of everything has given you the edge, and I think every player in our room knows we can play better, but we’re really happy with what’s happened the last little while… It’s our sense of timing that has given us this little edge right now.”
With Steen back in the lineup, Dmitrij Jaskin and Magnus Paajarvi are expected to sit out tonight. Steve Ott (hamstring), Jay Bouwmeester (upper-body) and Carl Gunnarsson (lower-body) are still sidelined.
Today's morning skate was optional, so lines are subject to change.
Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko
Robby Fabbri - Paul Stastny - Troy Brouwer
Patrik Berglund - Alexander Steen - David Backes
Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves
Joel Edmundson - Alex Pietrangelo
Kevin Shattenkirk - Colton Parayko
Petteri Lindbohm - Robert Bortuzzo
The Blues will wear vintage St. Louis Cardinals jerseys during warm-ups before tonight’s game. Jerseys will be autographed and auctioned online to benefit Blues for Kids. Visit stlouisblues.com after warm-ups to place your bid on these one-of-a-kind jerseys.
The Blues will also be teaming up with the Cardinals for several prize giveaways during pregame and intermissions tonight. Follow @StLouisBlues and @Cardinals on Twitter for instructions on how to win. In addition, fans can purchase special “Birds & Blues” mystery pucks for $30 each outside Section 114. All pucks are autographed by Blues players and will be sold at random.
With his 11th career shutout Saturday, Allen tied Hall of Fame goaltender Grant Fuhr for sixth on the Blues’ all-time shutout list.
Before Steen’s injury, the Blues had won six of seven games (6-0-1). In his 15-game absence, the club went 10-5-0.
Elliott is 3-0-1 with a 1.20 goals-against average and a .953 save-percentage in his last four starts vs. Colorado.
The Blues have beaten Colorado in eight of the last 10 at Scottrade Center.