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Blues' Backes, Stewart game-time decisions

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- The injury/illness carousel for the St. Louis Blues continues to swirl, with players coming into the lineup while others step out.

The Blues (27-7-5), who host the Los Angeles Kings (25-12-4) Thursday at Scottrade Center, are in a holding pattern concerning captain David Backes (upper body) and Chris Stewart (mouth). Both will be game-time decisions.

Backes has missed the past two games and four of seven with unrelated upper-body injuries. He's taken part in practices the past four days.

"It's better every day," Backes said. "I feel pretty good without contact. The next thing is making sure that when I get hit I can be a force out there rather than just be a hockey player not touching anyone.

"We're working on it and we'll see how it progresses. [Wednesday] was a testing phase and making sure we're all right. Everything is going according as planned. Hopefully I'll be in the lineup very shortly."

Stewart, who left a 2-1 victory against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday after taking a puck in the mouth off the stick of Jason Pominville, has gone through standard concussion protocol and has been cleared to play. He does have stitches in his upper lip and had dental work done Wednesday.

"A little bit of dental work [Wednesday]. Not the ideal way you want to start off the new year," Stewart said. "... I didn't lose any [teeth], just pushed a couple back, got them realigned there, a couple wires and stuff like that. Nothing too serious.

"... You obviously want to take precaution with concussions these days. Just follow the concussion protocol. I felt good the last two days and I'm ready to go."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock was non-committal on what his lineup would look like.

"We want to see where David Backes is at. We want to see how Stewart does," Hitchcock said. "I wouldn't count out or count in either guy. Stewart still has to pass protocol and Backes, we're just working him and see how he feels today."

The Blues will get fourth-line right wing Ryan Reaves back into the lineup.

Reaves, who broke his right hand during a fight with the Dallas Stars' Brenden Dillon on Nov. 23, missed 17 games following surgery to repair the break.

"I'm a player [Thursday] ... finally back in the mix. Not bag skating for once," Reaves said. "I started skating after two-and-a-half, three weeks. It hasn't been too bad. It wasn't really sore. The healing went well. The doctors were happy with it. I'm kind of before my projected time so that's always a positive sign."

The Blues recalled goalie Jake Allen from the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League on Thursday. Allen will back up Brian Elliott against the Kings because Jaroslav Halak has been battling an illness the past few days.

"[He] tried to fight through it to be around [the team], but he didn't get any better [Wednesday] so we opted just to do what we did with everybody else, keep him away from the team," Hitchcock said of Halak. "So he's going to stay at home.

"Jake's trying to get here from Chicago. He'll get in at some period of time but we just told Jaro it's best to stay at home right now for a day or two until you're cleared up. It comes and goes. He feels good for a couple hours and then he doesn't feel good. He's at 70 percent … that's not good enough to play and it's not getting any better. A couple days away will really help him."

The Kings enter on a season-long four-game winless streak. They wrap a four-game trip Thursday and return home for five in a row.

The projected lineups for the Kings and Blues:


Dwight King - Anze Kopitar - Jeff Carter

Dustin Brown - Mike Richards - Justin Williams

Matt Frattin - Jarret Stoll - Tyler Toffoli

Kyle Clifford - Trevor Lewis - Jordan Nolan

Jake Muzzin - Drew Doughty

Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov

Robyn Regehr - Matt Greene

Martin Jones

Ben Scrivens

Scratched: Daniel Carcillo, Colin Fraser, Alec Martinez

Injured: Jonathan Quick (groin)


Jaden Schwartz - Vladimir Sobotka - T.J. Oshie

Magnus Paajarvi - Patrik Berglund - Vladimir Tarasenko

Brenden Morrow - Derek Roy - Chris Stewart

Chris Porter - Maxim Lapierre - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk

Ian Cole - Carlo Colaiacovo

Brian Elliott

Jake Allen

Scratched: Adam Cracknell

Injured: David Backes (upper body), Roman Polak (ankle/foot), Jordan Leopold (hand), Jaroslav Halak (illness), Alexander Steen (concussion)

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