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Blues' Elliott returns, to start against Canucks

St. Louis goaltender healthy again after missing 10 games

by Kevin Woodley / NHL.com Correspondent

BLUES (41-22-9) at CANUCKS (27-31-12)

TV: 10 p.m. ET; CBC, SN, FS-MW, NHL.TV

VANCOUVER -- St. Louis Blues goaltender Brian Elliott will start against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday after missing 10 games with a lower-body injury. 

Elliott hasn't played since he was injured during a Feb. 22 game against the San Jose Sharks, but has been practicing for almost two weeks. His .929 save percentage this season leads the NHL, and he was 6-0-1 with a .935 save percentage in eight games before his injury. 

Elliott didn't speak with the media after the morning skate Saturday, but addressed his return from injury after practice in Vancouver on Friday afternoon.

"I didn't think it 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. It doesn't really matter what time of year it is, but when it's getting close to the playoffs, it's exciting when you're one of the top teams in the league and you have an opportunity that doesn't come around often ... you want to be part of it any way possible. You've got to make sure that you're all right and you're 100 percent to go, but it definitely gives you a little motivation."

St. Louis will try to support Elliott better defensively than they did Jake Allen in his past two starts, especially on special teams. The Blues' third-ranked penalty kill was beaten five times and their sixth-ranked power play surrendered two shorthanded goals in consecutive road losses against the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers. 

"We've got to clean up both ends of our special teams," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We are just overpursuing [on the penalty kill] and getting out of position." 

The Blues began Saturday holding second place in the Central Division, two points behind the Dallas Stars for both the Division and Western Conference lead.

St. Louis will also have defenseman Carl Gunnarsson back after missing the game in Edmonton with a lower-body injury. 

The Canucks called up forward Chris Higgins from Utica of the American Hockey League on Saturday after right wing Radim Vrbata was injured during a 2-0 loss in Edmonton on Friday. 

Higgins, 32, has played 11 NHL seasons but was sent to the AHL in early January with two goals and one assist in 25 games as the Canucks tried to get younger and faster.

"He went down with a great attitude," coach Willie Desjardins said. "Some guys just have character, they are character people, and he'll do the right thing. He did the right thing going down and he'll do the right thing coming up. I have no worries about him."

With forward Alexandre Burrows questionable because of the flu, Vancouver may still be short a forward. Defenseman Christopher Tanev is also questionable against St. Louis, but Alex Biega is expected to return after missing two games with an upper-body injury. 

Here are the projected lineups: 

BLUES

Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko

Robby Fabbri - Paul Stastny - Troy Brouwer

Dmitrij Jaskin - Patrik Berglund - David Backes

Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reeves 

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo  

Colton Parayko - Kevin Shattenkirk

Joel Edmundson - Carl Gunnarsson

Brian Elliott

Jake Allen

Injured: Alexander Steen (upper body), Steve Ott (hamstring).

Scratched: Magnus Paajarvi, Anders Nilsson, Robert Bortuzzo.

CANUCKS

Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Grenier 

Sven Baertschi - Linden Vey - Emerson Etem

Brendan Gaunce - Bo Horvat - Jake Virtanen  

Chris Higgins - Jared McCann - Yannick Weber /Derek Dorsett

Ben Hutton - Alex Biega

Dan Hamhuis - Nikita Tryamkin

Matt Bartkowski - Andrey Pedan 

Ryan Miller

Jacob Markstrom

Injured: Radim Vrbata (lower body), Christopher Tanev (undisclosed), Alexandre Burrows (flu), Markus Granlund (upper body), Luca Sbisa (upper body), Yannick Weber (upper body), Derek Dorsett (upper body), Jannik Hansen (ribs), Brandon Sutter (broken jaw), Alexander Edler (fractured tibia)

Status Report: Either Dorsett, who has missed the past two games, or Weber, who has missed three games, could return to fill the extra spot on the Canucks' fourth line. ... Steen and Ott are traveling with the Blues and skated on their own after practice ended Saturday.

Who's Hot: Schwartz has a goal and five assists during a four-game point streak.

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