ISLANDERS (19-9-0) at BLUES (18-8-2)
TV: MSG+, FS-MW
ST. LOUIS -- There will be an infusion in the lineup for the St. Louis Blues when they host the New York Islanders on Thursday.
The Blues (18-8-2) will have captain David Backes (facial lacerations), Alexander Steen (lower body) and Jay Bouwmeester (groin) in the lineup ready to go when they play the Islanders for the second time in six days.
Backes, who Monday took a puck to the mouth that required 12 stitches and did some damage to his lower lip, was wearing a full face cage Thursday after not practicing the past two days. Steen, who's missed two games after sustaining an injury against the Nashville Predators, practiced in full Wednesday but was not part of the morning skate. Bouwmeester, who's missed the past eight games since injuring his groin Nov. 22 against the Ottawa Senators, has taken part in the past three days' worth of skates and all are deemed fit to play.
"Both guys participated at practice, had no ill effects today," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Bouwmeester and Steen. "Both feel good enough to play today. Backes will give us what he's got.
"It's huge. I mean it's three experienced players that were really playing well before they got hurt, especially the Backes, Steen, [T.J.] Oshie line, which was very effective for us, so it's huge. Obviously Bouwmeester and [Alex Pietrangelo] were really having a good run there. I think it's made us deeper … it's forced us to play more guys, but it's made us deeper. [Chris] Butler's come in, played very well. [Petteri] Lindbohm's come in and added to our group too. So all of the sudden, our group has gotten deeper. It's allowed a guy like [Chris] Porter to move the ladder. He's had good games for us, and especially [Joakim] Lindstrom, who's been forced up the ladder because of it.
"We've got more people involved in the game now and we've got better play from people who've had to play better to absorb these guys being out of the lineup, so it's win-win right now."
Bouwmeester was activated from injured reserve, and the Blues put Carl Gunnarsson on IR.
The Islanders (19-9-0), who have lost two straight after blowing 3-0 leads, come into St. Louis on the heels of not only losing a 3-0 lead against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday but giving up four third-period goals after leading 4-1. They will have a different look to their lineup Thursday with forward Eric Boulton activated from injured reserve.
Boulton, who's played three games this season, missed the past 14 games with a lower-body injury.
"I feel good," said Boulton, who will replace the injured Josh Bailey in the lineup. "It's been a long time, about a month. I tried to stay ready as best as I could coming off the injury, but it's definitely exciting to come in on the road against a good team.
"I just think it's a bump in the road. Every team goes through it. We need to recognize when we have a lead, teams are going to push back. We've got to learn how to as well."
Here are the projected lineups:
Nikolay Kulemin - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo
Anders Lee - Brock Nelson - Michael Grabner
Mikhail Grabovski - Frans Nielsen - Cal Clutterbuck
Matt Martin - Ryan Strome - Eric Boulton
Thomas Hickey - Lubomir Visnovsky
Brian Strait - Nick Leddy
Calvin de Haan - Matt Donovan
Scratched: Cory Conacher, Griffin Reinhart
Injured: Josh Bailey (lower body), Matt Carkner (back), Johnny Boychuk (upper body), Travis Hamonic (upper body), Casey Cizikas (upper body)
Alexander Steen - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko
Patrik Berglund - Paul Stastny - Joakim Lindstrom
Steve Ott - Maxim Lapierre - Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Chris Butler - Kevin Shattenkirk
Barret Jackman - Ian Cole
Scratched: Chris Porter, Magnus Paajarvi, Petteri Lindbohm
Injured: Brian Elliott (knee), Carl Gunnarsson
Status report: Hitchcock was non-committal on who Bouwmeester and Steen will replace in the lineup. Porter and Lindbohm are the likely candidates. … Islanders coach Jack Capuano called Bailey's injury a nagging lower-body ailment. … Reinhart has played well, according to Capuano but he wants Donovan in Thursday because of more experience. … Halak missed Tuesday with an upper-body injury and will play against the Blues in St. Louis for the first time since being traded last season. He was the backup when the Washington Capitals were in St. Louis last season. … Nelson is good to play after taking a hit to the head from the Wild's Marco Scandella on Tuesday. Scandella was suspended two games by the NHL Department of Player Safety.
Who's hot: Lindstrom had three assists (half of his season point total) against the Islanders in the previous meeting, a 6-4 Blues victory. Tarasenko has three goals and an assist in the past three games. Steen has 15 points in 16 games against the Islanders. Shattenkirk has eight points in six games against them and Oshie nine points in eight games. … Leddy has four assists during a three-game point streak. Nelson has three goals in four games.