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Blues getting healthy, but lineup still in state of flux

by Louie Korac

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The St. Louis Blues went through a full practice Wednesday at their training facility inside the St. Louis Mills Outlet Mall in preparation for the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The vibes after the team's first full practice since the regular season ended were positive in regards to the multiple injuries key players are dealing with, but leave it to coach Ken Hitchcock to keep everyone in suspense despite the majority of the team skating together for the first time in at least a week or more.

Game 1 of their Western Conference First Round series against the Chicago Blackhawks is Thursday at Scottrade Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, FS-N, ALT).

"Guys who were out [Wednesday] could possibly skate [Thursday]," Hitchcock said. "Guys that were in [Wednesday] are testing the waters and we'll see where they're at. We're in that area where you're seeing who can play right now. That's the way it's going to be until we can start playing games.

"I can tell you right now, we are not going to make a decision on anybody on this roster until we've got to put it in at 5:30."

Players that were on the ice Wednesday that did not skate Tuesday include captain David Backes (foot) and center Vladimir Sobotka (lower body). Right wing T.J. Oshie (upper body), who skated Tuesday, did not skate on Wednesday. Center Patrik Berglund (upper body) has missed two days, forward Brenden Morrow (foot) skated both days, and defensemen Barret Jackman and Alex Pietrangelo have worked each day as well.

"If we knew our roster like Chicago does, we'd let you know, and their roster is what it is and they've been able to practice with it for two or three days and ours is fluctuating," Hitchcock said. "I don't think you should read anything into our roster [Wednesday]. I think we are literally going to be game-time decisions every day for a little while here.

"What you saw [Wednesday], there's a good chance won't be what you'll see [Thursday]. We've got guys in various stages, guys getting various treatment getting ready to play, but as I said before, the one thing I can tell you, at some time during the series, everybody's going to be in. But I can't tell you if it's Game 1 or Game 5 or 6 or 7 or whatever."

Backes, who blocked a shot April 8 against the Washington Capitals, sounded like a player who will be in the lineup Thursday.

"I feel good," Backes said. "This is playoffs. This is what we play all year for. Getting up for these games shouldn't be at issue. Fighting through a few bumps and bruises for guys really makes that pain subside. We'll roll out 20 good bodies out there and we're going to stick together and play great hockey.

"Skate [Wednesday], skate in the morning and be ready for real action [Thursday] night."

The most intriguing development was seeing right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (thumb) practicing on a second-line unit with left wing Jaden Schwartz and Sobotka. He was also grouped with one of the Blues' power-play units during drills Wednesday.

Tarasenko, who did not speak to reporters, has been skating for a couple weeks since injuring his right thumb March 15 against the Nashville Predators.

"I skated with him two days ago, and the way he's firing pucks and skating around, he might be in some of the best shape he's been in since he's been here with a couple weeks of bag skating, maybe close to puking, maybe pass that threshold a couple times," Backes said of Tarasenko. "Another guy that's dynamic. He can bring scoring to us. … Hopefully, he's in the lineup (soon)."

Forward Alexander Steen, who led the Blues with 33 goals and 62 points during the regular season, feels it's best to stay mum on who's in and who's out, but he's confident getting a lineup that resembles one that won a record-setting 52 games is not a surprise.

"I think it's something we were expecting in here," Steen said. "We know what's going on in here. We've just been getting ourselves quietly ready for what's coming."

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