VANCOUVER -- Goalie Jaroslav Halak is ready to return to the St. Louis Blues’ net.
Jake Allen’s strong play means the Blues don’t have to rush him back into a game.
After winning his first two NHL starts, Allen will be in goal for a third-straight game Sunday night against the Vancouver Canucks. Halak, though, told NHL.com after the morning skate he will back up for the first time since hurting his groin in a Feb. 1 game against the Detroit Red Wings. Halak was set to start Feb. 11 against the Los Angeles Kings, but tweaked the groin in the pre-game warm ups.
"I’m going to back up tonight," Halak said.
Allen earned the chance to build off his first two NHL wins while Brian Elliott, who will watch from the press box, tries to find his game with video and on-ice work with goaltending coach Corey Hirsch.
"We know we’ve got to get Jaro and Brian going," said coach Ken Hitchcock of Allen’s strong play. "This just bought us some time."
Allen, 22, looked shaky early in his first NHL start against the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday, but settled himself enough to help St. Louis snap a five-game losing streak with a 4-3 win. He added a "save of the year" candidate among 30 stops Friday against the Calgary Flames, reaching back with his stick to pick the puck out of the air and take away an empty net goal early in a 5-2 St. Louis win.
"My confidence has grown a lot," Allen said. "I felt good about my game coming up here and my confidence has just grown every day.
"It’s the NHL but it's still a hockey game, it’s still a game you’ve been playing your while life, so try not to overcomplicate things."
Elliott is also trying to simplify things after struggling early. He split the William M. Jennings Trophy last year with Halak, but his save percentage has dropped from an NHL-best .940 then to a 64th-ranked .849 so far this year.
"Brian was a product of shinny hockey during the lockout and some of the habits that you get into are hard to break," Hitchock said. "When you play three or four months of the same stuff it doesn’t matter what you are thinking, it’s kind of mannerisms and routines. He needed some instruction to get back into his game. His last two or three practices have looked like the Brian Elliott of old."
Here’s how the rest of the lineup is expected to look for St. Louis:
David Perron – David Backes – T.J. Oshie
Andy McDonald – Alex Steen – Vladimir Tarasenko
Jaden Schwartz – Patrik Berglund – Chris Stewart
Vladimir Sobotka – Scott Nichol – Ryan Reaves
Ian Cole – Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman – Kevin Shattenkirk
Wade Redden – Roman Polak
Injured: Jamie Langenbrunner (hip surgery)
Scratched: Brian Elliott, Matt D'Agostini, Kris Russell