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Blues relieved as Backes returns to practice

by Louie Korac
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- This time, the St. Louis Blues can breathe a sigh of relief.

When the Blues' David Backes collided with Philadelphia's Chris Pronger and Backes hit his head on the ice, it was easy to assume the worst given the amount of concussions the team has suffered through in recent history.

But Backes was back on the ice Monday and will be in the lineup when the Blues hit the road again for a three-game Western Canada swing, beginning Wednesday night in Vancouver.

Backes left the Blues' 4-2 win over the Flyers Saturday night midway through the second period and did not return, sparking fears of a concussion. And although Backes said he initially felt "some symptoms," he was cleared to get back on the ice with the team after suffering no repercussions on Sunday and Monday morning.

"It happened so fast," Backes said from St. Louis Mills, the team's practice facility. "You can't tell what causes major impact.

"It's a play where I'm around the first defenseman and I think I'm in to the net. I'm looking where I'm doing to shoot the puck and when I start to shoot, (Pronger) came from the weak side. I didn't see him until maybe the last second."

Pronger and Backes are both captains, and it was the 6-foot-6, 220-pound Pronger, a former Blue, who delivered a crushing shoulder-to-shoulder check on the 6-3, 225-pound Backes that sent the Blues' power forward hard to the ice. His head made pretty good impact with the ice and Backes had to be attended to by the team's head athletic trainer, Ray Barile.

Backes called the hit clean on Monday.

"He gets credit in my book for hitting me shoulder to shoulder," Backes said of Pronger. "He puts a huge hit on me. I don't know if I've been hit that hard in my career.

"If he gets me in the head or the jaw or somewhere where I'm real susceptible, I'm probably in for scans and taking all those neuro-psych tests or whatever you the heck you have to do when you have concussions."

The Blues, who have already lost Andy McDonald and Carlo Colaiacovo -- who has since returned -- to concussions this season along with B.J. Crombeen (fractured shoulder), couldn't really afford another key injury to an impact player. David Perron (post-concussion syndrome) continues to sit out, but has started skating regularly with the team.

"Yeah, it was a big hit, a big collision, two big bodies, but definitely good to see him back out there this morning," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "It was two big guys going to a tough area. You don't necessarily see every defenseman in the world willing to take on that kind of guy coming to your net in that fashion. Two big bodies playing the game the right way."

Backes' teammates were thinking the worst since Backes didn't get back up immediately.

"Especially a guy like Backs," winger Matt D'Agostini said. "He doesn't lay on the ice very often.

"We knew it was serious. It was scary, for sure, when you see his head get hit and then he hits his head on the ice again. You always fear the worst. With what we've gone through professionally, it's disheartening. But he was out there today … he looks good."

As for McDonald, who has not played since suffering a concussion Oct. 13 in Dallas, Payne said there is no new news regarding his situation. However, Crombeen visited the practice facility Monday, still wearing a sling over his left shoulder.

Crombeen has not played since suffering his injury in the final preseason game on Oct. 1 against Dallas. He's missed all eight games thus far and is still in limbo.

"It's kind of a slow point right now where you're just kind of waiting for the bone to heal," said Crombeen, who did not require surgery. "But the last little while, I've been able to get out and do some of the rehab and do some light activity. It's nice to not be sitting around as much. It's a boring part in the process right now."
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