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Hitchcock juggles lines, focuses on Blues' depth

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- Ken Hitchcock sure knows how to keep the media and fans guessing.

The St. Louis Blues coach continues to hold his ground when asked about captain David Backes (upper body, foot), who has missed the past two games in the Western Conference First Round series against the Chicago Blackhawks.

"No … like I said in Chicago, there's lots of rinks here in St. Louis too," Hitchcock said when asked if Backes was ruled out for Game 5 on Friday at Scottrade Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS2, CSN-CH, FS-MW). "You never know. [He] might just jump on the ice and be there. If he's skating in the warm-up, then you can all press send on your tweets and away you go."

The Blues switched their forward lines up during practice Friday, partly to give some balance to all four. They're also taking into consideration the status of Backes, who's wearing a walking boot after blocking a shot April 8 against the Washington Capitals. He also was injured on a hit by Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook in Game 2.

Hitchcock kept together two-thirds of his most productive line, Vladimir Sobotka and Vladimir Tarasenko, and paired them with Alexander Steen. Jaden Schwartz, who was the other member of that line, skated with Derek Roy and T.J. Oshie.

"I just think that depth is going to persevere in this series and we need to play with more depth," Hitchcock said. "So spread it out a little bit. We've had success doing that.

"I think one of the things we're looking for is to have two third lines, and by balancing the way we did it [Friday] it's going to allow us to have two third lines. If we split those minutes, it's going to give us more tempo early and not wear us down as much. I think it works for us. Instead of playing one line seven or eight or nine minutes, we can get maybe two groups of 12 minutes each, and I think it's going to give us better balance and be able to keep the tempo up rather than having to use eight or nine forwards to mount the comebacks like we've had to."

As far as his lineup, Hitchcock also said, "I told you all to put it in pencil last game because we were switching, and three shifts in we switched. The lineup that finished the game was the lineup we anticipated playing if we didn't get the right jump early and we didn't have the right jump early, so we switched. I'd put it in mechanical pencil."

Roy stayed on the ice with the healthy scratches long after the players in the lineup left the ice.

Here are the projected lineups:


Alexander Steen - Vladimir Sobotka - Vladimir Tarasenko

Jaden Schwartz - Derek Roy - T.J. Oshie

Steve Ott - Patrik Berglund - Adam Cracknell

Chris Porter - Maxim Lapierre - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk

Jordan Leopold - Roman Polak

Ryan Miller

Brian Elliott

Scratched: Magnus Paajarvi, Carlo Colaiacovo, Ian Cole

Injured: David Backes (upper body, foot), Brenden Morrow (foot)


Bryan Bickell - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Kane

Patrick Sharp - Michal Handzus - Marian Hossa

Kris Versteeg - Andrew Shaw - Brandon Saad

Brandon Bollig - Marcus Kruger - Ben Smith

Duncan Keith - Sheldon Brookbank

Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Nick Leddy - Michal Rozsival

Corey Crawford

Antti Raanta

Suspended: Brent Seabrook

Scratched: David Rundblad, Jeremy Morin, Peter Regin, Joakim Nordstrom, Klas Dahlbeck, Mac Carruth

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