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Blues' Allen ready for start of playoffs

St. Louis goaltender will back up Elliott in Game 1 against Chicago

by Louie Korac / Correspondent

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen will be available for Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round against the Chicago Blackhawks.

"I'll be back Game 1, ready to go," Allen said Monday. "I feel pretty good honestly. I've skated a couple times [but] I'm just back into practice now."

The series starts Wednesday at Scottrade Center (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, SN360, CSN-CH, FS-MW).

Allen, who was 26-15-3 with six shutouts, a 2.35 goals-against average and .920 save percentage, missed the final three games of the regular season after sustaining a lower-body injury against the Colorado Avalanche on April 3. Earlier in the season he missed 17 games because of a knee injury.

Goalie Brian Elliott will start Game 1, but coach Ken Hitchcock said that if the Blues make an extended run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they'll likely need both goalies.

"Jake [had a] full practice today, looked great," Hitchcock said. "Obviously we'll take him through the rest of the day. If he comes through fine, he looks like he's 100 percent to go."

Video: STL@WSH: Allen denies Ovechkin on the doorstep

Captain David Backes did not practice Monday. He missed the final three games of the regular season because of a lower-body injury sustained April 3. On Sunday, Backes told St. Louis radio station KMOX 1120 he would be ready for Game 1. Hitchcock, though, wasn't committing to anything.

"Why don't we see, OK?" he said. "Until a guy practices, pretty hard to put a guy in. You pretty much have to practice sometime.

"Everybody's day-to-day ... everybody's moment-to-moment."

Right wing Troy Brouwer, the only Blues player to skate in all 82 games, did not practice. 

"No update on either one of those guys," Hitchcock said of Backes and Brouwer. "... We'll let you know on them [Tuesday]."

Forward Steve Ott was a surprise at practice Monday, including to his coach.

Ott, who said he's recovered from hamstring tears in both legs, was close to playing again when he was diagnosed with colitis April 6. The Blues said he would be re-evaluated in two weeks.

"I feel all right," Ott said. "I think I only missed about three days of ice time. I continue to progress myself and try to be an option later on [in the series] when I feel that it's go-time. 

"When I'm ready and the situation arises, collectively we'll all work on it from there. Right now we've got 20 guys that are itching at it and ready to rock for Game 1, that's for sure."

Hitchcock called it a "miraculous recovery, which is really good to see. A lot of energy. He had a good practice today. He skated hard yesterday and felt really good so we opted him into the practice. Obviously he's going to be a player that can maybe [play] sometime in this series and really help us. 

"... He comes out to practice today. I think we'll re-evaluate that and give you that tomorrow. We'll find out. It was a little bit of a surprise that he skated yesterday and then a real big surprise that he joined us today, so we'll see how he feels."

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