Is he or isn’t he? Inquiring minds want to know.
Unfortunately, those minds are going to have to continue to wonder, because the answer to the question remains uncertain. The Blues aren’t saying if captain David Backes is or isn’t in the lineup for Game 5 of the Western Conference quarterfinals tonight. They aren’t saying, perhaps, because they don’t know.
Backes missed Games 3 and 4 in Chicago, injured as a result of defenseman Brent Seabrook’s violent hit to Backes’ head late in Game 2. Seabrook was suspended for three games because of the play, and he will miss his third game when the team’s meet in Game 5 tonight at Scottrade Center.
Whether Backes misses his third game remains a mystery. He was not on the ice on Thursday as the team held an optional skate at St. Louis Outlet Mall.
“He’s not skating today, so read what you want from that,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “He’s not around. He’s not skating, so we’ll see tomorrow. Hopefully he’s able to get back before Seabrook, or by Seabrook’s time so it doesn’t turn into an advantage for them.”
One might argue Backes’ absence, Seabrook notwithstanding, has been somewhat of an advantage for the Hawks already. Backes usually matches up against the Jonathan Toews line. In the last two games, the Toews Trio has accounted for four goals, with Toews scoring one, Bryan Bickell one and Patrick Kane two — including the overtime winner on Wednesday.
That said, all the Blues can do is hope Backes heels enough to contribute. His status became somewhat of an Internet sensation on Wednesday afternoon, with many speculating Backes might be a surprise starter. That wasn’t the case.
Hitchcock suggested if he’s at all able, Backes will return.
“Everything everybody can do to make themselves a part of this thing and help out, they’re willing to do,” Hitchcock added. “If it means playing banged up, you play banged up. If it means you have to get going and give us 60 percent, if that’s all you got, give us what you got. That’s how it is in a series like this.”
Alex Pietrangelo and the Blues were not happy about Chicago’s first goal on Wednesday, a power-play rebound in front of the net by Andrew Shaw. Moments before the goal, Toews whacked the stick out of Pietrangelo’s hands to compromise the defenseman.
Apparently, Pietrangelo mentioned something to the officials about the ploy, which Toews has used in the past, before the faceoff. Regardless, there was no call on the play.
“I’m not going to comment on the officiating, whether that was a penalty or not,” Pietrangelo said. “They whack the puck out of the air, a good play on the goal.”
Hitchcock was only slightly more revealing. “We were not thrilled by that and less thrilled when we saw it on the tape today,” he said. “But what are you going to do? Those are the tough ones that go against you. They didn’t think it was significant.”
Three games have gone to overtime and all three were won by the team that was trailing with four minutes or less remaining in regulation.
“It’s a hard-fought game right now,” Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford said Wednesday night. “Both teams are playing well. Our top guys — top guys on both sides — are really bringing it and bringing their best, so it’s going to be a fun next game.”
St. Louis fans are reeling from Wednesday’s loss.
“There’s no surprise,” the Blues’ Maxim Lapierre said. “You’re playing the Stanley Cup champions. Obviously you’re going to have a tight battle. You’re not going to just take the wins and go home.
“It’s fun. You want to be part of that. It’s a tight series and it’s physical. Three overtimes. It’s fun to be part of.”