One by one, and in some cases two by two, the injured Blues are returning to the lineup.
On Thursday, it was forward Ryan Reaves returning from a broken hand to help the Blues defeat the Los Angeles Kings. When the Blues face Columbus tonight at Scottrade Center, forward David Backes and defenseman Jordan Leopold will be among the skating.
Leopold has missed 26 games fater having surgery on his right hand. Backes has missed three games with an undisclosed upper body injury.
Both will be back, with defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo coming out of the lineup to accommodate Leopold. The Blues also have sent forward Chris Porter back to their American Hockey League affiliate in Chicago and recalled goaltender Jake Allen.
Netminder Jaroslav Halak did not skate this morning and is not feeling well enough to play. Allen will back up starter Brian Elliott in goal.
Blues coach Ken Hithcock will plug Backes back into his center spot on the first line, with Jaden Schwartz and T. J. Oshie. Backes has 16 goals and 14 assists. Vladimir Sobotka – who was filling in for Backes - will move to a line with Patrik Berglund and Magnus Paajarvi.
Hitchcock fully expects Backes and Leopold to play the same kind of minutes they were playing before they departed.
"It's just business as usual," Hitchcock said. "We expect Backes to play 17-20 ninutes again, no different. And we'll just absorb the rest of the minutes throughout the lineup.
The Blues have been playing so well, including wins in four straight, it has allowed the team to be patient about bringing players back until they are fully ready to resume.
“You're not going to diminish a guy's minutes," Hitchcock added. "He earned the ice time before he got hurt and we want to give it right back to him.”
Ian Cole said his nine blocked shots against Los Angeles were not the result of a concerted effort to block shots, per se.
"Obviously, I was just trying to get in the way as much as possible to help (Brian Elliott),” Cole said. “But I mean, there's a lot of games where you kind of block four or five shots and get credit for two or three.
“It's just one of those things, you know. I mean, it's a great stat but it's not like I was diving head-first in front of the opposition to block shots. It's just kind of the way it was that game.”
A reporter suggested it certainly would be impressive if Cole was diving head-first in front of shooters.
“Yeah, it would be more impressive," he agreed, "but I probably would have fewer teeth.”