The Blues' Jay Bouwmeester will miss his third straight game tonight with what is being treated as a possible concussion.
The veteran defenseman is dealing with concussion-related symptoms, but the diagnosis has not yet been confirmed. If indeed that conclusion is eventually drawn, it would be his second concussion this season.
The Blues are referring to Bouwmeester's injury as an "upper-body" injury and listing him as "day to day," but he's already been ruled out of tonight's game against Colorado and there is no timetable for his return.
Bouwmeester hasn't played since the club returned home from a five-game road trip, which ended with a 1-0 win at San Jose last Tuesday.
It is not believed that the incident happened in that game, in which Bouwmeester logged 21 minutes, 55 seconds of ice time, helping kill a 6-on-3 power play in the final two minutes to help secure the victory. He participated in postgame interviews and traveled home with the team Wednesday, a day that the team did not practice. The symptoms crept up in the meantime, leading him to miss his first practice on Thursday before sitting out back-to-back Friday against Vancouver and Saturday against Washington.
Recently, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock was asked if Bouwmeester's absence was the result of a lingering injury or one particular play, such as a hit, and he confirmed that it was a one-time incident.
If it is a concussion, it would be Bouwmeester's second in a span of three months. He left the Blues' game in Anaheim on Jan. 8 after a crushing hit by the Ducks' Ryan Getzlaf and was diagnosed with a concussion, leading him to miss the next four games. He had played 26 consecutive games before sitting out against Vancouver.
Bouwmeester's indefinite absence comes at a time when the Blues are also without Carl Gunnarsson. He will miss his second straight game with a lower-body injury, which does not appear to be related to the lower-body injury that caused him to miss the Blues' game March 16 in Edmonton.
In the meantime, the Blues will suit up for the second straight game a defensive lineup that features veterans Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk playing alongside Robert Bortuzzo, Colton Parayko, Joel Edmundson and Petteri Lindbohm.
"You can't tell when you've got three first-year players," Hitchcock said. "Bortz isn't much beyond that either it's hard to tell that until you get more games in. They weren't fun to play against (in Washington). They got a piece of everybody. That's the competitive part you like. We also didn't pay for some of the big errors we made and if we can limit some of those mistakes and cut those back and continue with the same edge we play with, then you maybe can play a little while like this.
"But experience counts in the playoffs, experience counts against big teams, so we're missing two significant experienced players and there's a good chance for these young guys to gain some battle scars. The part I liked is they weren't intimidated by the light and they weren't afraid to play against good players because Washington came at us with a number of good players, their first three lines have a lot of speed and a lot of skill and we didn't seem to be afraid of the environment at all."
The Blues held an optional practice today at Scottrade Center, and while there were no lines or defensive pairings on dispaly, we do know that Alexander Steen is back in.
Don't forget it's a 7:30 p.m. puck-drop, and the game is on NBCSN.
Here is the Blues' projected lineup:
Jaden Schwartz-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko
Robby Fabbri-Paul Stastny-Troy Brouwer
Patrik Berglund-Alexander Steen-David Backes
Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves
Joel Edmundson-Alex Pietrangelo
Kevin Shattenkirk-Colton Parayko
Petteri Lindbohm-Robert Bortuzzo
Shawn Matthias-Carl Soderberg-Gabriel Landeskog
Mikkel Boedker-Mikhail Girgorenko-Blake Comeau
Andres Martinsen-John Mitchell-Jarome Iginla
Cody McLeod-Andrew Agozzino-Jack Skille
Francois Bodnarchuk-Nikita Zadorov
Nick Holden-Tyson Barrie
Chris Bigras-Erik Johnson
This will be a wild night in the Central Division, with the top six teams all facing each other. While the Blues are playing Colorado (starting at 7:30), Chicago faces Minnesota (7 p.m.) and Nashville is at Dallas (7:30 p.m.) (Scott Darling will start again in goal for the Blackhawks.)
What would be good the Blues (a win over Colorado, and losses by Chicago and Dallas) would be bad for the Avalanche (a loss for the Avs and wins by Minnesota and Nashville). The Blues could end up the night alone in first, two points up on Dallas, or could end it still in second, but just two points ahead of Chicago. Nashville would clinch a playoff spot with a win and a loss by the Avalanche in regulation.
The Blues, though they are in second in the division (on the tiebreaker; they're even for first in points) have yet to beat Colorado this season. Minnesota, battling for the final wild card spot with Colorado, is 4-0 against Chicago this season.
As it stands on Tuesday morning, the teams with the second, third and fourth best records in the league are all in the Central. And one of them will be out in the first round of the playoffs.
Forget about the close races throughout the league. Ken Hitchcock can't get past his own division.
"I don't even look at the league," he said. "You're so fixated on the Central Division. The part that amazes me is how competitive the Central Division is and how good the teams are and how well a lot of them are playing. Chicago looks like it's gotten up to speed now. Obviously Dallas is good. Nashville has been playing some of the best hockey of anybody in the league and it all seems to come from one division. You don't even afford yourself to look at the league because you can't get your mind off of what's happening in the Central Division. It's going to be a tough row for anyone to go through because you're going to have to beat really, really good teams that have a lot of depth and we're just one of them. To me, for us, it's going to come down to a number of factors as we move toward the playoffs here. Injuries are going to be a big factor and goaltending is going to be a big factor in these playoff series. Every time a Central Division team plays I guarantee you all the coaches are watching."