Mind games: Hitchcock is coy about Backes' status for Game 4

The question everyone wants answered is whether Blues captain David Backes will return for Game 4 against the Blackhawks. Coach Ken Hitchcock isn't saying, though he isn't above messin' with ya. (Really? Practicing at another rink?)

According to Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, David Backes could be skating anywhere in Chicago today. Or he might not.

Mark Buckner / NHLI

CHICAGO -- The biggest question going into Game 4 of the Blues-Blackhawks playoff series Wednesday night at United Center is whether Blues center David Backes will play.

Coach Ken Hitchcock turned that query into an improv comedy act during his pregame session with reporters early Wednesday afternoon, while shedding no light whatsoever on the status of the Blues' captain, who left Game 2 after a high hit from since-suspended Brent Seabrook and sat out Game 3.

"He wasn't available for the pregame skate," Hitchcock said, responding to the first question of the press conference about Backes.

Will Backes play tonight?

"He wasn't available for the pregame skate," Hitchcock repeated.

But he wasn't done. No, he definitely wasn't done. He had some fun with follow-up questions, leaving everybody wondering if he's just playing mind games with the Blackhawks.

FOX Sports Midwest coverage of Game 4 of the Blues-Blackhawks series begins at 8 p.m. with Blues Live.

Asked about his lineups during the pregame skate, which included Derek Roy working with the third line, the coach took the opportunity to use his response to further cloud the grand mystery for Wednesday night.

"On this one, I probably could be a liar, so I wouldn't evaluate our roster right now until you see it tonight," he said. "Just be careful. Put it in pencil today, not pen. I might be fooling with you all today. The only disappointing part for us is Brenden Morrow is out for the series. So he's not going to be able to play."

Oh, hey, actual news. Morrow has been bothered by a foot injury, though the coach did not say the reason for his being out for the series.

Hitch still wasn't finished.

The coach was asked one more question about Backes and how quickly he could return to form once he rejoined the lineup.

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"He's not going to play unless he's healthy," Hitchcock said. "You never know. He could be skating in another rink. He could be doing something else. You don't know that stuff. There's a lot of rinks here in Chicago. He could be doing other things. But he's not going into the lineup unless he's a player. If he's a player, with the way he plays, it's going to have a huge impact in the series. If he skated somewhere else and is in fine-tuned conditioning, you'll see him tonight."

The comment drew some laughs from the assembled media and, with that, Hitchcock said, "Thank you" and walked away from the gathering and back toward the coaches' room down the hall.

We'll all find out tonight whether Backes takes the ice for Game 4, where the Blues will attempt to take a three-games-to-one lead in the best-of-seven series.

As for Hitchcock, following Game 4 he'll take his comedy routine back to St. Louis for Game 5 on Friday.

You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter (@natelatsch) or email him at natelatsch@gmail.com. 

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