Berglund’s return softens the blow of Backes’ absence
CHICAGO — The St. Louis Blues won’t have captain David Backes in the lineup for Game 3 against the Blackhawks tonight, but they will get center Patrik Berglund back.
"Berglund’s in, he’s playing," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said following the team’s skate Monday morning. "Feels good, he’s ready to go."
Berglund, who was centering a line with Brenden Morrow and Ryan Reaves at the morning skate, suffered an upper-body injury in the Blues’ next-to-last regular-season game against Dallas. He has missed the last three games.
Hitchcock cautioned not to expect too much from Berglund in Game 3, similar to what he said about T.J. Oshie after Oshie returned from his upper-body injury to play in Game 2.
"You’re walking into a hornet’s nest," the coach said, "and that’s why we’re starting him a little bit on the lower side of the roster — to see where he’s at from being able to keep up mentally. I think the first game back for Osh was really rich, walking into something like that having not played for a little while. We expect the same with Bergie. … If we can play him with Brenden and Revo, they play well on the road together. Hopefully, we can build some good minutes with the line and then get them more comfortable as the game goes along and as the series goes on."
Berglund accounted for 32 points (14 goals, 18 assists) and a plus-minus rating of plus-10 in 78 games this season. He was also one of the key contributors on Team Sweden’s silver-medal finish at the Olympics.
NO UPDATE ON BACKES
Backes is with the team in Chicago but did not participate in the skate. He was injured late in Game 2 on a cheap shot from defenseman Brent Seabrook.
"He’s out, won’t play today," Hitchcock said.
Asked for further comment on Backes, the coach repeated his statement.
Backes’ absence, however long it might be, will be one of the keys to watch for the Blues the remainder of this series, with Game 3 tonight and Game 4 on Wednesday in Chicago. If the Blues don’t sweep the series, the teams will return to St. Louis for Game 5 on Friday.
For now, the Blues will use Steve Ott on the No. 1 line with Alexander Steen and Oshie. When Oshie was out for Game 1, St. Louis used Ott on that first line with Backes and Steen.
Replacing everything Backes does on a nightly basis won’t be easy.
"He’s our No. 1 center, he plays the most minutes on the hockey club, he plays in every situation. It has to be shared," Hitchcock said. "Not one person’s going to be able to take the slot. We don’t have that. … Somebody’s going to have to do extra work killing penalties, other people have got to be added, we’re going to have to do a better job on faceoffs, other people are going to have to step up and take faceoffs, especially on the right side.
"There’s like anything else: What would Chicago be like with losing (Jonathan) Toews? For us, Backes is Toews. It’s a big hole, but I think we’re more equipped with Berglund in our lineup."
Kevin Shattenkirk said the Blues will have to make up for Backes’ leadership collectively and by playing the game the right way.
"It’s going to be a tough loss for us to lose Dave, but they lost a pretty key player as well (Seabrook), so we have to take advantage of that," he said.
BLACKHAWKS REACT TO SUSPENSION
Chicago will be without Seabrook for three games after the NHL ruled on his hit on Backes on Sunday.
Seabrook played in all 82 regular-season games for the Blackhawks this season, averaging 22:16 per contest, and accounted for 41 points (seven goals, 34 assists) and was plus-23. He had four points (two goals, two assists) in the first two games of the series.
"Of course, he’s been huge for us so far, not only physically and defensively, but scoring what he has," Toews said Monday. "… It’s unfortunate that that was the decision that was made. But we’ve got to find a way to fill that void and play without him. I think we’ve got a very deep defensive lineup."
It looks like the Blackhawks will use Sheldon Brookbank in place of Seabrook. Brookbank played in 48 games this season and had seven points (two goals, five assists) and a minus-2 rating.
Part of the aftermath of the Game 2 fracas with Seabrook and Backes was the revelation that someone said, "Wakey, wakey, Backes!" after the Blues’ center struggled to his feet.
Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith was believed to be the player responsible for the comment, but he did not admit or deny it Monday morning.
"There’s lots of things that get said out on the ice in the course of a hockey game, especially in playoffs," Keith said. "I’m an emotional guy. It’s an emotional game. I don’t remember everything that gets said out there. I didn’t even see the hit, to be honest with you. I’m playing the puck and I shot the puck around and next thing I know I see Seabs getting in a fracas, so I jump in there. I don’t know what was going on."
Following that non-answer Keith was asked again if he said it.
"I don’t know how many times you want me to say the same thing," he said. "Skating around. Didn’t see the play. Came in there to help support Seabs. Like I said, there’s lots of things that get said over the course of a game. I don’t remember everything that gets said."
Toews told reporters he started talking to Backes after Backes challenged him to a fight.
"I don’t remember what my words were," Toews said. "I think maybe some of their players thought we were trash talking them after the big hit, but I think we were just trying to clear everything and make sure we could move on from that play. … Some things were said in the heat of the moment. Most of that stuff goes unheard on the part of the fans and media."
The Blues weren’t interested in discussing it Monday.
Probably the one St. Louis player who could have shed some light on that specific situation, Steen, opted not to say anything. He was asked a couple of times what was said.
"I’m not talking about that stuff," Steen said. "I’m focused on Game 3."
You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter (@natelatsch) or email him at email@example.com.