Robert Thomas set to return to Blues' lineup for Game 6; Bruins' Backes scratched again
ST. LOUIS — Robert Thomas is ready to return to the St. Louis Blues' lineup for a potential Stanley Cup-clinching Game 6 against the Boston Bruins.
Thomas has missed the past four games of the series with a suspected hand or wrist injury. He handled the puck fine in practice Saturday and Sunday morning and declared himself good to go.
The smooth-skating forward's return is a major boost for the Blues as they look to try to win the first Stanley Cup in the history of a franchise that has been around since 1967. And it comes at a perfect time to compensate for the one-game suspension of fourth-line winger Ivan Barbashev.
Boston is making its own roster change. Coach Bruce Cassidy is going back to the traditional 12 forwards and six defensemen after dressing 11 and seven for precautionary reasons in the Bruins' Game 5 loss because captain Zdeno Chara was playing with a broken jaw.
But it's not former Blues captain-turned-Bruins role player David Backes going back in for depth. Instead, it's 23-year-old rookie Karson Kuhlman, who hasn't played since Game 3 of the second round against Columbus on April 30.
Cassidy says Kuhlman's more offensive-minded style is a better fit on center David Krejci's wing because he wants to keep Boston's effective fourth line of Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari together.
It's the second consecutive healthy scratch for Backes, who played 10 seasons with St. Louis and was a longtime captain there. Scratching Backes to go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen for precautionary reasons He was scratched in Game 5 on Thursday so the Bruins could go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen for precautionary reasons with Zdeno Chara playing through a broken jaw.
Despite his struggles, it could turn out to be an unpopular move in the locker room to sit him in this crucial game in the arena he called home for so long. The 35-year-old forward is signed for only two more seasons and is running out of opportunities to capture the Stanley Cup that has been elusive for him.
"We're here to win," Backes said. "If my part's grabbing the pom-poms again, I'll shake those things 'til all the frills fall out of them."