ST. LOUIS — With starting goaltender Jaroslav Halak out indefinitely with a lower-body injury, the St. Louis Blues' playoff hopes may hinge on the performance of Brian Elliott and rookie Jake Allen.
After practice Wednesday, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock made it sound like Halak may not make a rapid return. ESPN's Pierre LeBrun reported the injury could keep Halak out for at least three weeks.
Asked whether Halak will play again this season, Hitchcock's response was "I don't know about that. I can't tell you that right now."
Halak missed time earlier this season with a groin injury.
Hitchcock said Elliott, who relieved Halak after Halak's injury against Minnesota, will start Thursday in Chicago.
"We're on a one-game basis," Hitchcock said. "We'll see how he plays Thursday, then we'll evaluate Friday."
Elliott went 3-4 in the playoffs last season after Halak was injured in Game 2 of the first round.
This season when Halak went down again, Elliott's struggled and created an opportunity for Allen. The rookie responded by winning eight of his first nine decisions.
Elliott will be watched closely Thursday with each point precious in the final 14 regular-season games.
"I think you have to be careful on that evaluation because there's a difference between relieving and starting," Hitchcock said when asked to rate Elliott's relief performance against Minnesota. "Starting's a different mindset. There's a different set of anxieties that go on with that, so let's make an evaluation after the Chicago game."
Elliott went 1-1 in two starts with Peoria during a conditioning assignment in the minors. Before Monday, he had not won at the NHL level since Jan. 31.
Elliott was asked if he feels different about replacing Halak than he did earlier.
"We're deeper into the season and we've played some games, I've seen a lot of pucks over the time since (then)," he said. "I think as a team we've gotten a lot more in control and getting into the way we want to play. Going into a big game we know we need to have everybody and be comfortable and trust each other."
A year ago Elliott led the NHL in goals-against average and save percentage, but hasn't been able to recapture the magic.
"You always try to go back to what's given you success, whether it's tying your left skate before your right or doing something on the ice," he said. "Your game evolves and changes over the course of the year and the game changes so you have to adjust. Those adjustment periods happen quick, especially in a short season."
Elliott praised Allen's work this season.
"He's given a lot of confidence to the guys. You always want to just get back in there and I'm sure he's itching to the do the same. In every position, guys want to be out there and want that responsibility."
Blues winger T.J. Oshie remains in injured reserve with a bruised foot and isn't eligible to return Friday, but Hitchcock said he doubts if Oshie can begin skating Thursday.
Another trade, another signing
While the Blues made their major trade deadline moves before the deadline with the acquisition of defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold, they were still busy Wednesday.
With a glut of defense depth, they traded veteran Wade Redden to Boston for a conditional seventh-round draft pick in 2014.
The 35-year-old Redden has two goals and five points in 23 games. Those goals came in his second and third games after joining the team.
The Blues also signed forward prospect Dmitrij Jaskin to a three-year entry-level contract and assigned him to the Peoria Rivermen.
The 20-year-old Jaskin (6-3 205), a second-round draft pick from Russia, had 46 goals and 99 points in 51 games for Moncton this season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
He spent the previous two seasons with the Slavia Prava HC of the Czech Elite League, scoring four goals and 12 points in 63 games.
"Jaskin is an NHL-ready combination of size and skill," said Blues' Director of Player Development, Tim Taylor. "His offensive prowess, physicality and hockey sense give him the versatility to play up and down the lineup and contribute in a variety of roles."
Scouting the Hawks
The Blues have lost their last eight games in Chicago, not winning at United Center since Feb. 3, 2010. The Blackhawks are 27-5-3 and show no signs of slowing down, recently adding former Blues forward Michal Handzus to the mix.
After hammering Detroit 7-1 on Sunday, the Blackhawks beat Nashville 3-2 in a shootout on Monday.
"We'll have our hands full and we know that," Hitchcock said. "They've been in the best team in the NHL right from day one. I would say the last two games they played are the best they've played in a month. They were terrific in Detroit in that bombing there and I though for 2 1/2 periods they were unbelievable against Nashville."