Blues recall Allen with Halak still sick; Reaves ready to return

News-DemocratJanuary 2, 2014 

— Rather than keep goaltender Jaroslav Halak around with a lingering illness, the St. Louis Blues sent him home Thursday and recalled goalie Jake Allen from the minors.

Halak hasn't played since allowing three goals in the first period of the Blues' Dec. 28 comeback win over Chicago. He was replaced in that game by Brian Elliott, who turned in a 5-0 shutout Thursday against the Los Angeles Kings.

"We tried to fight through it to keep him around," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "But he didn't get any better yesterday, so we opted just to do what we did with everybody else: keep him away from the team so he's going to stay home."

Elliott is riding a hot streak that has pushed his record to 11-1-2.

"We just told Jaro it's best to stay at home right now for a day or two until you feel cleared up," Hitchcock said. "It comes and goes, he feels good for a couple hours and then he doesn't feel good. He's at 70 percent ... first of all it's not good enough to play and it's not getting any better, so a couple days away I think will really help him."

Allen, who was 9-4-1 when pressed into duty by the Blues last season, is 14-7-2 this season with the Chicago Wolves. He has a 2.17 goals-against average --third-best in the AHL --and a .922 save percentage.

Reaves returns

Blues winger Ryan Reaves rejoined the lineup tonight after missing 17 games with a fractured right hand injured Nov. 23 against Dallas. Along with a new short haircut, Reaves has lost weight and added speed to his skating.

"It's tough to watch but it's fun to watch when they're winning," Reaves said of his down time because of the injury. "They've been playing really well even with all the injuries we've had, so I'm proud of the guys.

"I'm excited to get in and bring some energy to the team."

Reaves is the team's most physical player and the most likely to drop the gloves. Will he change his game because of the injury?

"I'm strong enough and big enough that I can protect myself if something happens," Reaves said. "I'm definitely not going out and looking for a fight today or in the next couple days, but obviously I'm going to protect my teammates and protect myself."

Reaves said the fracture healed well and the doctors were happy with his relatively quick rehabilitation process.

"Obviously after being out for five weeks, throwing (punches) as hard as you can at somebody's face isn't going to be the best thing for it," Reaves said, "but it's ready to go."

Injury update

Blues captain David Backes (upper body injury) and defenseman Jordan Leopold (hand injury) both skated again Thursday and appear to be nearing returns.

Backes has been pushed hard in recent workouts.

"It's better every day," he said. "It was a little sketchy at first with the injury I have, but every day has been a lot better. I feel pretty good without contact, the next thing's just making sure when I'm getting a hit I can be a force out there rather than just be a hockey player and not touch anyone out there.

"We'll see how it progresses in the next little while."

Blues winger Chris Stewart was back in the lineup after taking a puck to his mouth area in Minnesota on Tuesday. Stewart began the game wearing a helmet that included a protective face shield, but took the shield off in the second period.

Hitchcock was asked if he was encouraged by Backes' progress.

"He's feeling good," Hitchcock said. "We're going to bang him around a little bit and see how he feels, see what his thoughts are. We're in a position right now where we're just not willing to take chances.

"If this was a playoff hockey game it would be something different, but we're not willing to take setbacks and chances right now. We'll wait; if he's not 100 percent then he won't go."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, or on Twitter @NormSanders

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