Blues continue their head-on approach to adversity with successful play

News-DemocratJanuary 16, 2014 

Playing for the St. Louis Blues these days means never knowing quite sure what the lines will be or which goaltender may get the call.

A combination of injuries and illness have rocked the team this winter, but it hasn't stopped the winning.

The Blues have won eight of their last nine games and will take a 32-8-5 record into their home game Thursday against the Los Angeles Kings. Coach Ken Hitchcock's club has weathered the injury storm and continues to chase Anaheim, Pittsburgh and Chicago for the best record in the NHL.

"It says something about our depth and the kind of culture we have growing here, that we're going to play through adversity and play through things that come our way," said Blues captain David Backes, who has missed five games this season. "Whether we've got some of our best players out or whether we've got everyone in, it doesn't matter. Were coming to play our style of hockey.

"That's what makes us successful and we've got to stick with that."

At one point, the Blues were without Backes and Alexander Steen, two-thirds of their top line. Steen, whose 24 goals in only 35 games ranks fifth in the NHL, hasn't played since because of a concussion.

Goaltender Jaroslav Halak is back after dealing with a persistent illness and was a major reason the Blues held on to beat Phoenix 2-1 Tuesday at Scottrade Center.

Defenseman Roman Polak recently returned from an ankle injury and versatile center Vladimir Sobotka is expected back Thursday after being out with the flu.

"When those guys get back into the lineup it gives us more options and more internal competition, which makes us a better team," Backes said.

Hitchcock gave his team Saturday and Sunday off as they had a rare three-day break between games. But beginning Tuesday, the Blues will have played nine games in 17 days through the end of January.

"The schedule seems to be goofy like that, where at the beginning of the year we've got tons of time off and all of a sudden there's just jammed games in after the new year," Backes said.

Scouting the Kings

The Blues hammered the Kings 5-0 on Jan. 2 at Scottrade Center, but L.A. won the first meeting 3-2.

With Team USA member Jonathan Quick back in goal, the Kings on Wednesday traded backup goalie Ben Scrivens to Edmonton for a third-round pick.

The Kings also called up Martin Jones (8-3, 1.41 goals-against average, three shutouts), who started against the Blues last month. Quick missed 24 games and had been out since Nov. 12 with a groin strain, but is 3-2 in five starts since returning Jan. 4 against Vancouver.

His last start was a 1-0 shutout against Vancouver on Monday. The Kings lead the NHL with a 2.00 goals-against average.

Blues to attend Schwartz benefit

On Jan. 24, the entire Blues team will attend the fourth annual "White Out for Mandi" game at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. The Blues also will have an afternoon practice at Yale that day.

The game is played in honor of Mandi Schwartz, the former Yale women's hockey player and sister of Blues winger Jaden Schwartz.

Diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia during her junior year in 2008, Mandi Schwartz died on April 3, 2011. Yale has dedicated a game to Schwartz each season, with fans wearing white jerseys to raise awareness of the need for more bone marrow donors.

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

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