Blues get a jolt of energy as Backes returns

News-DemocratApril 26, 2014 

— There was a loud roar from the Scottrade Center crowd Friday when St. Louis Blues captain David Backes hit the ice for pregame warmups.

Even the sight of Backes, who had missed the previous two games, was a jolt of energy for a team that had lost two straight games to defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago after winning the first two games of the best-of-seven series.

The energy was there throughout much of the night, but it couldn't stop the Blues from losing their third straight as they fell 3-2 in overtime to the Blackhawks.

"He played a great game," Blues forward Adam Cracknell said of Backes. "He hasn't skated in a few days. He's our leader, gets us going and he leads by example and we just followed.

"Unfortunately, it didn't go our way tonight, but we've got another day, another game to live, and try to bring it back here for Game 7."

Backes played 21 minutes, 35 seconds while racking up a team-leading eight hits. He also had two shots and his 34 shifts ranked fourth on the team.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock did not rule Backes out when asked about his status Friday morning. Hitchcock even playfully joked, as he did before Game 4 in Chicago, that Backes just might have been skating somewhere else other than Scottrade Center.

"Like I said in Chicago, there's lots of rinks here in St. Louis, too," Hitchcock said. "You never know, he might just jump on the ice and be there and be skating in the warmup. Then you can all press 'send' on your tweets and away you go."

Backes was injured late in Game 2 on a hit to the head by Chicago's Brent Seabrook that earned Seabrook a three-game suspension.

In addition, Backes suffered a foot injury just before the playoffs that required a walking boot brace.

Hitchcock also made some major changes on his lines for Game 5. Along with the return of Backes, Vladimir Sobotka centered Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko with Patrik Berglund centering Steve Ott and Adam Cracknell.

The fourth line had Maxim Lapierre with Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves.

"I just think that depth is going to persevere in this series and we need to play with more depth," Hitchcock said when asked about the line changes. "So spread it out a little bit; we've had good success doing that. One of the things we're looking for is to have two third lines.

"If we split those minutes it's going to give us more tempo early and not wear us down as much. I think it works for us."

Oshie feeling better

Oshie said Friday that he wasn't really himself when the series began and has gradually felt better as the series has progressed.

Scoring a highlight-reel goal in Game 5 certainly aided that feeling.

Oshie suffered an undisclosed upper body injury against Minnesota before the playoffs began on a blindside hit by Mike Rupp. Rupp was suspended four games.

Hitchcock echoed those sentiments.

"Getting better and better every game," Hitchcock said. "The last half of the last game was the Osh that we know. He's up to speed. I thought he really had an impact in the second half of (Game 4), which is great to see.

"Coming out of that game, he said for the first time he felt normal and alert and I think you saw it in his play. He showed he had way more tempo in his game."

Oshie admitted it took him a while to regain his game.

"I feel better and better every day," Oshie said before Game 5. "That first game I felt like I was lost and I got it taken to me. I wasn't really a factor for us. Luckily we got the win on that one but last game I felt like I was a lot better.

"It was the best game I've played probably in a month. Pucks didn't go in for me but I had a lot of shots and you've just got to build from there."

Oshie began Friday with two goals and five points in 22 career playoff games. He was scoreless in the first three games of this series with a plus-minus rating of minus-3.

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

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