Blues’ Hitchcock plays it coy; Backes doesn’t play
BY MARK POTASH Staff Reporter April 23, 2014 11:23PM
Updated: April 25, 2014 8:16PM
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock seemed to get a kick out of playing it coy when asked about captain David Backes’ availability for Game 4 after Backes did not participate in the morning skate.
“You never know — he could be skating at another rink,” Hitchcock said. “There are a lot of other rinks here in Chicago. But he’s not in the lineup unless he’s a player. If he’s a player, the way he plays, he’s going to have a huge impact on the series.”
As it turned out, Backes didn’t play in Game 4 — the second game he has missed since being checked in the head by Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook in Game 2. T.J. Oshie replaced him on the Blues’ top line with Alexander Steen and Steve Ott.
The Blues raised the level of their game to compensate for Backes’ absence in Game 3. But no matter how well they play without him, they miss him.
“He’s our captain; he’s our emotional leader on and off the ice,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “He logs a lot of ice time. He plays every situation. He plays against the top line. Anytime you can get a guy like that back, it’s going to give a boost to the team.”
Hitchcock said third-line forward Brenden Morrow (foot) would miss the rest of the series.
Paging Marian Hossa
Winger Marian Hossa has missed a couple of opportunities, but he has been held in check by the Blues through the first three games. Hossa entered Game 4 with no points and a minus-3 rating. He figures to break out sooner or later, but the Blues will keep up what they’ve been doing.
“We’ve been playing him pretty hard — you’ve got to play him like that,” Pietrangelo said. “It takes away his time and space. He can change the dynamic of a game in a hurry.”
Pleased with Bickell
By this time last year, winger Bryan Bickell had scored two goals — including the game-winner in Game 1 against the Wild — and was well on his way to nine goals and 17 points in a glorious 2013 postseason.
Bickell was scoreless with an even plus-minus through the first three games, but coach Joel Quenneville said he has been pleased with his production.
“Bickell has been real good,” he said. ‘‘It looks like he’s ready.”