David Backes (Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images)
St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock wouldn’t confirm whether David Backes and Robby Fabbri, who both left Game 4 with injuries, are healthy enough to play in Game 5. All Hitchcock would say is that both will skate in warmup and that the Blues would “run a further evaluation.”
The Blues may have won Game 4 of the Western Conference final, but the victory didn’t come without a cost. Both David Backes and Robby Fabbri were knocked out of the contest and finished the game watching from the sideline, and Blues coach Ken Hitchcock is doing his best to dance around confirming whether one, both or neither will be St. Louis’ Game 5 lineup.
When Hitchcock was asked about the status of Backes and Fabbri for Monday’s game, he would offer only that the Blues’ warmup lineup will be the same as it was during the previous game’s warmup, which is to say Backes and Fabbri will take part in the brief pre-game skate but there’s no answer beyond that.
“We're going to dress the same lineup for warmup that we did the last game,” Hitchcock said, precisely wording his response. “We had two extra forwards, one extra D. No changes. All those players are there. They'll dress for warmup and then we'll run a further evaluation after warmup. Same 23 guys are dressing.”
That Backes and Fabbri will at least take warmup bodes well for their chances of suiting up for Game 5, but that doesn’t necessarily mean either will be as effective as they have been throughout the post-season if they do draw in. There should especially be some concern about Backes, who wasn’t credited with a single shift or even a single second of ice time beyond the first period of Game 4.
It’s anyone’s guess what’s ailing Backes, but he did sit out the final three games of the regular season with a lower-body injury and that always opens up the possibility that he has re-injured a past ailment. However, there hasn’t been much to speculate on regarding his injury beyond the fact it appeared to happen when he stumbled behind the Sharks’ goal with little more than five minutes remaining in the first period.
The Blues can ill-afford to lose Backes for any length of time, especially given the way he’s played throughout the post-season. His seven goals and 13 points in these playoffs put him in a tie for second in scoring in St. Louis, and he’s managed to be that productive while working against a lot of top competition. He’s a go-to player for the Blues on the power play, penalty kill and at even strength, so replacing Backes won’t be easy.
When it comes to production, though, no Blue has been as good as Fabbri, which makes the possible injury to the rookie winger a potentially tough pill to swallow. Though he hasn’t filled the net like Backes, Fabbri is St. Louis’ leading scorer with three goals and 14 points in 18 games and he’s managed to make an impact in limited ice time. He’s averaging only 14:16 per game in the post-season.
Fabbri’s injury appears to be stemming from a hit he took from Sharks winger Tommy Wingels in the first period of Game 4. The hit sent Fabbri into the boards hard, but the 20-year-old remained in the game.
So while Hitchcock is mum on whether Backes or Fabbri will play, the answer should be had by the time the official roster report is filed ahead of Game 5.