The St. Louis Blues are healthy for the first time this season. Captain David Backes and winger Troy Brouwer returned to practice Tuesday, and the Blues enter the post-season with no players on the injured list for the first time since the off-season.
The St. Louis Blues spent zero games — not one — as a complete team this season. At one point or another, someone on the Blues roster was injured, be it Patrik Berglund recuperating from off-season shoulder surgery, Steve Ott fighting back from surgery on both hamstrings or things as simple as Vladimir Tarasenko missing a game due to illness.
But Tuesday, the Blues got to enjoy something they haven’t since before the regular season even began -- for the first time in 2015-16, the entire St. Louis roster was healthy and able to take part in practice. Captain David Backes and Troy Brouwer were the final two players who needed to recover from ailments to make the roster complete, and both were in practice Tuesday.
"This is the first day since the middle of the summer that we've had every body available to us as a team, and that's impeccable timing because this is when you want all of your weapons on hand, and we have that," Backes said. "We'll have plenty of depth and ability to go and do whatever we need to with all the people available for the first time."
Leading into the post-season, the Blues were without Ott, Backes, Brouwer and goaltender Jake Allen, but Ott and Allen returned to practice Monday leaving Backes and Brouwer as the only players absent. Backes, who quipped he’s going to have to hope he can get a place in the lineup, said his target all along was to return in time for the first game of the opening-round series. Even if Backes wasn’t ready, he acknowledged how the team has been able to fight through the injuries to remain successful over the course of the campaign.
“We’ve shown as a group that every prominent player, maybe save Troy Brouwer, has missed time with one ailment or another. Other guys have stepped up and filled those roles,” Backes said. “We’re going to have to put all those pieces together, everyone’s going to have to find what their role is, play it to the best of their ability and as a collective whole we should have tons of success.”
The Blues open the playoffs at home against the rival Blackhawks Wednesday, and it will mark the second time in three seasons the clubs have squared off in the opening round. Chicago won the first-round series in 2013-14 in six games, but St. Louis has won six of the past 10 games between the two clubs. And now healthy for the first time all season, the Blues can look to build on that and power through the first round of the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.
“Our focus needs to be on the task at hand — the 60 minutes or three overtimes or whatever it’s going to be,” Backes said. “Beating our opponent every single night until we dispatch of them and we move on to the next one. One game at a time, one shift at a time and keep that focus nice and narrow.”