ST. LOUIS -- Bumps and bruises, deep bruises, are part of the deal right now. So it's dangerous to draw conclusions from a morning skate, but captain David Backes was not on the ice for the Blues during their session on Wednesday.
Instead, Vladimir Tarasenko skated with Alexander Steen at centre and Jaden Schwartz on the opposite wing. But that does not necessarily mean Backes will not have No. 42 on when the puck drops in St. Louis for Game 5
of the Blues' series
against the Kings Wednesday night. (CBC, CBCSports.ca
, 9 p.m. ET).
"I'm not going to comment on personnel," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said.
Chances are, Backes will be ready. There's no reason for the additional wear and tear of a morning skate.Lineup soup
Hitchcock was asked about his personnel tweak for Game 4
, in which he inserted Tarasenko
and scratched winger Adam Cracknell on the fourth line. The so-called "CPR Line" of Cracknell, Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves was prominent during the first two games of the series.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter went to a lineup with seven defencemen to provide some relief for his backline. Ice time diminished significantly for the Blues' fourth line in L.A. In Game 4, as Tarasenko played less than a minute of the second period and less than six minutes in the game.
It appears Cracknell will be back in Wednesday night. Hitchcock was asked if he was second-guessing the change or the limited use of the fourth line.
"I probably should have pushed [Tarasenko] up earlier in the game when some of the players were asking him to cover [for them] because of various ailments, [and were] tired out a little bit," Hitchcock said. "But as far as making that decision, not one bit.
"He's part of our team. When you start the game and you're not sure about two or three guys, whether they're going to able to finish, you've got to be careful. It's great to finish the game with a bunch of workers, but last I looked, the puck's still part of the game. And [Tarasenko] is good that way."
As for the fourth-line issue in general, Hitchcock suggested it was irrelevant in Game 4.
"The difference in the hockey game wasn't the CPR line, the difference was we gave a lot of odd-man rushes when we didn't need to," Hitchcock said. "When you're looking at [Colin] Fraser on a 3-on-2 you're not sweating bullets.
"But when you looking at [Jeff] Carter and [Mike] Richards, or [Anze] Kopitar and [Dustin] Brown, you're sweating bullets. We gave up the odd-man rushes to the wrong people and they slammed it right in the net."Statistically speaking
Kings defenceman Drew Doughty is averaging 28 minutes, 34 seconds per game in the series. Blues defender Alex Pietrangelo is right behind him, logging 27:17 per game.
Kings forward Justin Williams leads the series with 21 shots on goal, two of which have gone in. Backes leads the Blues with 15 shots and he has one goal.
Brown has 26 hits to pace the Kings, Vladimir Sobotka has registered 20 for the Blues. But the leaders in terms of hits per minute are Reaves and Porter. Reaves has 19 hits while playing just 7:39 per game, and Porter has 19 with 9:09 per game.
In the series as a whole, 15 players have reached double figures in hits.
"They have a very intense group over there, some big guys that run around and finish every check," Kings defenceman Keaton Ellerby said. "This has definitely been the most physical series out of all of them. There's been a crazy amount of hits."
Brown said he won't take inventory until the playoffs are over.
"It's been a physical series, but at this time of year you're drawing on that adrenaline and you don't really notice it too much," Brown said. "Everyone talks about how hard the playoffs are, but you don't realize it until you're done playing and you start to feel your body again.
"I mean this whole year has been hard. March was probably the hardest month of hockey I've ever played, with like 17 games or something. At this point, you just kind of roll with it."Road warriors
The teams traveled back to St. Louis on Tuesday. After playing Wednesday night, the Kings will hop back on a plane and return to Los Angeles, arriving early Thursday morning. The Blues wil lwait and leave Thursday morning. And if the series goes seven games, they'll do it all over again.
"It becomes an attrition thing, it definitely does," Sutter said. "You'll see the difference in top guys, right? Guys who play lots of minutes. And one of the issues you always have with top-line guys is they also play special teams, both penalty kill and power play.
"So you've got to be really careful, just trying to manage it. It doesn't really sound like much but a couple of minutes a game is a lot. You look at the defencemen on both teams -- three guys play a lot. You have to watch how they play."Old pair
Sutter started his press conference on Wednesday morning by saying how much better his feet feel in shoes rather than skates. He was asked if he was wearing an old pair of CCM skates during practice.
"No, my old Bauers," he said, "from Chicago."
You do the math. Sutter's playing career ended in Chicago in 1987.Lineups for Game 5
Dustin Brown -- Anze Kopitar -- Justin Williams
Dwight King -- Mike Richards -- Jeff Carter
Dustin Penner -- Jarret Stoll-Trevor -- Lewis
Kyle Clifford -- Colin FraserDefencemen
Robyn Regehr -- Drew Doughty
Rob Scuderi -- Alec Martinez
Jake Muzzin -- Slava Voynov
Keaton Ellerby Goalie
Jaden Schwartz -- David Backes -- Alexander Steen
David Perron -- Patrik Berglund -- T.J. Oshie
Andy McDonald -- Vladimir Sobotka -- Chris Stewart
Adam Cracknell -- Chris Porter -- Ryan ReavesDefencemen
Jay Bouwmeester -- Alex Pietrangelo
Jordan Leopold -- Kevin Shattenkirk
Barret Jackman -- Roman Polak
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