ST. LOUIS (AP) — The St. Louis Blues are getting closer to the lineup that set a franchise record for victories and challenged for first place overall, instead of the patchwork roster that lost six in a row to finish the regular season.
Just in time, too. Game 1 of their NHL playoff series against Chicago is Thursday night.
"The cavalry's coming," said forward Brenden Morrow, who participated in an optional skate Tuesday along with top-line forward T.J. Oshie. "This old body needs to get warmed up, so I couldn't just jump in and get into a game after the time off I've had."
Oshie skated for the first time since taking a shoulder to the face from Minnesota's Brian Rupp on Thursday night, a hit that resulted in a four-game suspension for Rupp and prompted initial fear of a concussion.
"I'm just moving forward as quickly as I can, without hurting myself in the long run or hurting my team in the long run," Oshie said. "It's the doctor's decision first. I think they already know what my decision is."
It also looks as if the Blackhawks' two biggest stars also will be ready to go after injuries. Forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews practiced on Tuesday in an encouraging sign for the defending the Stanley Cup champions.
Kane hurt his left knee in a collision with Morrow in mid-March, and then Toews went down with an upper-body injury late last month.
"Every time I'm on the ice. I feel like it gets better and better," Kane said. "I think it's just something you have to get used to a little bit, and at the same time you feel what your limitations are and what you can do.
"Right now I don't feel too many, so it's exciting."
Three other Blues regulars were out on Tuesday — captain David Backes (foot), and forwards Patrik Berglund (upper body) and Vladimir Sobotka (lower body). Vladimir Tarasenko, who has game-changing skills and speed, practiced but hasn't been cleared from a broken right thumb that sidelined him the final 15 games.
Tarasenko is scheduled to meet with doctors Wednesday and figures to be ready from a conditioning standpoint whenever he gets cleared.
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said the true test is a full-go practice on Wednesday, a day ahead of the playoff opener. He remained confident they'll be at full strength at some point during the series.
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