After a little misdirection from Blues coach Ken Hitchcock on Wednesday afternoon, St. Louis captain David Backes was a scratch for the Blues in Game 4.
When the Blues held their morning skate in Chicago prior to Game 4 this evening,
So should we expect Backes, who missed Game 3 after a hit to the head from Brent Seabrook in Game 2, to miss another game? Hitchcock would neither confirm nor deny any suspcisions about his captain's playing status. He got very secretive. From Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
But Hitchcock did say not to take the lineup that was on the ice this morning to the bank.
"On this one, I could probably be a liar," Hitchcock said. "I wouldn't evaluate our roster right now, until you see it tonight. Just be careful. Put in pencil today, not pen. I might be fooling with y'all today."
Hitchcock even joked that Backes could be practicing elsewhere, not at the United Center.
"You never know, he could be skating at another rink," Hitchcock said. "You don't know that stuff. There's a lot of rinks here in Chicago. So he could be doing other things. But he's not going in the lineup unless he's a player.
Yup, totally a joke.
The mystery is why Hitchcock was so secretive about it. The Blackhawks have already played the Blues with Backes in the lineup and without. They know what he does and they know how to plan for both situations. Whether he plays or doesn't, it's not like it will catch the Blackhawks unprepared. Maybe he was just entertaining himself.
What it is most important though, is that Backes is out. He is the Blues captain and one of their leading scorers as well as part of their top line that is asked to play at both ends of the ice. There's no denying the Blues are a better team with Backes on the ice and with Game 4 being a crucial swing game, they'd like to have him back. We'll just have to wait to see if they actually will.