Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Blues-Kings sequel Thursday; Oshie 
expected to play; Brodeur to play goal; Ott's versatility

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The sequel between the Blues and Los Angeles Kings will unveil Thursday at Staples Center after the two teams offered up an appetizer Tuesday at Scottrade Center.

The Blues' 5-2 victory against the defending Stanley Cup champs -- at least for one game -- lifted a gorilla off their shoulders.

That's because including the playoffs, the Kings won 17 of 21 games against the Blues going back to the 2010-11 season when the Blues swept four regular season games against L.A.

But to call it a measuring stick. That's yet to be determined.

"We'll see what happens when we go into their building," captain David Backes said. "It's one game, it's two points in the bank. Now we've got to go on a tough little west coast trip here before Christmas and the same team that's been on the road for a little bit, they're going to go home and get some home cooking and we've got to go into their building and show that (Tuesday) wasn't a fluke and start like we did in the middle of the second rather than kind of wade into the game and see what's going to happen."

But it all boils down to if the Blues (21-8-2) are to be taken seriously, they have to stand up to the L.A.'s, Chicagos, Anaheims, and so forth.

"It's really been like that against this team. It's always really hard games," forward Patrik Berglund said Wednesday of the Kings. "I think we made a statement winning last night's game. We obviously want to carry that over to L.A. here tomorrow. It was not just last night's game that was on the line. It's preparations for the next one as well. 

"I think we were just really trying to stick with it. We know they're a really tough team to beat. They're veteran players there that have been really successful lately winning two Cups. They know how to win and they know how to play. In the third, we got stuff going."

"They're really tough. They have a good team," right wing Vladimir Tarasenko, who recorded his second-career hat trick Tuesday, said of the Kings. "They won last year. This is a good evaluation for us and a good challenge."

So what brought the Blues back to dictating the pace of the game in the third?

"It was our checking," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Wednesday. "It was those three or four shifts in the second period (from the Backes line with Alexander Steen and Jaden Schwartz) that brought some energy back to our game. We were playing OK, but we were flat emotionally because we were being discouraged (and) because nothing was happening. We weren't getting anywhere, and then instead of looking for space, we started to get involved in the game a little bit more physically that brought energy to our group and then with the energy came a few scoring chances. But I said last night, when we play reckless, we're a better team. We don't play well when we play conservative or careful. We need to play reckless to be effective.

"Their whole basis of their game is based on checking and you can get really frustrated when you play them because there is no time, no space, there's no room, nothing's easy, and you've got to learn to play through that. It's easy to talk about but hard to do. That's why they're successful. They check and they check hard. The score might be close, but they're controlling the tempo. Offense doesn't control the hockey game; checking controls the hockey game, and when they check, they check hard. They're big, strong and physical. They can skate (and) hard to play against. Learning to play through that stuff is important if you ever expect to beat teams like that on a regular basis. I'm sure that's what people say about us. That's the same as us. When our game's on, it's not our offensive part of our game that's on, it's our checking because both teams are built very similar. Both teams create a lot of chances off of their checking."

Which should give the rematch Thursday at 9:30 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM) some flare for dramatics.

"Both teams play with a high level of stubbornness," Hitchcock said. "We have elements in our game that we need to adjust to. It's not so much playing L.A. It's just playing better. The things that we need to do, it doesn't matter who the opponent is. We've got to play better. There's elements in our game that you would have left last night saying, 'Geez, they did this really well and there's elements in our game that we have to improve on.' So we all get one look at it tomorrow, and we'll have to make adjustments in our own game just to play better. There's things last night that certainly need improvement, and then there's things that you really like. We have elements in our game that I think moving forward, we're not going to get away with against good teams. You've got to look that stuff right in the eye and then have the candid conversations in order to get better."

* Schwartz out with injury -- After the team landed in Los Angeles, the Blues announced that forward Jaden Schwartz has been placed on injured reserve with a right foot injury, with the possible source from a blocked shot of the Kings' Drew Doughty on Tuesday.

Schwartz blocked a shot from Doughty in the first period in the Blues' defensive zone, was on his knee for a moment but was able to continue on and finished with a power play goal and an assist. His goal tied the game 2-2 in the third period and he finished with 18 minutes, 24 seconds of ice time.

To make room for Schwartz, who is tied for second on the team with Kevin Shattenkirk with 27 points (11 goals, 16 assists), the Blues have recalled Dmitrij Jaskin from the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League.

Schwartz was one of six players (Kevin Shattenkirk, Vladimir Tarasenko, AlexPietrangelo, Maxim Lapierre and Barret Jackman) to play in all 31 games this season.

Jaskin has had a cup of coffee with the Blues this season, playing in six games. He scored in the Blues' 3-2 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks earlier in the season and hasfour goals and 15 points in 18 games with the Wolves this season.

Jaskin has two goals and three points in 26 NHL games spanning three seasons.

* Oshie to rejoin team -- After missing Tuesday's game against the Kings because of a death in the family, right wing T.J. Oshie is expected to join the Blues in Los Angeles and be in the lineup in time for Thursday's game.

Wednesday night, Stacy Ann Oshie (sister of Oshie's dad Tim) lost her battle with cancer. 

"RIP my dear sister Stacy Ann Oshie," Tim Oshie, tweeted Wednesday morning. "You were one of the kindest & gentle human beings I've ever met."

T.J. flew to Washington on Tuesday to be with his family but Hitchcock said Wednesday they felt Oshie will be able to get into L.A. and play Thursday. 

"He's obviously got some personal stuff going on and your thoughts are with him, but he's a big boy," Backes said of Oshie after the win Tuesday. "He'll take care of business and hopefully join us very soon in the road trip. 

"He's a big part of our team, brings a ton of energy to us. We missed him tonight and hopefully he's back in the lineup sooner than later."

* Versatile Ott -- With Oshie out of the lineup, it created all sorts of havoc with the coaching staff and trying to assemble line combinations against the Kings.

And although he didn't start with them, Steve Ott was a fit for the 'STL Line' with Jori Lehtera and Tarasenko, who had four points.

With Jaden Schwartz moving up to Oshie's spot with Backes and Steen, it created avoid, and when that happens, the veteran Ott is the guy that typically fits the bill.

"For me with Ott, where you play him is not as relevant as how he plays," Hitchcock said. "When he plays in straight lines, he's a very effective player. ... He was with Backes and Steen last year; he was very effective. It doesn't matter who he's with. When he plays in straight lines, man, he's really, really effective. 

"He manages the game properly. He keeps the puck in front of him, he's brings physical play, he brings energy, but he knew to advance the puck and get it into other people's hands and he did a good job there for us."

Ott began the game with Maxim Lapierre and Ryan Reaves on the fourth line but slowly moved his way up. He set up Tarasenko in the high slot for the Blues' first goal in the second period.

"We start him as a fourth-line player on a regular basis, but then he always winds up playing third line," Hitchcock said of Ott. "At the end of the night, he winds up with third-line minutes every game. Sometimes it's because there's a few penalties and sometimes he gets moved up on the line, sometimes the game's on the line and we play him extra minutes, but he always ends up in third line minutes every game. Not much chances at all. If you look at all the third-line players in the National Hockey League, his minutes are the same as theirs are."

Ott has been in this situation before, when the Blues were banged up against the Chicago Blackhawks in the playoffs last season.

"I've been in those type of situations obviously before," Ott said. "If I'm on the fourth line or one of the different lines, you try to keep your game simple and responsible. I more or less told them I obviously know I'm more of a forechecking type of player. Hopefully, things can spill out towards them and they can do what they do and hopefully I don't get in the way. I think that's what happened. They had the puck and Vladi knows what to do with it when it's on his stick."

* Brodeur to start -- Goalie Martin Brodeur, who last played Dec. 8 against the Florida Panthers, a game in which he recorded 32 saves in a 4-2 victory, will get the start against the Kings on Thursday.

Brodeur, who is 2-1-0 with a 2.64 goals-against average and .904 save percentage, played in three games in five days (came on in relief once) but will go 10 days between games, and by his own admission, he needed some practice time.

He got plenty of it, and with a schedule that has the Blues playing six games until the end of the calendar year, Brodeur will be relied upon to get games along with Jake Allen. Brodeur is 10 wins shy of 700 for his career.

"I think the practices are important," Hitchcock said. "You start, you come back in and you play on emotion and then you've got to play on technique, and I think he's worked hard on some things here. I think he's ready. 

"You're just looking until January 1st, we've got what, seven or eight games left. He's going to have to play games. So he gets Thursday in L.A. and then we'll see from there, but he's certainly going to play some games here now. We get the little three-day break, then we come roaring out of the gate playing a lot of hockey again, so he's going to have to play some of those games, too."

* Gunnarsson in limbo -- Defenseman Carl Gunnarsson, who missed his fourth consecutive game Tuesday, still needs time to condition himself (particularly his surgically-repaired hip) in order to return to the active lineup.

Gunnarsson, who sustained a concussion against the New York Islanders following a hit by Anders Lee on Dec. 6, was medically cleared to resume on-ice activities but from a conditioning standpoint, he's not there. Plus, the time off with no activity is more detrimental to the hip injury that needs all the work it can get to continue to be mobile.

"Gunnarsson is not game-ready," Hitchcock said. "The same seven guys that we were rotating through are the same seven guys we're going to stay with. He's not ready to be a full participant in a game yet. He's a guy that's going to need some practice times here before he's ready to play. We figured that out after today that he's just not ... the combination of the injury and then the rehab that he went through before, he's not going to be ready."

"Any time off would be bad. It's approaching (two) weeks now. When it's significant like this, it's not great. It's not a setback, but this is like anything else. We had just got through all of the body work that you have to get through to figure it out, and now we're back dealing with the bodywork again. We'll go back and fix it to where it's nothing but the conditioning and training and working and strengthening. The problem for us was it wasn't like an injury, so he didn't do anything. The atrophy from that has made it to where we've got to work it back up again. If it was an injury to some other part of your body, he could continue to work that stuff, but it's not, so he couldn't do anything for (two) weeks, and now we're back up to working it back up again. I can't really give you a time-frame on it now. What is it, one, two, three, four practices before he's ready to go? He's going to be able to tell us that."

One of the rotating seven (Petteri Lindbohm) passed another rugged test Thursday when the Kings decided to target the rookie sixth-rounder of 2012.

"He pushed back, which was good," Hitchcock said of Lindbohm. "That's what we needed. He pushed back. They went after him, and he pushed back. He's the new kid on the block, they went and challenged him and he pushed back, which was a nice sign."

* Quick criticism -- Kings coach Darryl Sutter questioned Jonathan Quick after the goalie allowed four goals on 22 shots, including three on seven shots in the third period.

Sutter, who said the Kings needed "to get a save in there somewhere," during the Blues' four-goal third period, liked the team game.

But Quick's USA Olympic teammate was -- no pun intended -- quick to defend the Kings' goalie.

"He's a helluva goalie, no question. World class," Backes said of Quick. "I played with him at the Olympics. You could see what he's capable of, but we've got to get bodies in front of him, get some pucks moving laterally, he's typically out on the angle, he'll make the save if he can see it. He's as good as they come. We've just got to make plays and find ways to beat him. We did that enough (Tuesday) night."

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Third period blitz helps Blues topple Kings

Tarasenko leads charge with hat trick, four-point game in 5-2 victory

ST. LOUIS -- Vladimir Tarasenko needed to end his media session as soon as possible. A call to his grandfather in Russia was in store.

Tarasenko, who scored his second hat trick of the season and first since Brett Hull did it twice in 1996-97, speaks to grandfather Vladimir after each game. The two dissect the Blues right wing's game.

So what would grandpa Vladimir say after Tarasenko was a catalyst in the Blues' 5-2 victory against the Los Angeles Kings?

"We'll see. Hope he will be happy," Tarasenko said of his grandfather.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Kevin Shattenkirk and Vladimir Tarasenko celebrate Tarasenko's
goal in the third period of a 5-2 win against the Los Angeles Kings.

Blues needed a flurry of goals in the third period to finally overcome the Kings, a nemesis in recent seasons. 

Jaden Schwartz, Tarasenko and Alexander Steen scored in a 2:30 span to erase a one-goal deficit in the third period at Scottrade Center. 

And in a short span, the Blues exorcised the demons that had been plaguing them plenty in recent seasons, including a pair of playoff defeats.

Tarasenko had his second four-point night for the Blues (21-8-2), who found out hours before the game that right wing T.J. Oshie would not play because of family reasons. But St. Louis ran its streak of points on home ice to eight games (7-0-1). 

"It's unbelievable how he elevates his game," Blues winger Steve Ott said of Tarasenko. "It's pretty impressive to kind of see it every single game, but scoring 20 goals already before Christmas is something special that it's a testament to his work ethic, his practice of shooting that puck and being such a smart player at a young age. It's really neat to see him excel."

Jake Allen made 21 saves in a winning effort to help the Blues win their fifth straight game.

The Blues are 11-1-1 in their past 13 home games and defeated the Kings (15-11-6) for the third time in the past 12 regular-season games (3-7-2). 

Despite scoring four times in the third, the Blues didn't register their first shot on goal until eight minutes in. They finished the period with eight but limited the Kings to one.

"Even though there was tough sledding in the third period at the start getting through the neutral zone, we were still at least pushing the envelope," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said, "and starting to do the things that I think we anticipated we'd do early. 

"It was a very tactical game. ... For us, we need to see some reward for the effort and the work and we need to see some reward for playing the right way. So we get a little reward, we feel good about ourselves and hopefully we can build on this momentum."

The Kings were going according to script how they've had success against the Blues in recent history. They got pucks deep, they forechecked in the offensive zone and turned the Blues over in the neutral zone. The recipe was working for 40 minutes.

They needed 60.

"You kind of felt it in the game; it was time to sink it swim," Blues captain David Backes said. "Our guys responded really well. We get on our horse and start playing our game where we're getting pucks deep and forcing them to take a couple penalties there.

"You started to see that glimmer in our eyes. Enough of taking a back seat to these guys. We can play with them when we're all in on the effort. ... You don't come back from a 2-0 hole to the defending Stanley Cup champions too often."

Los Angeles, which got two goals from Marian Gaborik, ended a five-game trip 1-3-1 and lost for the first time (12-1-1) in regulation when leading after two periods. Jonathan Quick made 18 saves.

But momentum swung in the game when the Blues cut the Kings' lead in half and then used a two-man advantage to level things off and then take control.

"We're a team that usually closes things out," Kings right wing Justin Williams said. "Leading after two, we didn't do it tonight ... very frustrating.

"They shot a puck on a 5-on-3, it went off a couple bodies and in the net. There's a lot of twist and turns in the game that indicate the result and we weren't good enough in the third."

Shattenkirk's shot on a 5-on-3 power play tied the game 2-2 at 11:20 of the third on a shot from the slot that was deflected by Schwartz in front; Tarasenko's power goal at 13:00 on a wrist shot from the right circle gave the Blues the lead for good on; Steen scored off 3-on-2 rush at 13:50 to make it 4-2. 

Tarasenko's empty-net goal with 1:24 completed the hat trick, his second of the season. He leads the Blues with 20 goals.

"It's only one game," said Tarasenko, who extended his point streak to six games with 10 (six goals). "Thanks to my linemates and my teammates to support me. It's really nice ... first hat trick here in Scottrade and thanks for the fans. It was unbelievable.

"... We were happy we were able to compete at a high level. We just have to keep up the good work." 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Jaden Schwartz (17) and Alexander Steen (middle, back) crowd the net
next to Kings goalie Jonathan Quick (32) Tuesday night.

Gaborik, who has 38 points in 35 games against the Blues, scored 5:39 into the second period when he was able to deflect a loose puck in front of Allen off a scramble. Chris Porter was initially able to save a goal by kicking the puck off the line, but Gaborik was on the doorstep to make it 1-0. 

Gaborik doubled the lead when Anze Kopitar threaded a pass into the slot for a quick redirection over Allen 11 minutes into the second. It was the Kings' first power-play goal against the Blues in 30 attempts. 

Tarasenko's first of the game cut the Kings' lead to 2-1 when he took Ott's pass into the high slot and beat Quick with a precise wrist shot high glove side 1:29 after Gaborik's power play goal. 

Tarasenko's first goal was the Blues' first against the Kings and Quick in 131:34. The floodgates would soon open after that, and the Blues -- for one night -- could revel in a win against the champs.

(12-16-14) Kings-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Ken Hitchcock was mum on Monday. The revelation came to light on Tuesday.

Jake Allen will get his third straight start Tuesday when the Blues (20-8-2) host the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings (15-10-6) at 7 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM). It will be Allen's first career start against L.A.

Allen, who has won two straight starts and is 10-3-1 with a 2.50 goals-against average and .907 save percentage, gets the nod again over the veteran 42-year-old Martin Brodeur, who last played Dec. 8 in a 4-2 victory against the Florida Panthers, a game in which Brodeur stopped 32 shots and played impressively.

"Second half of the game in Colorado. I saw Jake come back into form," the Blues' coach said of his decision. "We want to continue to build on that. That's the goalie we anticipated. He had a little bit of a rough stretch, which is what happens with younger guys and he jumped back to form there the second half of the game, was great in the third period, so we want to build on that."

- - -

UPDATE: Blues right wing T.J. Oshie will miss tonight's game against the Kings due to family reasons, the team announced.

Oshie, who has three goals and three assists the past four games after having six points in the first 19 games, has picked his offense up since being reunited with David Backes and Alexander Steen.

Oshie scored the game-winner the past two games, including an overtime goal Saturday in a 3-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche.

The club announced that Oshie will accompany the team on its upcoming three-game trip to Los Angeles, San Jose and Colorado.

- - -

The defensive carousel spun into a different form again on Tuesday, as Chris Butler will return after being a healthy scratch at Colorado on Saturday, and Ian Cole, who played the first 26 games of the season, will be a healthy scratch for the third time in five games.

Since Carl Gunnarsson (concussion) went down to injury Dec. 6 against the New York Islanders, it's been a three-man rotation between Butler, Cole and 2012 sixth round pick Petteri Lindbohm, who continues to raise eyebrows in the organization.

"Surprised and impressed," Hitchcock said of the team's defensive depth. "Obviously Lindbohm had a great training camp, almost made the team out of training camp. He hasn't missed a beat coming here. I think the guy that's been really impressive is Butler. Butler's really done a great job for us. He had a very difficult training camp. It was hard for him, and then to come and step up ... he played great in Chicago playing with the Wolves. Now he's come back and been good. We've played him in every situation and there's been games he's played in excess of 20 minutes. He to me has been the most impressive of all of them with just the way he's stepped up and started to play with his capabilities. He's shown way more composure and everything with the puck, which has really helped us."

Since being recalled, Lindbohm has played in all six games with the Blues. 

"We'll continue down that road. I think we want to play Lindbohm because him and Jax (Barret Jackman) are a good pair on the third pair and we want to keep it that way," Hitchcock said.

Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk has also been affected by the change in defensive partners, and will play with Butler tonight.

"For the most part, the guys I have played with other than Gunnarsson this year have been pretty similar to him, I think," Shattenkirk said. "Chris Butler is someone who, in our team's mind, has been an unsung hero the last month or so. After the trade, I think people were wondering what was going to come of it. I think he's stepped right in and proven that we can rely on him. And obviously playing with Barret, who's having one of his best years. They're all guys who are solid defensively. They move the puck well, but they allow me to go and play offensively and I know that they always have it covered."

Also, Chris Porter will be in the lineup. Porter, who has been a healthy scratch the past two games, had a goal -- a game-winner -- and an assist in his last game against the Panthers.

- - -

Gunnarsson was on the ice for the morning skate Tuesday, the first time he's been with the team. 

Gunnarsson, who will miss his fourth straight game tonight, skated on his own last Friday.

"He's cleared head-wise and now it's up to conditioning-wise," Hitchcock said. "How he conditions after today and then gets through tomorrow's practice will determine when he's ready to play. But he's cleared from a head standpoint but not cleared from a fitness standpoint. Because of the injury he had, we are not prepared to put him in full until we feel like his hip has loosened up enough where he's good to go and we don't have any repercussions there."

- - -

The Blues will look to make it points in eight straight home games tonight. They're 6-0-1 in the past seven at Scottrade Center and 10-1-1 in the past 12.

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup (updated through pre-game line rushes):

Alexander Steen-David Backes-Jaden Schwartz

Magnus Paajarvi-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko

Patrik Berglund-Paul Stastny-Steve Ott

Chris Porter-Maxim Lapierre-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Chris Butler-Kevin Shattenkirk

Petteri Lindbohm-Barret Jackman

Jake Allen will be the starter tonight. Martin Brodeur will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include T.J. Oshie (family reasons), Joakim Lindstrom and Ian Cole. Brian Elliott (knee) and Carl Gunnarsson (concussion) are out.

- - -

The Kings' projected lineup:

Dustin Brown-Anze Kopitar-Jeff Carter

Marian Gaborik-Jarret Stoll-Justin Williams

Tanner Pearson-Mike Richards-Dwight King

Kyle Clifford-Trevor Lewis-Tyler Toffoli

Jake Muzzin-Drew Doughty

Robyn Regehr-Alec Martinez

Brayden McNabb-Matt Greene

Jonathan Quick will get the start in goal. Martin Jones will be the backup.

Healthy scratches are Jamie McBain, Jordan Nolan and Slava Voynov (suspension). The Kings have no injuries to report.

Monday, December 15, 2014


Blues' gap in scoring chances for/against widening; Oshie 
scoring more; old nemesis visits St. Louis; Hitch mum on goalie

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The Blues' recent four-game winning streak can be attributed to a variety of reasons.

Scoring goals has been right up there at the top of the list, as the Blues have outscored their opponents 19-11 in those four games. But going back to Nov. 22, the Blues have scored three or more goals in nine of 11 games and 19 total this season.

Scoring chances have been relatively even in most games until this recent stretch, but according to coach Ken Hitchcock, limiting them the other way seems to be more of a noticeable trait for the coaching staff.

"I don't know that they've gone up. I think what's affected us is the opposition's have gone down, which has given us a gap," Hitchcock said after practice Monday at the Ice Zone. "I think there was a lot of games where there was two, three, maybe four difference between us and the opposition and we were winning those games but not controlling it. Now you're starting to see gaps of five to seven to 10 even, which is good news for us. It means we're doing a better job of controlling the tempo of the game."

The biggest catalysts in recent games? The line of David Backes, T.J. Oshie and Alexander Steen.

Not only has it been adding up points, but the line is also dictating play with puck possession and limited opportunities at the opposite end.

"The biggest difference for us is that the Backes line is getting scoring chances and giving up absolutely nothing," said Hitchcock, who has played the trio in three games since Dec. 4 (Steen missed two games with a lower-body injury). "It's really impacting the game in a positive way. I don't think there's a lot of diminished return on (Jori) Lehtera's line. They're not scoring on their chances like they scored on earlier in the year, but they're getting them. I think the difference is the Backes line; it's really getting a lot of scoring chances similar to what they did at the start of the year. They're giving up fewer and fewer every game now."


"They're playing that game where they control (the puck) in the offensive zone, they're controlling the puck, they're dominating time on ice," said Hitchcock, whose team has had 40 or more shots on goal in four of the past eight games after only doing it once in 22 tries. "That's really helping us right now."

"We're starting to buy into the volume part of our game, which has been so effective," Hitchcock added. "It's what gave us all our offense last year. It was a very tough sell at the start of the year. That volume has started to come back and that's what's made us so effective. I think if you look at our scoring the last six or seven games, it's up significantly, almost half a goal a game, which is a lot in this league ... probably even more than half a goal a game. That's due to the volume. We're starting to put the volume up and it's showing up on the scoreboard now. I don't think you can control the hockey game unless you play a volume type of scoring game. You look at all the teams that are successful offensively, they've got volume coming left and right. Other than Toronto, they've got volume coming left and right." 

* Oshie feeling it -- Oshie, who has game-winning goals in consecutive games and 18 for his career, has attributed his string of six points (three goals, three assists) in four games to his linemates Backes and Steen. But for Oshie, who matched his point total of the past four games that he had in 19 to begin the season (six), getting back into a groove after sustaining a concussion Oct. 28 at Dallas that forced him to miss seven games has finally got him feeling good again.

"Yeah, I think so. Probably the last week, the last four games or so, I've felt like it's been the best hockey of the season for me," Oshie said. "I feel like I'm getting right back to that good hockey that I was playing last year. So, it feels good. I've got to pay tribute to Backes and Steener, the guys that I'm playing with, and Berg dog (Patrik Berglund) when he was with us. The linemates are going good and it seems like everyone is starting to get going now."

In the past, Hitchcock has called Oshie "the conscience of our hockey team," and with the way he's playing off the puck, that's the perfect indicator that lets everyone know that Oshie (12 points in 23 games) is going right.

"It's actually things away from the puck. It's stopping in good areas, it's not turning away, not guessing, not cheating for pucks," Oshie said. "My line is playing really honest right now and that's where we're getting all our chances from. We're not cheating to the offensive side, we're (forcing the opposition to turn) pucks over with good positioning and good support and then going on offense."

But to get one going, all three tend to have a hand in accomplishing such a feat. Oshie, Backes and Steen tend to light a fire for the other.

"There's some predictability with all three," Hitchcock said. "They're really playing predictable right now. There's no hesitation in where the puck's going, the puck placement, the cycle game ... there's some real predictability and I think that's why they look so much faster now, they play faster, there's more scoring chances, there's more offensive zone time, there's more forecheck. It comes with predictability, and when you're predictable to each other, you can have real success. 

"The best way I can sum it up is now you see what happens when you've got three guys who play with the sum of parts. They look effective collectively, and they look like they're playing well individually too."

* Blues-Kings get reacquainted -- It's another test for the Blues against one of the conference powers, the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings (15-10-6) make their only visit to Scottrade Center on Tuesday at 7 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).

Judging by the stats, the Blues (20-8-2) won every category when the teams met in Oct. 16 in L.A. but the one that mattered.

Kings goalie Jonathan Quick withstood the flurry of Blues shots, all 43 of them (a season-high), and the Kings got a Jeff Carter shootout goal in a 1-0 victory.

Since the Blues swept the Kings and won all four regular season meetings in 2010-11, the Blues have gone 2-7-2 against L.A. since.

"They've got our number," Hitchcock said of the Kings. "As small as the gap's been, they've been better and it's our job to play catch-up. Everybody knows even as well as we've played, the first time we played them in L.A. early in the season, we still didn't score a goal. Those are things we've got to address and have an honest conversation. Every time we play them, they're good hockey games. They're really well-played. They feel like playoff games. I think the players' heightened sense of urgency on both sides is there. Quite frankly, they're fun to play in and they're fun to coach in. You get such a true assessment on your own personnel.

"I think this is more about energy. What's their energy going to be like the last game of a road trip (L.A. is 1-2-1 on a five-game trip). Are they going to be enthused and put in (the effort)? What's our energy going to be like knowing we go on the road right after. I think this game's all about energy." 

Quick, who likely gets the start for the Kings, has had the Blues' number. Overall he's 7-8-1 with a 2.12 goals-against average and .926 save percentage in 16 career games against the Blues, but most of the wins have come in the past three seasons and eight more in two playoff series wins in 2011-12 and 2012-13 when he went 8-2.

"I think the goalie gets a lot of credit, and he deserves it, but they contest every part of the ice," Hitchcock said of the Kings. "That's the fun part. They don't give you any easy ice. You get no room, you get no space, you've got to fight for your space, you've got to fight for your puck battle, you've got to play a heavy game one-on-one, so you get a true read on how involved in how your players can become. 

"I think when these two teams play each other, the players on the ice that are kind of looking for space, they get exposed. That's why you like this type of evaluation. I think it's a great evaluation for both Darryl (Sutter) and myself."

The two teams will get very acclimated with one another. The rematch, and final game of the season series, is Thursday at Staples Center.

"This is probably what, the third time we've done this this year," Oshie asked. "It seems like the second game, tensions are high, there's maybe a fight or two. We'll just focus on this first one. They're a tough team and it's always fun to rise to the challenge when you play LA.

"They've got a real maturity to their game where it seems like they never go away no matter what. They're always playing hard. I think the last game we played them really well. We each played the full 60 minutes and then OT and then into a shootout. I think we did a good job against them. We've got to stay patient and just play a little bit longer than they do."

* Crowded 'D' corps again -- It's a revolving door when it comes to the Blues' defenseman carousel again, and Ian Cole is in the middle of it ... again.

And even despite the injury to Carl Gunnarsson (concussion), 2012 sixth round pick Petteri Lindbohm has made life tough on the coaches.

Cole, a healthy scratch in two of the past four games after playing in 26 straight games to begin the season, is in the logjam mix with Kirkwood native Chris Butler, who has played well in nine games since his recall from the Chicago Wolves but was a healthy scratch against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday.

It's not the ideal situation for players who want to play every night, but it's a good situation for the Blues, and Lindbohm, 21, has made it a crowded house.

"He's obviously a good, young player," Cole said of Lindbohm, who has no points in six career games. "We've got some talent. Any time you can help a team win, it's a good thing regardless of who you're playing with, regardless of whatever extracurriculars there are with the situation."

* Mum's the word -- Hitchcock has been forthcoming on revealing his starting goalie for the next game but not so on Monday.

Jake Allen has started the past two games and won both. But when asked who's in goal, Allen or Martin Brodeur, Hitchcock said, "For L.A., I'm not sure. For us? I'm not sure ... yet."

Friday, December 12, 2014


Steen's offense coming around; Allen in goal; 
Cole appears set to return; Gunnarsson skates

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Alexander Steen's first words during his postgame interview after the Blues' 6-3 victory was that he didn't feel like he had his legs.

Not bad for a guy who had a pair of goals, including the go-ahead tally in the third period, and three points.

What would Steen have done had his legs been up to par?

Hard to think he would have done any more after missing two games with a groin injury.

Playing on a line with familiar linemates David Backes and T.J. Oshie, the trio dominated play to the tune of seven points, as Oshie also had a three-point night.

"I thought 'Backs' and 'Osh' played really well and helped me along," Steen said, when Patrik Berglund walked by and playfully chimed in, "Bergy too."

"And Bergy too," Steen said, laughing. "They (Backes and Oshie) really helped me along, both of them. The second goal was just an unreal play by 'Osh,' a really smart play."

Steen, who played 17 minutes, 7 seconds Thursday night, initially was injured against the Nashville Predators a week ago and didn't participate in the morning skate Thursday. He was deemed fit after a strenuous practice Wednesday.

"Pretty good, considering," Steen said. "But I think I expect more out of my legs than what I had yesterday. I obviously feel like I've had a lot better games this year, but kind of walked away from the game with really nothing to show for it.

"Then yesterday, things just seemed to find you. I could have had four or five, six goals. I had some really good chances. I've got to find a way to score some more and not let New York linger around like they did had I put a couple of other chances away, the game would have been over."

Steen, who has seven goals 19 points in 27 games, has picked up his production has picked up in recent games, with eight points in eight games.

Steen has 18 shots (six in each game) in the past three games.

"I don't know if it's so much my shot as it is actual chances," Steen said. "Last little while even before the injury, I felt like I was getting a lot more chances again."

The chemistry with Backes and Oshie cannot go unnoticed. The trio has a history, and it's no secret that the line is able to produce.

"We have chemistry from last year," Steen said. "We had a shift, I can't remember, it was an away game. We started together and right away, you sense the chemistry you have from playing with the same guys all the time. Everybody knows what to expect, not just in the details, where you place pucks and stuff like that, but what time of the game it is, who's on the ice. It's just a different presence. You kind of look at each other on the ice, and you're like, 'Ok.'"

Oshie said it's up to all three to keep the line in tact.

"It's nice to stay on the same line for a little bit," Oshie said. "The way we're going to keep it together is by all playing the same way, and that's hard working, very direct, very north hockey and playing smart and the way we check. In the past, we've tried the other way, the fancy way, and us three together, we just can't get it done that way. You know 'Backs' is going to play that way. It's up to me and Steener to follow him."

* Gunnarsson skates -- It was the first step, but defenseman Carl Gunnarsson (concussion) was able to take the ice and skate under the watchful eye of head athletic trainer Ray Barile.

Gunnarsson, who took an elbow to the head against the New York Islanders' Anders Lee, is not nearing a return, according to coach Ken Hitchcock.

"No, no good," Hitchcock said. "We haven't even entertained thoughts of putting him on the ice (with the team) yet. He's not even ready to skate or participate, even in an optional skate yet. He's out."

* Allen to start -- Hitchcock made the announcement that Jake Allen, who stopped 25 shots in the 6-3 win Thursday against the Islanders, will get the nod against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night.

There was some speculation that perhaps Martin Brodeur, who's won two straight games (one in relief of Allen) his previous two times out, would get the start, but Hitchcock is staying with the 24-year-old Allen, who is 9-3-1 with a 2.54 goals-against average and .907 save percentage.

"He really gave us an opportunity (Thursday) when we were killing the penalty early in the game and when we were killing a penalty late in the game," Hitchcock said of Allen. "I think he did a heck of a job. We want to reward that."

* Cole to draw in -- Ian Cole, a healthy scratch Thursday, appears set to rejoin the lineup against the Avalanche after being chosen over Petteri Lindbohm and Chris Butler.

Hitchcock has Butler, Cole and Lindbohm as an axis of three, and all are part of a group of seven until Gunnarsson's return.

"We're a group of seven until (Gunnarsson) comes back and all seven guys are going to play," Hitchcock said. "So in Colorado, you might see one guy that played last night sit out. Whether it's Cole or Butler or Lindbohm, we're going to rotate those three guys. They've all played well, so we want to keep them part of the team.

"Cole was a sit-out. he'll probably come in and play in Colorado and then we'll sit somebody out and then we'll do the same thing (against) L.A. As long as those guys are contributing and playing well, we're going to keep everybody part of the team. Until Gunnarsson gets to be upright and playing, we're going to rotate all those guys to keep them all engaged."

The Blues are assigning Lindbohm to the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League, likely for the weekend, since the Blues won't play again until Tuesday. Lindbohm will likely be back on recall then.

* Captain quiet? -- After taking a deflected puck to the mouth on Monday against the Florida Panthers, a shot taken originally by Oshie, Backes had been in much discomfort.

Despite missing two practices, Backes was back in the lineup Thursday after taking part in the morning skate prior to facing the Islanders.

Backes had an assist in the game and played with a full face shield. Communicating with familiar linemates Oshie and Steen might have been a little difficult.

"He came up to me yesterday morning and he goes 'Hey, if you don't hear me talking tonight, it's because I can't — it's not because I'm mad at you or anything,'" Oshie joked. "I said, 'Thank you, thanks for telling me that. 

"Taking a puck to the mouth, you're not going to look your best. But he's definitely gotten a lot better over these past couple of days and he's definitely a warrior for getting in there."

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Steen returns with three-point night, fuels Blues' 6-3 win against Islanders

Backes plays, Bouwmeester returns as team 
wins third in a row; top line combined for seven points

ST. LOUIS -- Alexander Steen's return to the lineup for the Blues came just in time Thursday against the New York Islanders, a team Steen has success against. 

Steen scored two goals, including the tiebreaker 4:32 into the third period, and had an assist in a 6-3 Blues victory at Scottrade Center. He missed the previous two games with a lower-body injury.

Adding Steen to a top line with David Backes and T.J. Oshie saw the trio combine for three goals and four assists.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Alexander Steen (20) returned to the Blues lineup tonight and scored twice
and had a three-point night against former teammate Jaroalav Halak (41).

"We've been put together maybe one or two games this year and seemed to break up in the middle of the game, but tonight, we found that chemistry that we left off with last year," said Oshie, who had a goal and two assists. "All three guys were working and when we're doing that, that's when we get all our success."

The Blues weren't sure Wednesday whether they'd have Steen, Backes (facial lacerations) or Jay Boumweester (groin) for the game, but all three made triumphant returns and helped the Blues' cause.

Steen has 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) in 17 games against the Islanders. 

"I thought all the guys that came back in gave us some structure and some continuity in our lineup," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "... I thought (Steen) was real good; I thought that line was real good. They set the tempo early in the hockey game, set the tempo in the third period. That's what we need. 

"To me, the points are coming because of it. Points aren't coming because they're just playing hockey. They're playing hockey the right way and it's a big line that can compete. They're getting it everywhere. They're looking more and more like they did last year to be honest with you, which is real good for us."

The Blues (19-8-2), who blew a two-goal lead, got a goal and an assist from Barret Jackman, Kevin Shattenkirk had two assists giving him six points (five assists) in five games, and Jake Allen made 25 saves. 

With the game tied 2-2, Backes threw a puck high off the glass in his zone, Oshie won it at center ice to create a rush into the Islanders zone, fired a shot at former Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak, and Steen knocked in the rebound.

"I was shooting for a rebound there," Oshie said. "I tried high blocker once and then I don't know if I tried five-hole on [Halak] already, but I figured I'd shoot for a rebound. I saw guys coming from the weak side. Luckily, Steener was there."

Oshie took Patrik Berglund's behind-the-net pass in the slot and beat Halak high glove side with 4:13 remaining to make it 4-2. 

Paul Stastny's power-play goal, the Blues' fifth in seven tries against the Islanders this season, made it 5-2 with 2:12 left. Jaden Schwartz scored into an empty net with 1:04 to play. 

Stastny has a four-game point streak (four goals, one assist). 

The victory was the Blues' third in a row and their second against the Islanders in six days. St. Louis has defeated the Islanders five straight times and seven of the past eight. 

The Islanders (19-10-0) got second-period goals from John Tavares and Mikhail Grabovski to tie the game 2-2. Kyle Okposo scored with 1:44 to play. 

Halak, playing in his first game in St. Louis since being traded by the Blues last season, made 27 saves. He faced the Blues for the first time Saturday in a 6-4 loss.

But it was New York's third consecutive loss, their second such streak this season, and the Islanders have given up 17 goals.

Tavares scored with 3:57 remaining in the period after the Islanders won an offensive-zone faceoff, and Tavares' shot dribbled through Allen's legs. 

Late in the period, Frans Nielsen poked a faceoff win forward, and Grabovski caught the Blues and Allen napping with a wrist shot from the high slot with 5.3 seconds remaining. 

The goal had the Blues reeling a bit.

"We just let our foot off the gas for three minutes," said Allen, who improved to 9-3-1 on the season. "A team like that that's so offensive, they took advantage of the opportunities. 

"It's tough letting a goal in with five seconds of a period. But the guys came out strong in the third, which to me, is pretty impressive to watch that."

It's the fifth time this season the Blues have seen a team overcome a 2-0 deficit on them to tie the game. But the Blues are 4-0-1 in those games because of the ability to regroup and dictate play.

"I don't know which part is the killer instinct," Hitchcock said. "This is like the fifth row evaluation, but I think one of the things that we have to get into our game is we get trapped a lot when the other team gets behind and then they amp up the risk. We go with the risk, so they're risking, we're risking, but it's going in either net. It's going in  our net as much as it's going in their net. 

"We've got a team where we don't need to amp up the risk, but you look at the second period, it's 2-0, we got a breakaway, we've got two 2-on-1's, we can hammer it home, but then they start adding extra players on the attacks, then we start adding extra players and all of the sudden, you've got this track meet going back and forth and then they end up tying the game up. What I'd like to see is understand score, and then play the game properly. That's the instincts that I'd like to have. ... If we didn't have a killer instinct, we wouldn't have done what we did in the third period. We've done that a lot in the third period. We've got that element. I just think we've got to know when the other team is starting to apply the risk, and then we've got to make them pull it 200 feet, take their chances and that's when we'll get more odd-man rushes."

With Islanders defenseman Brian Strait off for interference, the Blues were able to get good movement on their first power play. Steen stepped into a slap shot from straight away that beat Halak 5:58 into the game for a 1-0 lead. 

Jackman made it 2-0 at 14:18 of the first when Steen found the defenseman with a cross-ice pass, and Jackman stepped into a slap shot from the top of the left circle that went in off the right post. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
T.J. Oshie (right) moves past Islanders forward Kyle Okposo Thursday. The
Blues won 6-3 as Oshie had three points with a goal and two assists.

It was Jackman's first multipoint game since March 13, 2013 against the San Jose Sharks.

"Steener has got great vision and he sucked three guys to him and sauces one far side and I just had to get the shot off and a little knuckler beat Jaro," Jackman said.  

The win for the Blues was enough to keep pace with the red-hot Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators in the Central Division. All three teams won.

"There's a lot of elements to like," Hitchcock said of his team's game. "This is the likes and dislikes of our season. Tonight's game is a microcosm of our season. We've got great spirit, which is stuff you love, but understanding and managing the game the right way, I think it's going to be important that we figure out when the other team's got the push, then that's when we've got to have the right push back." 

(12-11-14) Islanders-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- There will be an infusion in the lineup for the Blues when they host the New York Islanders on Thursday.

Three players who appeared not to have a shot at playing tonight all will be in the lineup when the puck drops at 7 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).

The Blues (18-8-2) will have captain David Backes (facial lacerations), Alexander Steen (lower body) and Jay Bouwmeester (groin) in the lineup ready to go when the Blues and Islanders play for the second time since Dec. 6.

Backes, who took a puck to the mouth that required 12 stitches and did some damage to his lower lip, was wearing a full face cage Thursday after not practicing the past two days. Steen, who's missed two games after sustaining an injury against the Nashville Predators, practiced in full Wednesday but was not part of the morning skate. Bouwmeester, who's missed the past eight games since injuring his groin Nov. 22 against the Ottawa Senators, has taken part in the past three days' worth of skates and all are deemed fit to play.

"Both guys participated at practice, had no ill effects today," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Bouwmeester and Steen. "Both feel good enough to play today. Backes will give us what he's got.

"It's huge. I mean it's three experienced players that were really playing well before they got hurt, especially the Backes-Steen-(T.J.) Oshie  line, which was very effective for us, so it's huge. Obviously Bouwmeester and (Alex Pietrangelo) were really having a good run there. I think it's made us deeper ... it's forced us to play more guys, but it's made us deeper. [Chris] Butler's come in, played very well. (PetteriLindbohm's come in and added to our group, too. So all of the sudden, our group has gotten deeper. It's allowed a guy like (Chris) Porter to move the ladder. He's had good games for us, and especially (Joakim) Lindstrom, who's been forced up the ladder because of it. We've got more people involved in the game now and we've got better play from people who've had to play better to absorb these guys being out of the lineup, so it's win-win right now."

Bouwmeester was activated from injured reserve, and the Blues put Carl Gunnarsson on IR.

Backes avoided serious injury and was back on the ice Thursday in his customary position: in front of the net working on tipping shots from teammates, including Oshie, who's shot caromed off a deflected stick and struck Backes in the mouth.

"I don't think he would call it that, but that's the price you pay for playing the game he's playing and it's a high price," Hitchcock said. "I think all of us appreciate it because he's not a guy to jump out of the way on those shots. He absorbs those shots, he hangs in there until the last possible minute. That's why he leads our team in power play goals, that's why he's led the league in power play goals the last three years scoring the same type of goal. He's led the league in being able to do the things he does at net-front. I don't think it's going to change. I know he took a shot there and you've got to admire that."

Oshie has seen this happen to a teammate before. 

"I still get chills about hitting Walt back in the face five, six years ago," Oshie said of Keith Tkachuk, who lost teeth in that incident. "That one wasn't tipped. This one was tipped. 

(Backes) is the type of guy that's going to go right back out there and stand in front of the net and not think twice about it. He's a absolute leader; he's a warrior. I'm never not going to feel terrible about that puck coming up and hitting him in the face. ... It's an unfortunate part of the game that happens. But it goes to show you how tough hockey players are. He's out there (Thursday) and he threw me 10-15 pucks and went and sat in front of the net and told me to rip 'em by him. It made me feel better that he's right back out there and he's taking it the right way."

Hitchcock was non-committal on who would come out of the lineup in favor of Steen and Bouwmeester, but Porter and Lindbohm are the likely candidates.

"I don't know. I've got to think about that. I'm not sure yet, but somebody's got to go out," Hitchcock said. "Whoever it is, we're going to sit out a good player. That's what happens when you've got depth. Hopefully that player understands that and when it's his turn, he'll take advantage of it."

Bouwmeester said it's been a cautious approach to making sure his injury is properly healed but a frustrating one also.

"That's why you do things the way you do them," Bouwmeester said. "You kind of ease into things and test it a little bit. That's the process. 

"It was different. Obviously everyone wants to play. It's not fun sitting out, but it is what it is. Guys miss different games for different reasons. I probably aggravated it a couple times, but you never know. They're funny things. Sometimes they're quick, sometimes they take more time."

- - -

Oshie had a bust night Wednesday night. Oshie was named the 2014 winner of the Missouri Athletic Club’s (MAC) "Sports Personality of the Year." 

Oshie was honored at the MAC’s Jack Buck Sports Awards presented by Maryville University on Wednesday night.

Oshie becomes the sixth Blues player to win the award joining Al MacInnis (1999), Brendan Shanahan (1995), Curtis Joseph (1993), Brett Hull (1990) and Mike Liut (1981).

Hull was on hand to present Oshie the award.

"It was amazing," Oshie said. "I don't know if I've really ever won an award. I've definitely haven't had to speak in front of so many people before. But to have Hullie get up there, I don't know if many people saw it, but the things he said were very humbling. It gave me the chills. Made me more nervous after Hullie spoke. At one point, he said if he could go back, he would like to be little more like me. If I could do something different, it would be a lot like him out on the ice. He's a great friend. It's amazing that I'm even on nickname basis calling him "Hullie." It's great and it meant a lot more that he was there for it."

Does he remember what he said?

"I don't know. I don't know what I said," Oshie said. "I don't remember anything that was said up there. I know I made a little joke that wasn't even written down. A couple people giggled, so that was nice. When it was over, I sat down and was just happy someone was clapping."

Last season, Oshie posted a career-year, setting new high marks in points (60), goals (21), assists (39) and plus/minus (plus-19). 

The Everett, Washington native was also the star of the United States' matchup with Russia at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, converting on four of six shootout attempts to lead the USA to a 3-2 victory.

The “Sports Personality of the Year,” an award Jack Buck established in 1970 to annually honor the top St. Louis sports figure, is voted on by members of the MAC. 

The Jack Buck Sports Awards Banquet is regarded as the premier sports dinner in St. Louis and has honored some of the biggest names in sports history including Bob Gibson, Joe Torre, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Jimmy Connors, Marshall Faulk and Albert Pujols.

- - -

With Jake Allen in goal tonight, Blues teammates want to help the 24-year-old redeem himself after Allen was pulled after the first period when the Blues and Islanders met this past Saturday.

Allen allowed three goals on 12 shots as the Blues fell behind 3-0 but rallied for a 6-4 victory.

"A lot of times when a goalie gets pulled, in my opinion, it's very rarely his fault," defenseman Chris Butler said. "We didn't do a good job in front of him. You hang out to dry and give up backdoor chances and empty nets. It sucks for him to have to come out of the game that the coach feels he needs to pull a guy to get everyone else going. That's the unfortunate part of being a goaltender. We all know he's going to be ready for tonight. Last game certainly wasn't indicative of his play. It was more on the team game."

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Alexander Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

Jaden Schwartz-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko

Patrik Berglund-Paul Stastny-Joakim Lindstrom

Steve Ott-Maxim Lapierre-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Chris Butler-Kevin Shattenkirk

Barret Jackman-Petteri Lindbohm

Jake Allen will get the start in goal. Martin Brodeur will be the backup.

Healthy scratches are likely Chris Porter, Magnus Paajarvi and Ian Cole. Brian Elliott (knee) is on injured reserve but he did skate at the optional today. Carl Gunnarsson (upper body) is out.

- - -

The Islanders' projected lineup:

Nikolay Kulemin-John Tavares-Kyle Okposo

Anders Lee-Brock Nelson-Michael Grabner

Mikhail Grabovski-Frans Nielsen-Kyle Clutterbuck

Matt Martin-Ryan Strome-Eric Boulton

Thomas Hickey-Lubomir Visnovsky

Brian Strait-Nick Leddy

Calvin de Haan-Matt Donovan

Jaroslav Halak will get the start in goal. Chad Johnson will be the backup.

Cory Conacher and Griffin Reinhart are the healthy scratches. Josh Bailey (lower body), Matt Carkner (back), Johnny Boychuk (upper body), Travis Hamonic (upper body) and Casey Cizikas (upper body) are out with injuries.