By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The Blues will welcome a pair of crafty veterans to the lineup tonight when the Blues square off against Central Division rival Columbus.
Keith Tkachuk and Paul Kariya have been deemed fit and ready to go.
Kariya has not played since suffering a concussion in the first period against Buffalo on Dec. 27, a span of six games.
Tkachuk has missed the past three games since getting hit in the mouth with a puck on a slap shot by teammate T.J. Oshie on Jan. 2 against Chicago.
Both skaters were on the ice this morning as was Andy McDonald, but McDonald will not play tonight and coach Davis Payne says he is listed as day-to-day.
Here is what the Blues coach had to say regarding all three players:
On Kariya -- We feel he's good to go and he's going to be in there. He's a dynamic player with great game-breaking abilities. We want to see him at what we've tried to establish over the last few days and week here as far as a five-man unit mentality and 200-foot game. His ability to make plays and put pressure on defense and playing an attacking game is exactly what we'd like to have in that lineup.
On Tkachuk -- Walt's going to go. He's obviously a tough competitor. He took one in the mouth there and has healed up enough. He's given us all indications that he's going to be the player we need him to be and the player we expect him to be out there tonight.
On McDonald -- He's still going to be day-to-day. I think we're going to err on the side of caution there. He won't be available tonight. We're going to see where we sit for Thursday. I don't want to have this one be one of those injuries ... if we can make progress in two days as opposed to turning it into a two-week situation, that's where we're going to sit on this one.
I saw Tkachuk in the dressing room this morning and saw him smile for the first time since the injury, and it reminded me of watching some of the old-time games from back in the 60s, 70s and even 80s when guys were missing teeth with regularity and had no issues disclosing their beaming gums.
Tkachuk said it's the first time he's ever suffered an injury in his 18-year career where he's lost his choppers, and I asked Payne this morning if his power forward now displays that old-school hockey look.
"Yeah, most of us in this business aren't models for a reason," Payne joked. "He and I are certainly proof of that case. I'll make sure I share that with him. I think he lost some endorsement contracts in that regard after this last one."
So on that note, the Blues' lines are not set in stone, but this is what was spotted out there this morning as they go for two in a row and try to get back to .500 overall (18-19-7) and improve on that awful home record (6-14-3):
Paul Kariya-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
Alex Steen-Jay McClement-Brad Boyes
Brad Winchester-Patrik Berglund-David Perron
B.J. Crombeen-Keith Tkachuk-Cam Janssen
The D-pairings will remain the same as Saturday:
Barret Jackman-Roman Polak
Eric Brewer-Erik Johnson
Carlo Colaiacovo-Mike Weaver
Chris Mason will make his fourth consecutive start.
So scratch Derek Armstrong tonight, as well as Darryl Sydor. Yan Stastny has been reassigned back to Peoria.
The Blue Jackets, meanwhile, are kind of in the same boat as the Blues, treading water near the bottom of the Western Conference. But they do come in winners of three in a row after a horrendous stretch where they won only three times in 24 games (3-14-7).
The Jackets (18-20-9) are two points ahead of the Blues with 45 but have played three more games than St. Louis.
Thanks to Aaron Portzline, Blue Jackets beat writer for the Columbus Dispatch with the following probable line information:
Kristian Huselius-R.J. Umberger-Rick Nash
Raffi Torres-Antoine Vermette-Jakub Voracek
Andrew Murray-Sammy Pahlsson-Chris Clark
Jared Boll-Derick Brassard-Derek Dorsett
The D-pairings will include:
Fedor Tyutin-Anton Stralman
Jan Hejda-Mike Commodore
Mathieu Roy-Milan Jurcina
Defensemen Marc Methot and Rostislav Klesla are on injured reserve; forward Fredrik Modin (foot) is also out, and defenseman Kris Russell (lower-body) is a game-time decision.
Mathieu Garon will get his fourth straight start tonight.