Friday, April 9, 2010

(4-9-10) Ducks-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- It's no secret that emotions were flying around the locker room in Chicago on Wednesday night when Keith Tkachuk broke the news to his teammates of his pending retirement.

But one player that may have taken it more to heart than anyone -- even though they have only been teammates for one season here -- is defenseman Darryl Sydor.

The two have so much in common and it puts a great perspective for not only Tkachuk but also on Sydor, who also has to contemplate whether this is the end of the line for his career or not.

Tkachuk just turned 38 in March, Sydor will do so in May and both were drafted in 1990 -- Sydor by the Los Angeles Kings in the first round (7th overall) and Tkachuk by the Winnipeg Jets in the first round (19th overall).

So when 'Big Walt' came in and told his teammates he was hanging 'em up, Sydor took it to heart more than anyone.

"We got drafted together the same year, we've battled many years with me in Dallas and him here," Sydor said Friday morning. "It was a touching moment, but obviously, he's got a lot to be proud of. We wish him well, but it's good to be a teammate of his.

"It's obviously a difficult decision to be retiring at the age of 38. It's mind-boggling that your second career is longer than your first career. It's a decision that obviously everybody's going to have to make at some point in their life."

Sydor said there is no chance Tkachuk, who will be honored tonight after the Blues face the Anaheim Ducks, will pull a Brett Favre this off-season.

"When Walt makes his mind up, he makes his mind up," Sydor said. "He's at peace with it. Maybe next year when things start kicking around again with guys coming in to skate, the preseason and stuff like that, he might have different feelings, but as of right now -- talking with him -- he's at peace with his decision."

Sydor, who has only played in 45 games this season, his only season with the Blues, said that while Tkachuk's decision makes one think about their own situation, he's not ready quite yet to give up the game.

"I still have the fire, so I don't think I'm to the point where Walt is," he said. "Who knows what the future brings, but by all means in my mind, I'd still like to play."

* * *

The Blues, who recalled AHL prospects Lars Eller and Jonas Junland Thursday, will throw the two right into the fire tonight when the Blues (39-32-9) play host to the Ducks (38-31-11) at 7 p.m. in the final home game of 2009-10.

Eller, the Blues' first-round pick in 2007 (13th overall) who was recalled earlier this season and played five games, completed his first season with Peoria. He played 70 games and recorded 18 goals and 57 points.

"I learned a lot of things. ... It's been fun," said Eller, who was an AHL all-star. "I've gotten better as a player, I'm better now than when started the year, I'm more experienced. That's the important thing.

"You have ups and downs as you do always throughout the season, but I think overall, it's been a really good season."

Junland, the Blues' third-round puck in 2006 (64th overall), was also an AHL all-star this season.

He's played in two games with the Blues -- one this season and one a season ago -- but registered 14 goals and 44 points in 74 games with the Rivermen. It's his second season in Peoria.

"I've always had the offensive game, but I'm just trying to be more consistent with my defensive game and being able to play the amount of games we played (80)," Junland said. "I think that's the biggest difference.

"It's just faster, a more fun game, more physical (in the AHL). It's hockey ... it's still hockey. I want to be in the NHL someday, and for me, the American Hockey League was the way to get there and I still think so. That's why I came over. I had a great two years in Peoria, but hopefully, that's enough."

Both players are excited to showcase themselves in the final two regular season games and hope they serve as a barometer for the future.

"I'm psyched to be here and I just want to show them I'm able to play against good NHL teams and that I can do the exact same things I've done in Peoria for two years," Junland said. "... It is pretty much an audition. My contract's up, so it's a good thing to be here."

"I was preparing to finish the season down there, and it was a great surprise and great way to round out the season," Eller said. "

* * *

The Blues, out of the Western Conference playoff picture as of Tuesday night, will be without the services of defensemen Barret Jackman and Roman Polak and forwards T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund, all out with upper-body injuries.

Jackman, Polak and Berglund will be shut down the final two games of the season, while Blues coach Davis Payne said Oshie is questionable for the season finale tomorrow night in Nashville.

Tonight could be the final time Blues fans see several players, including Paul Kariya, Chris Mason, Mike Weaver, Carlo Colaiacovo and Sydor among others. All four will be unrestricted free agents this summer.

So the Blues will use the following lines tonight, as Cam Janssen and Matt D'Agostini are healthy scratches:

Paul Kariya-David Backes-Brad Boyes

Andy McDonald-Lars Eller-David Perron

Alex Steen-Jay McClement-B.J. Crombeen

D.J. King-Keith Tkachuk-Brad Winchester

The defensive pairings will see:

Eric Brewer-Mike Weaver

Darryl Sydor-Erik Johnson

Carlo Colaiacovo-Jonas Junland

Chris Mason, looking for his 30th win of the season, will get the start in goal.

- - -

The Ducks, who dropped a 3-2 shootout in Dallas Thursday, are in the same boat as the Blues and come into town with a much different lineup than one is accustomed to.

Some veteran players will not be in the lineup tonight, as they were held back from the final road trip of the season, two because of injury. They include forward Teemu Selanne, defenseman Scott Niedermayer, center Saku Koivu, center Ryan Getzlaf (injured ankle), defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky (broken hand) and center Todd Marchant.

So Ducks coach Randy Carlyle, a teammate of Tkachuk's in Winnipeg for three seasons, will use the following lines:

Matt Beleksey-Nick Bonino-Corey Perry

Jason Blake-Dan Sexton-Bobby Ryan

Brendan Mikkelson-Ryan Carter-Troy Bodie

Mike Brown-Kyle Chipchura-George Parros

D-pairings will include:

James Wisniewski-Aaron Ward

Brett Festerling-Sheldon Brookbank

Nathan Oystrick-Steve Eminger

Curtis McElhinney is expected to get the start tonight after Jonas Hiller played in Dallas Thursday.

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