Thursday, October 14, 2010

(10-14-10) Blues-Predators Gameday Lineup

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- When the Blues made the trade for Matt D'Agostini, it was a bit of an unknown to many.

Prospect Aaron Palushaj went to Montreal in the deal, and D'Agostini came to St. Louis. At the time, Blues President John Davidson called it a depth move at forward.

But D'Agostini only played in seven games with the Blues, and entering the 2010-11 season, the 23-year-old from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. was still a bit of an unknown.

But D'Agostini is slowly making his presence felt. A switch to center seems to have done wonders.

D'Agostini has been centering the fourth line, but his offensive presence can certainly be felt, particularly in the 5-1 win over Anaheim Monday when he netted his first two goals as a Blue.

"I'm playing up the middle and I like that," said D'Agostini, who grew up playing center and played there in junior hockey. "Hopefully, I can get into a little groove there and get more comfortable there. It helps my game out a lot because you keep skating and moving, you've got the puck more. Hopefully, I can get into the swing of things up the middle and we can get some minutes."

Getting a more defined role is all D'Agostini has been searching for. He had a good camp coming into the season, and coach Davis Payne has certainly taken notice.

"Matt's done a great job," Payne said. "He came in and there was a real emphasis in making sure he came in and established himself. The first day when he comes in, that's based on conditioning. He did that based on the work ethic he puts in in practice and exhibition games, he does that.

"We've shifted him into the middle now and all of the sudden, he's got a chance to be an effective player for us. (He's) pretty strong on faceoffs and now getting a chance to use his strengths. When he's got stick-on-puck, he's got a pretty strong set of hands there that he's able to take some contact, take some punishment and still make a play up ice. You saw the ability to shoot the puck. We saw that in exhibition games here and he got to unload it here (Monday) night. We're well aware that that release is there, that shot is there. It's a great finish. Another guy kind of working through. He's had a good camp and a good start."

Even though D'Agostini does provide that offensive element not typically seen on a fourth line, just getting the ice time is all he's looking for.

"Wherever (Payne) wants to put me ... fourth line, third line, whatever, I'm going to go out there and play my same game," D'Agostini said. "When I get my chance, I'm going to try and score obviously. Our team is just (about) working hard, playing defense first and you'll get your chances. Whatever line I play on, it's going to be the same kind of role."

- - -

Ryan Reaves' NHL debut was a short-lived one, but not without benefits. His recall involved a little trickeration as well.

The Blues' forward, on recall from Peoria with Cam Janssen (concussion, sternum contusion) on injured reserve, will hopefully get to last longer than the 3-minute, 9-second mark of the second period of Monday's 5-1 win over Anaheim.

Initially, Reaves did not know what was happening when he was a scratch for a game in Peoria one day prior to getting the call up to St. Louis.

"My coach (Peoria coach Jared Bednar) played a little trick on me down in (Peoria) and said I wasn't playing for them and I said, 'What do you mean,''" Reaves recalled. "He told me I was most likely getting the call up, so I came up the day before and jumped into that game. I wasn't as nervous as I thought, but it was short-lived. Hopefully, I can last a little longer today."

Reaves was involved in a fight with the Ducks' Kyle Chipchura, someone he's known since his junior days, but was assessed a game misconduct for not having his jersey tied down.

Reaves understands his role is playing limited minutes and providing a physical spark when called upon.

"I'm more of a dump-and-chase kind of player and let the other guys do the goal scoring," Reaves said. "I don't change much from down in Peoria except for taking the visor off my helmet. That's about it."

- - -

As they venture out on the road, the Blues are not resting on their laurels. Just because they've won two games doesn't define a team. But with a victory tonight, the Blues can match what only two other teams in franchise history have been able to do: win three consecutive games to start the season.

Only the 1969-70 and 1993-94 teams have been able to accomplish that feat and neither were able to win four in a row.

"We're not going to get a chance to sit on Games 1 and 2," Payne said, "because we're here in Nashville and Nashville's going to have something to say about Game 3. The fact of the matter is we've got some positive reinforcement about the way we're playing over two games, but tonight's a different story. We want to be better in a couple areas. ... We're not looking at it than any other day."

- - -

Forward Vladimir Sobotka will get the doctor's report sometime today and Payne says the team will get a better outlook based off of what is in the report.

Sobotka obviously will not play tonight but will join the team here in Nashville and travel to Dallas on Friday.

"He's seeing his doctor today and will get the information later tonight," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. "He's supposed to join us here in Nashville. If he's cleared, he'll practice tomorrow with the team and then it will be a coach/player decision on whether he's ready to go."

- - -

The Blues (2-0-0) enter tonight's road opener against Nashville (2-0-0) not looking to change much. Why fix something that's not broken?

So the forward pairings will remain the same:

David Perron-David Backes-Brad Boyes

Andy McDonald-Patrik Berglund-T.J. Oshie

Alex Steen-Jay McClement-B.J. Crombeen

Brad Winchester-Matt D'Agostini-Ryan Reaves

D-pairings will also remain the same:

Barret Jackman-Erik Johnson

Eric Brewer-Roman Polak

Carlo Colaiacovo-Alex Pietrangelo

Jaroslav Halak
will get his third straight start tonight.

Tyson Strachan is a healthy scratch for a third consecutive game.

- - -

The Predators, who were victorious in Chicago Wednesday, are not a team you want to be involved in a close game with.

Nashville was 42-19-6 in games decided by two goals or less, including 28-9-6 in one-goal games, which was second-best in the league.

"We're kind of like the Titans," Predators coach Barry Trotz said, comparing his team to the city's NFL squad. "We don't blow anybody out, but we're good enough to play in those one-goal games."

Starting on Feb. 10 of last season, the Predators ended the season 14-0-1 in one-goal games. Coincidentally, 11 of the last 15 games between these two teams have been decided by one goal. Nashville has won four straight in the series, winning five of six last season. All six games were decided by two goals or less.

"I'm real impressed," Trotz said of the Blues. "They have some good young players. ... They play with a lot of pace, they've got good structure, they're a hard team to play against, their goaltending is pretty solid. I expect them to make a jump up (in the standings)."

The Preds look to stack up as follows:

Colin Wilson-Matthew Lombardi-J.P. Dumont

Steve Sullivan-Cal O'Reilly-Patric Hornqvist

Jerred Smithson-David Legwand-Joel Ward

Wade Belak-Marcel Goc-Jordin Tootoo

Martin Erat (back spasms) and Sergei Kostitsyn (broken toe) are on the mend, but there was a chance Kostitsyn could play tonight. If he were to skate, Kostitsyn would likely replace Belak. Jamie Lundmark (groin) will not play.

The D-pairings include:

Ryan Suter-Shea Weber

Francis Bouillon-Kevin Klein

Shane O'Brien-Cody Franson

Anders Lindback
will make his second NHL start after beating Chicago 3-2 Wednesday night. No. 1 goalie Pekka Rinne (lower-body) was injured in the season opener against Anaheim, but Trotz said he expects Rinne back for Saturday's home game.

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