Thursday, December 23, 2010

(12-23-10) Red Wings-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues know all too well just what the Detroit Red Wings are feeling this morning. They know what injuries to key players will do to a hockey club.

And don't expect the Blues to feel sorry that the Wings will be missing Blues killer Pavel Datsyuk.

Datsyuk will miss tonight's game and at least the next four weeks after breaking a bone in his right hand/wrist area resulting from tripping over ex-teammate Mikael Samuelsson in Detroit's 5-4 overtime win over Vancouver Wednesday night.

Datsyuk, who has 61 career points in 49 games against the Blues, is one of a number of offensive weapons the Blues (16-12-5), who host the Wings (21-8-4) at 7 p.m. today (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM), will not have to deal with.

"In my opinion, he's probably the toughest guy to defend 1 on 1 in the league," Blues defenseman Erik Johnson said of Datsyuk. "Obviously it's a big loss for their team, but they have a lot of firepower. I don't really expect it to affect them too much. They'll probably keep rolling along."

The Blues, who are 0-2-0 against the Wings this season, dropped both games at Joe Louis Arena by 7-3 and 5-2 results. Datsyuk had two assists in two games.

But Detroit, first in the Western Conference standings, can still throw the Henrik Zetterbergs and Johan Franzens along with the Nicklas Lidstroms at you and not miss out on much.

"He's an exceptional player. Everybody knows that," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said of Datsyuk. "What makes them good is they have quite a bit of depth. But they certainly have guys who can step up. It's a big loss, but at the same time, they still have talent."

Blues coach Davis Payne says the Blues won't alter their game plan.

"That doesn't change anything we do," he said. "I'm not sure it'll change anything they do. They've got a great deal of scoring depth, they've got a great deal of talent, they've got experience and they'll have other guys ready to step into that role and that ice time. We have to play the Red Wings. We're not playing individuals.

"(Datsyuk's) a dynamic player. He's got a ton of skill, ton of ability, ton of creativity, but he's also one of the smartest defenders in the league ... and hardest-working defenders. You want to see a guy who plays the game the right way all 200 feet of the ice. He's one of them. As good as he is in the offensive end, he's that good or better on the defensive side of things."

Regardless of who Detroit skates tonight, the Blues won't miss Datsyuk.

"I don't wish he was in the lineup," Blues forward Brad Boyes joked. "It's good for us he's out of the lineup. If we can take advantage of that, that's what we're going to do. It's not going to change our game plan because he's not there."

- - -

Blues forward T.J. Oshie was on the ice this morning at Scottrade Center for the second time in as many days, continuing his rehab process following a broken left ankle suffered Nov. 10 in Columbus.

The skate, just like his first time on the ice Wednesday at St. Louis Mills, was light and the timeframe for Oshie's re-evaluation of early-to-mid February.

"Just part of the rehab process," Payne said. "Any time a guy's injured, he's going to get himself back on the ice and go through the process.

"We're not going to comment on a whole heck of a lot on anything a guy's doing as far as rehab. ... He's been healing, the timeline has been ticking and every day is a day closer. Obviously we've still got some time to go through."

- - -

Jaroslav Halak will start for the Blues tonight against Detroit, and the ongoing debate the last couple days has been whether backup Ty Conklin getting another start since Conklin has won his last two games, including Tuesday's 4-2 victory at Atlanta.

But let's take a look at a number that is quite interesting:

The Blues have scored 57 goals in 26 Halak starts, which amounts to 2.19 goals per game compared to 27 goals in seven Conklin starts, or 3.86 goals per game.

"I just think it's one of those things," Johnson said. "Obviously they're both good goalies. Both are big parts of our team. I wouldn't really look at it that we score more for Conks or anything like that. Sometimes, that's just how it is and how it's working out.

"No matter who's in goal, we're going to have confidence in them. There's definitely no doubt in our mind both of those guys can get the job done."

Keep in mind also that in Halak's last eight starts, the Blues are 2-4-2 and have scored two or fewer goals in six of those eight starts and one goal in five of those games. Included is a penalty shot goal (against San Jose) and an empty-netter in a win over Columbus, so there have not been more than three goals scored in any of those starts.

"Conks (had a) big game in Atlanta and Jaro's played well," Payne said. "We don't win games for a lot of different reasons and we win games for a lot of different reasons.

"(Halak's) played well, and we need to either figure out a way to keep one more out of the net or put one more in theirs. It's a team effort, and we've gotten strong performances from that side of things lately and we've got to make sure we parlay that into wins."

Halak, who is 0-3-1 in his last four starts, including three regulation losses in a row, has been hot and cold, just like his teammates.

"Jaro's been great all season," Pietrangelo said. "If you look at the team generally, we've had those ups and downs, too. When Jaro hadn't won, I don't think the team was doing what it needed to do to be winning either and giving him enough support. It's not so much anything to do with him. We have a lot of faith in him."

- - -

The Blues will need a 60-minute effort in order to down the Red Wings tonight, sans Datsyuk.

They were close on a couple occasions in Detroit, but close isn't enough.

"The first time in there, our puck decision got us in serious trouble. The second time, our discipline and composure got us in serious trouble," Payne said. "We know the animal that's in town. We know what we have to do against it and we've got to make sure it's for a full 60."

- - -

The Blues will stick with the lines they used Tuesday at Atlanta, and they were changes that resulted in sustained offensive zone time.

"With us, sometimes you make changes and you get some fresh guys and it works for us," Boyes said. "We got some good production (Tuesday). You expect that. When things are going well, you don't want to change them. When they aren't, sometimes a change is for the better. And when it does (get better), you have to keep that going, keep working and do what you can do with the changes."

Vladimir Sobotka-David Backes-Matt D'Agostini

Alex Steen-Patrik Berglund-B.J. Crombeen

Brad Winchester-Jay McClement-Brad Boyes

Chris Porter-Adam Cracknell-Cam Janssen

D-pairings won't change either:

Eric Brewer-Erik Johnson

Barret Jackman-Roman Polak

Carlo Colaiacovo-Alex Pietrangelo

Jaroslav Halak
, whose only two starts were against Detroit this season (0-2-0 with a 5.55 goals-against average and .836 save percentage), starts tonight.

- - -

With Datsyuk out of the lineup, the Red Wings will do a little improvisation.

Kris Draper, who's missed most of the season with sports hernia surgery, will step into the lineup tonight.

"You take out a Datsyuk and they replace with whoever, it's a big difference," Boyes said. "We'll have to take advantage of that. I can't remember the last time we played them when he wasn't in there, but without him, it's a big hit but they've got a lot of depth. They've got a lot of guys who can play. We're not going to take them lightly or anything like that. It's the same game plan that we need to go into. That part's not going to change."

Johan Franzen-Henrik Zetterberg-Tomas Holmstrom

Dan Cleary-Valtteri Filppula-Todd Bertuzzi

Jiri Hudler-Justin Abdelkader-Drew Miller

Kris Draper-Darren Helm-Patrick Eaves

The d-pairings will remain the same from last night's game:

Nicklas Lidstrom-Brad Stuart

Jonathan Ericsson-Brian Rafalski

Niklas Kronwall-Ruslan Salei

Former Blue Chris Osgood will get the start tonight, looking for career win No. 400.

Osgood is looking to join a group of nine goalies who have 400 or more wins in their career.

They include: Martin Brodeur 602, Patrick Roy 551, Ed Belfour 484, Curtis Joseph 454, Terry Sawchuk 447, Jacques Plante 437, Tony Esposito 423, Glenn Hall 407 and Grant Fuhr 403.

Joseph, Plante, Hall, Fuhr and Osgood all played for the Blues at one time.

Of Osgood's 399 wins, 35 of them came with the Blues between 2002-04. He's 20-11-8 for his career against the Blues, with a 2.33 GAA and .909 save percentage.

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