Tuesday, March 1, 2011

(3-1-11) Flames-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Those Blues players that stepped into the locker room today already knew that there were some familiar faces that would no longer be there.

Add two more to that mix (Brad Boyes and Brad Winchester) and it's a complete change to the structure that has been a constant for quite some time.

Eric Brewer, Erik Johnson and Jay McClement have been gone for 12 days now, but for the Blues (28-25-9), there has been a shakeup to a roster that currently sits in 13th place in the Western Conference.

The bottom line, it's not good enough as far as management is concerned, and they're holding people accountable.

"I'm going to go with the cliche and say it's part of the business and that's what happens," forward Matt D'Agostini said. "We're just going to have to deal with it. With the EJ trade and Jay Mac, we've got guys back that are playing well and really filling their roles.

"It's a shakeup for sure, but that's what happens when you don't win. We weren't consistently playing that well. You have to expect changes like that. When you're sitting 13th in the standings, things are going to happen like that."

The Blues, who host the Calgary Flames (32-23-9) at 7 p.m. today (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM), won't argue with the facts, and the facts are that if the playoffs started today, the Blues would be on the outside looking in once again.

"They're getting down to business. They want to win," forward Chris Stewart said, one of the recent new additions, of management. "They want to get guys here that do want to win. It's really tough to lose our buddies, but it definitely wasn't their fault. It puts a lot of pressure on us. Guys have to step up and play in these new roles and play them well, play hard and show management how bad we want to be here.

"We can't really worry about the message that they're sending. We can only worry about what we can control. They made business decisions based on what they felt they needed to do. You can't question that. ... There's been some changes around here and I think there's going to be some opportunity for other guys to step up, too."

The Blues have 20 games remaining. Whether there will be any more beyond that will be relied on a group of younger guys that will be asked to take this franchise to the next level.

One of those newer generation of players is defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who has 11 points in 13 games since the All-Star Game.

"It's a quick transition, but at the same time, we've got a pretty good core group of young guys here and we're excited," Pietrangelo said. "... We've had a good room the whole time but it got a bit younger with Stewy and Shats (Kevin Shattenkirk) coming over. We believe in what we've got in here.

"We put ourselves in the situation that we're in right now. ... We're still in the hunt. If we get on a streak here, we get right in the mix. We've got to keep playing good hockey."

Said forward T.J. Oshie, "When we were here our rookie year, these were the guys that were supporting us and getting us going and being our leaders. To lose them is pretty tough. It's room for us to step up and move into that next role."

Blues coach Davis Payne looks at the players and draft picks acquired as another way of improving the club.

"There's some decisions organizationally that are made that obviously affect us, but it's all done with the intention of being a better hockey club going forward," Payne said. "It's all done with the intention of having a high level of accountability within our room going forward. We don't change that here tonight against Calgary."

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The Blues do in fact sit in 13th place, seven points behind eighth-place Dallas with 20 games remaining, but the team still holds faith that a good run can vault them back into contention.

But time is definitely not on their side.

"There's ground to be made up, and we know what a great week does to make up ground in that race," Payne said. "With opponents here that are at that bar or above, these opportunities are imperative."

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Ben Bishop, the pride of Chaminade High School, will start in goal once again for the Blues as Jaroslav Halak (bruised hand) continues to nurse his injury.

Bishop is 2-2-0 on the season with a 1.55 goals-against average and .948 save percentage.

He's stopped 58 of 59 shots in the last two games, including a 5-0 shutout win over Edmonton on Friday and a 1-0 loss to the Flames Sunday in Calgary.

"He's played very well the last couple games and felt like he gave us a chance in Calgary as well," Payne said. "It's his opportunity to show with Jaro being out that he belongs at this level. He's done that a couple games. He needs to continue that. The bigger the sample, the better."

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Blues center Patrik Berglund may be currently one of the hottest players in the league, and the Blues are taking notice.

Berglund has 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) in the last 20 games and is arguably playing his best hockey since being drafted 25th overall in 2006.

"There's a new level of dedication there this year for him," Payne said of Berglund. "Whether he got off to a slower start than he would have wanted to, but you see the work that he's putting in is paying off. ... Confidence comes from preparation, confidence comes from having a plan, putting the work in. Eventually that work is going to pay off, and I think that's exactly what you're seeing from Bergy. He's put in a lot of work behind the scenes to get to this point.

"He obviously feels good about the hockey he's playing. He should. He's playing well on both sides of the puck. He's playing well on the power play, demanding possession, looking to shoot the puck, playing a very assertive hockey game, and that's a result of the hard work and attention that he's put in."

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In six games since becoming a Blue, Stewart has six goals and an assist. Stewart eclipsed the best start by any Blue in their first five games, including Brett Hull, who scored five goals in his first five games. Stewart had six.

"They've made things a lot easier for me, especially when you're producing and you're not worrying about anything," Stewart said of his new teammates. "You have good coaches around you who just let you play and they show they have faith in me and put me in key situations. it goes a long way."

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The Blues recalled forwards Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves from Peoria on Monday to take the slots vacated by the recently traded Boyes and Winchester. Adam Cracknell gets the call-up from the Rivermen today, as Vladimir Sobotka (foot) will sit out tonight after blocking a Jarome Iginla shot early in Sunday's loss at Calgary.

Andy McDonald did not skate this morning but will play after his wife gave birth to a daughter last night.

Tonight's probable lineup includes:

Andy McDonald-David Backes-Matt D'Agostini

T.J. Oshie-Patrik Berglund-Chris Stewart

Alex Steen-Chris Porter-B.J. Crombeen

Ryan Reaves-Adam Cracknell-Cam Janssen

The Blues will once again be without Nikita Nikitin (lower-body) on the back line:

Barret Jackman-Roman Polak

Kevin Shattenkirk-Alex Pietrangelo

Carlo Colaiacovo-Tyson Strachan

Ben Bishop
gets the nod in goal. He stopped 19 shots in Sunday's loss.

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The Flames are expected to go with the same lineup tonight, meaning newly acquired Fredrik Modin will not dress:

Alex Tanguay-Brendan Morrison-Jarome Iginla

Curtis Glencross-Olli Jokinen-David Moss

Tim Jackman-Matt Stajan-Rene Bourque

Niklas Hagman-Mikael Backlund-Tom Kostopoulos

On the backline:

Jay Bouwmeester-Robyn Regehr

Mark Giordano-Cory Sarich

Steve Staios-Anton Babchuk

Miikka Kiprusoff
, who is 16-4-2 with a pair of shutouts -- including a 27-save effort Sunday -- and a 2.02 GAA and .922 save percentage career-wise against the Blues, will get his 17th consecutive start tonight.