Thursday, November 10, 2011

(11-10-11) Maple Leafs-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Scott Nichol spent some quality time in the dark room Tuesday night. Well, maybe not quality time any time it's dark and quiet, but after a heavy collision with Chicago's Viktor Stalberg Tuesday night that forced Nichol's departure, NHL protocol requires such actions.

And after taking the day off the ice but getting in a skate before tonight's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the veteran center won't miss any time other than the time he missed Tuesday night.

"I took it easy and I feel good today," Nichol said. "I got a good workout in (Wednesday) to see if there were any symptoms. I got cleared by doctors, skated today ... I feel good."

Nichol, 36, is one of those old-school players that's adjusting accordingly to the NHL's rules on head shots.

"I think it's the new NHL and you want to be on the side of caution, especially with our organization since we have a little bit of a history with that," Nichol said. "... Sometimes the older players are the more stubborn ones. Once it gets more acceptable, I think it will be a lot better."

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The Blues' success and debut for coach Ken Hitchcock couldn't have been scripted any better in the 3-0 win over the Blackhawks.

So when the Blues (7-7) host the Maple Leafs (9-5-1) at 7 p.m. today (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM), the Blues' veteran coach said he's not someone that worries about each individual team. He's more concerned about his group.

"I think we can build on it," Hitchcock said regarding Tuesday's win. "That's the challenge for us tonight. That's what I talked to the players about this morning. ... We played a heck of a hockey game, we played the game the right way, Chicago played well, and we had as good a push back as they did against us. We've got to build on that.

"It's not necessarily about the opponent now as it is about the way we play. If we play the right way, if we play the way we're capable of, we can beat anybody. It's not going to be easy mentally. That's the challenge the players have to face. They've got to get back on the horse again and playing the right way."

Hitchcock is a coach that's gone through 1,000-plus games and scouting reports on a game to game basis gets old.

"For me, it's forget about the opponent," Hitchcock said. "It gets pretty mundane. After 25 games, you say the same thing about every opponent ... get into their D, goalie can't see shots if you're standing in front of him, all the same stuff. It has to get bigger than that, and for us, it's about our game, what it looks like visually and physically to play our game. That's why we had an optional today. We practiced hard and fast yesterday again.

"Our whole focus is just us. We'll spend a little bit talking about Toronto but a lot about us. For our team, if we can get our game out there, we can really have a big impact against the opposition."

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It's no surprise that coaches around the league would be asked their opinion of Thursday's Philadelphia Flyers-Tampa Bay Lightning game, a game in which featured the Lightning's 1-3-1 system. The Flyers had an interesting game plan at the outset, one in which they chose not to move the puck out of their zone and waited for the Lightning to enter the zone and forecheck (here's the video:

Both Hitchcock and Leafs coach Ron Wilson had their take on what happened.

Wilson had some interesting comments on it.

"I was shocked when the referees blew the whistle and penalized Philadelphia, and the league called and said you can't," Wilson said. "I'm pretty familiar with the rule book. Referees can't determine how you're going to go on the attack more than they can determine how you can defend.

"I think (Flyers coach) Peter (Laviolette) was trying to get the crowd to try and turn, get loud and boo and get everybody upset and try to break somebody's patience. It was interesting. It gives me food for thought when we go in there. That's not how we play. We're a getting-it-in-there-going-on-the-attack."

Hitchcock's take is a little more curbed, but offered a playful jab at Flyers defenseman and former Blue Chris Pronger.

"I don't have an opinion what they did," he said. "Prongs isn't as quick as he was before because he's pivoting around that dot ... he didn't look that good. He's not as quick as he was, especially during the Olympics.

"I don't like the negativity that comes into the game. The game is hard enough to play. It's a great game. I don't like the negativity coming into the game where they're questioning the tactics or style. This is a really hard game to play and it's a challenging game for everybody, and I just don't like it when it comes up like that. It's a game that requires a tremendous amount of sacrifice."

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The Blues' lineup tonight against the Maple Leafs will remain the same:

Vladimir Sobotka-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

Matt D'Agostini-Patrik Berglund-Chris Stewart

Alex Steen-Jason Arnott-Jamie Langenbrunner

Evgeny Grachev-Scott Nichol-Ryan Reaves

Carlo Colaiacovo-Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk

Ian Cole-Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak will start for the third straight time after earning his 17th career shutout Tuesday, a 29-save performance; Brian Elliott will be the backup.

The Blues' healthy scratches include winger Chris Porter and defenseman Nikita Nikitin. Defenseman Kent Huskins (ankle) will miss his fifth consecutive game. Wingers Andy McDonald (concussion), David Perron (post-concussion syndrome) and B.J. Crombeen (shoulder) remain on injured reserve.

Defenseman Taylor Chorney was placed on waivers Wednesday and to nobody's surprise, he was reclaimed by the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers originally placed Chorney on waivers and the Blues claimed him on Oct. 11. Chorney played in two games with the Blues, recording no points.

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The Leafs, who have struggled in losing two in a row by a combined 12-1 score in losses to Florida (5-1) and Boston (7-0), are aware of the Blues' jump and spirit following a coaching change. They're ready for the challenge.

"With the coaching change, they're playing a little more up-tempo, so we've got to be prepared for that," Wilson said of the Blues. "They're getting in on the forecheck, so we have to be aware of their pressurepuck and come as advertised.

"We're a fast team and we've got to establish our forecheck early in the game and that's what our goal is tonight."

The Leafs' lineup tonight against the Blues:

Clarke MacArthur-Mikhail Grabovski-Nikolai Kulemin

Joffrey Lupul-Tyler Bozak-Phil Kessel

Matthew Lombardi-David Steckel-Matt Frattin

Joey Crabb-Phillippe Dupuis-Mike Brown

Carl Gunnarsson-Dion Phaneuf

John-Michael Liles-Mike Komisarek

Jake Gardiner-Luke Schenn

Ben Scrivens gets the start in goal; Jonas Gustavsson will be the backup.

Defenseman Cody Franson is a healthy scratch. The Leafs are without winger Colby Armstrong (ankle), center Tim Connolly (upper-body) and goaltender James Reimer (concussion symptoms), all on injured reserve.

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