By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Despite having his best game this season in what has been a rather inauspicious start for Jaroslav Halak, the Blues are once again turning to Brian Elliott tonight.
The Blues' netminder will get the start again when the Blues (5-6) host the Vancouver Canucks (6-6-1) at 7 p.m. today at Scottrade Center (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM).
Elliott, who is 4-1 with a 1.67 goals-against average and .942 save percentage, blanked the Canucks on Oct. 26 (3-0) with a 34-save performance. He did lose his last start in Calgary (3-1) and the Blues went back to Halak (1-5, 3.58 GAA and .843 save percentage) in their last game in Edmonton, a 4-2 loss. But Halak stopped 26 shots in that game, including a number of high-percentage looks.
When asked if Elliott's shutout of Vancouver factored into the decision, Blues coach Davis Payne said, "That's part of the picture. It's a simple equation for us. He's played well of late, played well the last time against Vancouver, so back in he goes."
The Blues will charter a plane to Minnesota after the game and play the Wild Saturday, so it could be a case of Halak starting tomorrow. But with the team not having played since Sunday, one can make a case for either to start both games.
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Blues winger Alex Steen has had quite a bit of success against the Canucks.
In 15 career games, Steen has nine goals and 11 points, including a pair of goals in a 3-0 win last week.
Is there anything to it?
"Not really," Steen said. "I'm getting some lucky bounces I guess. They just happen to be against these guys. I honestly don't have any answers."
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Defenseman Roman Polak is a big guy. He's listed at 6-foot-1, 227 pounds, so it would be wise for teammate Carlo Colaiacovo (all 6-1 and 205 pounds of him) to not throw the bulking Polak under the bus like he did Thursday.
It seems when the Blues welcomes Cardinals' pitcher Chris Carpenter to practice with them, the Cards' pitcher introduced himself to the players beforehand. As it turns out, the Ostrava, Czech Republic native Polak didn't know who Carpenter was.
"He came into the room and introduced himself to some of the guys and Roman came up to me and he goes, 'Who is that guy over there,'" Colaiacovo said of Carpenter. "I said, 'He's trying out to be our new tough guy.' He goes, 'Really? He just comes and introduces himself as Chris.' I said, 'That's Carpenter, man! He was just in the World Series!' Roman's something else."
Polak got wind of Colaiacovo's chirp.
"I told him not to tell anybody," Polak yelled with a laugh. "I thought we got a new player. He said, 'Hey I'm Chris.' And I'm like, 'Yeah, I'm Roman what's up.' ... I didn't know. I probably should but I'm not into baseball."
Polak was impressed when he saw the hockey-turned-pitcher take the ice.
"I was like, 'Man, we've got a new player coming in.' Huge guy," Polak said. "He shot a puck."
Polak was asked if he was ready to throw the gloves down
"No! He's too big for me," Polak said. "He can throw the ball, but he can shoot the puck, too."
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Picked up on waivers on Oct. 11 from Edmonton, the Blues and their fans will finally get their first taste of Taylor Chorney.
The defenseman will make his debut tonight, as he's paired up with Polak.
Chorney, a teammate of T.J. Oshie and Chris Porter at the University of North Dakota, is eager and anxious.
"It's nice to get in there, get settled in before you kind of get thrown into it all," Chorney said. "I'm pretty pumped up. It's been a month, but to be honest, it didn't really feel like it.
"We've been on the road a ton and it's a whole new situation for me ... meeting new teammates, coaches, new systems. This just kind of gave me a chance to get settled in, get comfortable with my surroundings. Now I've just got to go out there and play."
Payne said Chorney will be rewarded for his patience.
"For a young guy, Chorns has a real good feel for the game," Payne said. "Not afraid to communicate, not afraid to ask questions. As the week's gone on, we've seen some of that. Roman's had a bunch of different partners with the injury to Husky (Kent Huskins). We're going to have to have him adjust on the fly."
Polak said it's an adjustment having to alter partners, but it's a part of being a player.
"It's kind of tough, but you know, it's hockey," Polak said. "If the coaches tell you to play with the guy, you play with the guy. It's part of the game. I don't think you can have an excuse. You just play the game.
"I think (Chorney's) more of an offensive guy, so I have to take care of the D-zone part. I stick with the plan. It's all about communication, so we just have to talk more."
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Also returning to the lineup for the Blues is enforcer Ryan Reaves, who's been a healthy scratch the past five games.
Reaves is pointless in four games, but after the Canucks lost 5-1 at Minnesota Thursday night, things might be amped up at the start from a team looking to gain an early edge.
"It's been a while," Reaves said. "Obviously the guys went on a little hot streak, so it's tough to change up the lineup when everybody's playing well.
"I always expect some physicality from this team. They've got a couple guys that lay the body pretty well. But at the same time, that's my game. You always got to expect that out of me, too."
Payne said it's not all about getting Reaves' brawn back in there.
"One of his biggest assets has to be his forechecking skills," Payne said. "Solid on the walls, hard in on the forecheck, apply some physical pressure that way within the game. You look up and down the lineups, whatever comes of it, comes of it. That's not the sole reason of that decision. He hasn't played and we should see a physical spark from his game."
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The Blues' lineup against the Canucks tonight:
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
Taylor Chorney-Roman Polak
Brian Elliott starts in goal. Halak will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include defenseman Nikita Nikitin and winger Chris Porter. Huskins (bone bruise) will miss his second straight game. He hasn't skated all week. David Perron (post-concussion syndrome), Andy McDonald (concussion) and B.J. Crombeen (fractured shoulder) remain on injured reserve.
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The Canucks saw their two-game winning streak snapped with a loss to the Wild, a game in which backup Cory Schneider stopped 40 pucks.
"We weren't really happy with the way we executed and the effort level last night," defenseman Dan Hamhuis said. "We've got to put that behind us ... maybe use it as motivation, too, and play a lot better tonight."
The Canucks' probable lineup:
Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Alexandre Burrows
David Booth-Ryan Kesler-Cody Hodgson
Chris Higgins-Manny Malhotra-Jannik Hansen
Aaron Volpatti-Maxim Lapierre-Dale Weise
Dan Hamhuis-Kevin Bieksa
Alexander Edler-Sami Salo
Keith Ballard-Alexander Sulzer
Roberto Luongo gets the nod in goal. Schneider will be the backup.
"I think we're all disappointed with the performance last night," Luongo said. "It's a good thing we get to play the next day and make sure that we come out with a good performance and redeem ourselves here."
The Canucks are without defenseman Aaron Rome (hand), forward Mason Raymond (back) and forward Byron Bitz (lower-body). Center Andrew Ebbett and defenseman Andrew Alberts are expected to be healthy scratches.