Monday, January 16, 2012

(1-16-12) Stars-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Alex Pietrangelo's six-game point streak is no fluke. But the Blues' top defenseman wasn't quite himself in the early portions of the first half of the season.

"I kind of found myself second-guessing my shot there in the first half of the season," said Pietrangelo, who has nine points in six games after only picking up 11 in 37. "I think just simplifying it and putting pucks towards the net. I just want to shoot pucks towards the net a little more. It's made a huge difference."

But instead of getting discouraged, Pietrangelo kept at things and did all the other things that was making his game more complete.

Plus, the Blues (26-12-6), who host the Dallas Stars (24-18-1) at 6:30 p.m. today (NBCSN, KMOX 1120-AM), were doing what cures all players' ails.

"We were winning," Pietrangelo said. "If I don't get any points and we win every game, I'm happy.

"Watching some video, I caught myself passing off when I could have shot it. Ever since then, it's really been a turnaround."

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His mind and body was into accomodating all Blues fans Sunday night at the team's annual Rink Tours event, but for Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, a Greenwich, Conn. native and huge New York Giants fan, part of him was elsewhere ... and rightfully so.

Shattenkirk was also busy celebrating the Giants' 37-20 upset win over the Green Bay Packers, who many touted to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

Shattenkirk was able to watch the first half of the game before departing to his venue, which was the U.S. Ice Sports Complex in Fairview Heights, Ill.

"Fortunately, they had a little breathing room and I hopped in the car on my way there and turned the radio on and listened to the end of the game on the way there," Shattenkirk said. "I got to watch the majority of it and it was a great win for the G-Men.

"I've followed them through the tough times and the good ones."

But did you know Shattenkirk, listed as 5-foot-11 and 208 pounds, was a football player himself in high school.

It never amounted to much, though, especially when his hockey coaches got wind of what he was doing.

"My high school hockey coach told me no more. I had to causally let it go," Shattenkirk said. "When I was younger, I started playing (football) when I was like 10 years old or so. I played in high school for two years and once I went out to Ann Arbor (Mich.), that was it. I played linebacker and running back and then I was a punter."

Shattenkirk's popularity Sunday was not only evident by fans realizing he was a Giants fan but also because he helped the Blues snap their shootout funk with the winner in Saturday's 3-2 win over the Minnesota Wild.

"A lot of people came up saying thanks for breaking the curse," Shattenkirk joked. "A lot of people were giving me props for the Giants, too. I think there were more Packers haters than Giants fans but we'll take them."

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The Blues will go once again without winger Alex Steen (concussion symptoms) and defenseman Kris Russell tonight against the Stars. Both skated again and both didn't hit any speedbumps, and according to coach Ken Hitchcock, Thursday's home game against Edmonton is a realistic option.

"He had a very good day yesterday, very good day today," Hitchcock said of Steen, who will miss his ninth consecutive game tonight. "We'll practice him hard Tuesday and Wednesday and see how he is for Thursday. He hasn't had a team practice yet. All he's done is isolation practices. He'll get team practices in the next two days. Looks very good. We'll work him up and hopefully continue to get him ready for Thursday.

"Russell, same thing conditioning-wise. Not quite there. Tuesday, Wednesday practice and hopefully ready for Thursday also."

Forward Andy McDonald, out with a concussion, has played in three of 45 games this season.

Hitchcock was asked when he feels McDonald will shed the red no-contact jersey.

"Until the color changes, don't even get in there," Hitchcock quipped. "He's our best player on the ice, every day in practice but don't even get me going there. He scores all the goals in the shootouts, all the goals in the line rushes, but until the color of the sweater changes ... no."

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The Stars, who come in having dropped two of their previous three games, will have their mettle tested now that they will be playing without two of their three top scorers and top two centermen.

Mike Ribeiro (knee) will miss his fourth consecutive game and the Stars will now be without top point man Jamie Benn, who had an appendectomy on Sunday and is sidelined indefinitely.

Benn leads the Stars with 42 points in 43 games (13 goals, 29 assists), while Ribeiro is third on the team with 10 goals and 31 points in 40 games.

"You don't wish it, but it's like anything, it's life. You can't control it," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. "You just hope that Benny's OK and he is this morning. ... When you take your top two centermen out of your lineup, it forces you to play a certain way. Maybe this is a little bit of a blessing in disguise because our team needed to play a certain way more consistently and now they're going to have to. If we come out of this stronger, that's what you always hope when you have injuries and these guys acclimate themselves back.

"It wasn't a kick in the gut or anything. You just deal with it one day at a time."

What it does is give other players an opportunity to step into the lineup and fill those roles. The Stars have recalled winger Francis Wathier from AHL Texas and he will be in the lineup tonight.

"They are really huge for our team," Stars winger Loui Eriksson said of Benn and Ribeiro, who has an MCL tear. "There's not much we can do about it. We've just got to keep working harder and some other guys are going to get some opportunities and get some chances. We still have a good team. We know where we are in the standings."

- - -

The Blues' lineup tonight against the Stars:

David Perron-David Backes-Chris Stewart

Matt D'Agostini-Patrik Berglund-T.J. Oshie

Vladimir Sobotka-Jason Arnott-Jamie Langenbrunner

B.J. Crombeen-Scott Nichol-Ryan Reaves

Carlo Colaiacovo-Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk

Ian Cole-Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak, 8-0-3 in his last 11 starts, will go in goal tonight; Brian Elliott is the backup.

McDonald (concussion), Kent Huskins (ankle), Russell (groin) are on injured reserve. Steen (concussion symptoms) is still day-to-day. Chris Porter is a healthy scratch for the fifth straight game and eight of the last nine.

- - -

The Stars' lineup tonight against the Blues:

Brenden Morrow-Tom Wandell-Loui Eriksson

Adam Burish-Steve Ott-Radek Dvorak

Eric Nystrom-Vernon Fiddler-Michael Ryder

Francis Wathier-Jake Dowell-Toby Petersen

Trevor Daley-Nicklas Grossman

Sheldon Souray-Stephane Robidas

Mark Fistric-Alex Goligoski

Kari Lehtonen, who is 7-1-0 with a 1.72 GAA and .944 save percentage in his career against the Blues, will start in goal; Richard Bachman is the backup.

The Stars are without Benn (appendectomy), Ribeiro (knee), D Philip Larsen (concussion-like symptoms) and RW Tomas Vincour (knee). Defenseman Adam Pardy is a healthy scratch.

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