Thursday, January 19, 2012

(1-19-12) Oilers-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- For the second time in a week, the Blues were anticipating the return of winger Alex Steen on the ice.

And for the second time, it's been determined that Steen (concussion-related symptoms) is not quite ready to return.

Steen will miss his 10th consecutive game when the Blues (27-12-6) entertain the Edmonton Oilers (17-24-4) at 7 p.m. today (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM). Steen continues to skate, and even took part in a full-scale workout Wednesday at St. Louis Mills, determining himself to be "close." But after Thursday's morning skate, the Blues said he's not at 100 percent.

"Steen's not 100 percent and he's not coming in until he's 100 percent, so the next update we'll give you which ... who knows, will be when he's in," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "It's a very similar situation with Andy Mac. He's not 100, so he's not playing.

"He's had good days, but until he's 100 (percent) with that injury, we're not taking any chances. ... He's participating in everything, but this is 100 percent physically, 100 percent mentally and if it's 95 or 99, we're not taking any chances. We want this to be 100 percent, so if it's on a conditioning side where we're concerned with where there's kind of soreness the next day or he's missed a time and hit the wall, we're not taking any chances. We want the player for long-term so we'll keep him out and keep working him hard like we are now."

The good news for the Blues is that defenseman Kris Russell (groin) will make his return after missing nine games.

Russell, who has five points in 21 games with the Blues, will replace Ian Cole in the lineup tonight.

"I didn't want to push it if I wasn't feeling right, but it felt good," Russell said after the morning skate. "Obviously a little bit of tightness in it, but I'm fully confident in my skating ability now. It should be good."

Hitchcock is one that if a player is ready to play, he's in, so there won't be any type of easing Russell back in.

"Hitch is always like that," Russell said. "If you're ready to go, you better execute and play within the system, be an effective player. That's what I want to do."

So for Russell, it's just do what he does best.

"Mostly it's just simplifying your game," Russell said. "Try not to do much, make quick first outlet passes, be sharp on the puck and let your game evolve from there. That's what I'm going to try and do."

- - -

With Steen out of the lineup tonight, the Blues will keep things as they have been the last handful or so games. That means Matt D'Agostini will stay in a top six role with Patrik Berglund and T.J. Oshie, while David Perron moves back up with David Backes and Chris Stewart.

That means the return of the 'Kid Line' will have to wait for the time being.

"We'll just go back to flipping him (D'Agostini) and flipping Perron back in with Backes and go back to where we were before," Hitchcock said. "If we get in a situation like we did in the third period (Monday) where we think we need Oshie's energy and a little bit different role, then we'll go back to that.

"Oshie's been good wherever we play him. The thing that concerned me the last game, the (Backes) line was spending too much time on their heels. They were defending too much. It was too conservative. Wherever you play Oshie, it's not going to be a conservative group. You'll be on the forecheck all night. He created the energy that the line came with and he did a helluva job."

- - -

The Oilers, who have suffered as many freakish injuries as any team in the NHL, addressed the strangest one of all, that of winger Taylor Hall, who suffered a scary cut to his head after being cut by a skate blade of teammate Corey Potter during pregame warmups Tuesday in Columbus.

Hall, who has 15 goals and 31 points in 36 games this season, accidentally stepped on a puck near the Oilers' goal, wiped out teammate Ladislav Smid in the process before being accidentally stepped on by Potter.

Hall received 30 stitches on the left side of his head and is sporting a black eye and swelling around the eye. He was not wearing a helmet when the incident occurred.

"I'm feeling better every day," said Hall, who will obviously not play tonight. "From the time it happened and the freezing came out, it's pretty painful. But I'm not feeling too much pain now. I got some exercise in this morning and it held up. My face didn't swell up too much. I'm looking forward to getting back as soon as possible.

"I didn't feel too much pain (when the incident occurred). I thought it was just kind of a little cut. I knew right away when the blood was coming out pretty bad that it was serious. I just tried to get in the (locker) room as soon as possible and slow the bleeding down."

There were erroneous reports that Hall would be done for the season, but that's not the case. He said there's an outside chance he plays when the Oilers return home to face Calgary Saturday.

"For someone to come out and say after a day that I'm going to be out for the season is a little extreme," Hall said. "We had to settle that down a little bit.

"I'd like to think that I can try and play on Saturday against Calgary, but that's not for sure by any means. I want to get a helmet on and see how that feels and get a couple bumps in. There's no for sure when I'm going to play."

Oilers coach Tom Renney said there are no major repercussions with Hall.

"He certainly feels a lot better. He slept well for two nights now," Renney said. "The wound looks really good ... for me.

"The bottom line is it's a matter of impact and whether not the stitches might open up or whatever if in fact he gets hit. It's kind of a day to day thing. I know he would tell you he's ready to go tonight in talking to him. ... He's had no head issues whatsoever. He slept well, his appetite's good, no dizziness, nothing like that whatsoever. It's a matter of the healing of the wound."

What was Hall's reaction when he saw himself in a mirror for the first time?

"It doesn't look good, that's for sure," he joked. "I looked a lot better before.

"What can you do? I said to someone this morning that it's lucky and it's unlucky at the same time. You can say that I'm lucky that I didn't get my eye taken out or my throat sliced or I'm just unlucky because something like this has never happened in the history of the sport with helmet guys that have not worn a helmet in warmups. ... It's kind of the way the injuries have gone for this team."

Potter was shaken up before the game Tuesday but is obviously relieved his teammate is fine.

"Now that I know he's doing well, things are starting to calm down here and feeling a little better. I'm just happy that he's alright," Potter said. "... The guys in the locker room after warmups were definitely letting me know that it's alright. It was just kind of a freak accident and not to take it personally. They were there to back me up for sure."

The Colorado Avalanche issued a release stating that they are mandating all their players to wear helmets during pregame warmups. It might become a trend in the wake of the Hall incident.

"We're discussing that internally right now," Renney said. "You'll see everyone on with a helmet tonight.

"I'm not sure it's a (NHLPA) issue. Obviously they have a voice that we should all pay attention to. At the same time, at the end of the day, if this is what I want as a head coach or we as an organization, we do it."

- - -

The Oilers will get winger Jordan Eberle (knee) back after missing four games.

Eberle, who leads the team in goals (17), assists (26) and points (43), was injured in a game Jan. 7 at Dallas early in the first period on a collision with the Stars' Jamie Benn.

"I'm excited," Eberle said. "A few days off and I missed a few games, but it felt good on the ice. I'm pretty excited to get going. ... I'm just going to keep things simple and try and make the right play at the right time."

Renney said all systems are a go with Eberle.

"He skated well here," Renney said. "He went through all his treatment here. ... He said he's ready to play."

- - -

Tonight's Blues lineup:

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

Kris Russell-Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak, 9-0-3 with a 1.62 goals-against average and .938 save percentage in his last 12 starts, will get his sixth start in the last eight games tonight. Brian Elliott, fresh off of signing a new two-year, $3.6 million extension Wednesday, is the backup.

McDonald (concussion) and defenseman Kent Huskins (ankle) remain on injured reserve. Steen (concussion symptoms) was expected to play tonight but will not after taking part in the morning skate. Healthy scratches include defenseman Cole and forward Chris Porter.

- - -

The Oilers' probable lineup:

Jordan Eberle-Sam Gagner-Ales Hemsky

Ryan Smyth-Shawn Horcoff-Ryan Jones

Anton Lander-Josh Green-Magnus Paajarvi

Darcy Hordichuk-Ryan O'Marra-Ben Eager

Ladislav Smid-Corey Potter

Andy Sutton-Jeff Petry

Theo Peckham-Colten Teubert

Nikolai Khabibulin will start; Devan Dubnyk is the backup.

The laundry list of injured players for the Oilers is a long one. Included are defensemen Cam Barker (ankle), Ryan Whitney (ankle) and Tom Gilbert (knee), center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (shoulder), center Eric Belanger (leg) and Hall (facial laceration).

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