By LOUIE KORAC
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Blues' fourth line won't fill up the stat sheet with goals and assists while piling up a ton of points in the process.
But in coach Ken Hitchcock's system, guys like Scott Nichol, Vladimir Sobotka, Ryan Reaves and even Jamie Langenbrunner or Matt D'Agostini will play important minutes and in key situations.
It's just the nature of the game these days. Nichol, Sobotka and Reaves will suit up again when the Blues (1-0) play against the Nashville Predators (0-0-1) today at 5 p.m. on FSN and KMOX 1120-AM.
In Saturday's 6- thumping of Detroit, Nichol was at 13 minutes, 25 seconds of ice time and he won five of six faceoffs, Sobotka was at 13:02 played, won five of eight faceoffs and had three hits, while Reaves was at 9:28 but had four hits.
"You can't play good defense without a good fourth line," Hitchcock said. "You can't defend backing up, you can't defend like it was earlier in the 90's or early 2000's where you were like us and Dallas or like New Jersey where all your odd-man rushes came off the counter attack. Because there's no red line, you can't get transition off the counter attack anymore. You have to defend by playing in the offensive zone. That's the only way you can play now. If you want to be a good defensive team, you can't spend any time in your zone. You've got to spend it in the offensive zone.
"Your fourth line has to be able to play, it's just got to be able to play. They've got to give you really good minutes. We've got a number of players that can play there. That line becomes more important, especially this year with a shortened season."
Reaves, who impressed Hitchcock in camp, said it's all about making all aspects count.
"You've got to make every second count and I thought last game, we brought some good energy for the team," Reaves said. "I think that's what we've got to do every game.
"Just making sure that we're responsible in the d-zone, first of all, and then when we're on the forecheck, making sure we're always on the puck, playing bodies when we can, being smart, and not taking stupid penalties is a big key. When we're playing limited minutes like that, I don't think we can afford to put our team shorthanded like that. Energy is the biggest thing for our line."
Nichol, the elder statesman on the Blues' roster at 38, said winning faceoffs is where it all begins.
"It starts with the faceoffs," Nichol said. "Between Sobe and I, we should be able to win our fair share of the faceoffs. When you play fourth-line minutes, you want to start with the puck, you want to get it in and get it on them.
"We've played together for a while. There's no kind of feeling each other out. It's just pressure on the puck. It worked last game. For our line, we'd rather play in their end than our end. Maybe we're not going to score a ton of goals but we change momentum of games."
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The Blues won't make any roster chances for the game against the Predators today, which means Langenbrunner, D'Agostini and defenseman Jeff Woywitka along with newly signed defenseman Wade Redden will be healthy scratches. However, Redden still has an immigration working visa issue to work through, along with getting acclimated with his new teammates after officially signing his one-year contract Sunday.
For Langenbrunner, a veteran of 1,105 games, 243 goals and 662 points, sitting on the sidelines is not something the 37-year-old is accustomed to.
"More health-wise, we just felt like if everybody came through healthy and we played that well, why change the lineup," Hitchcock said. "They're going to play.
"... Lags is a veteran guy. He knows the deal. I think when he gets in, he's not going to get pushed out. He had a good week of training camp, he looks like he's ready to go and when it's his turn, he'll play well."
Added Nichol: "That's why he's here, that's why I'm here. You don't have to babysit him. When he comes in the lineup, it'll be a seamless transition and when he comes in, he won't come out. You need those kind of warriors to show the young guys how to play the game and how to prepare on and off the ice. That's what he does. He's a great fit here. He won't be out very long.
"They can play the first line or fourth line and they're so valuable, especially this year. Every year they're so valuable. It's a great bunch of guys in here. I know it's a crappy thing to be sitting out, but we're a team and no one thinks anything different."
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Blues defenseman Barret Jackman will dress in his 600th career game, all with the Blues. Jackman, 31, is ninth in club history in games played and fourth among defensemen behind Bob Plager (644), Barclay Plager (614) and Al MacInnis (613).
... Jaroslav Halak, who will get the start this afternoon, has a career goals-against average of 1.71 against the Predators in his career, which is tops among goaltenders since 2006-07. Halak's .934 save percentage in that span is also second best.
... Hitchcock will try to win a game in regulation in this building for the first time since Feb. 13, 2001. When the Blues won 3-2 in a shootout in this building on February 23, 2012, it snapped Hitchcock's coaching record of 0-11-6-1 here. He's coached with Dallas, Philadelphia, Columbus and St. Louis.
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The Blues' lineup for their matchup against Nashville:
David Perron-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
Andy McDonald-Alex Steen-Vladimir Tarasenko
Jaden Schwartz-Patrik Berglund-Chris Stewart
Vladimir Sobotka-Scott Nichol-Ryan Reaves
Ian Cole-Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell-Roman Polak
Jaroslav Halak starts in goal after picking up his 23rd shutout of his career Saturday night, 14th as a Blue; Brian Elliott, who will start Tuesday in Chicago, will back up Monday.
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The Predators, who did not skate Monday, will likely go with the following lineup:
Martin Erat-Mike Fisher-Sergei Kostitsyn
Colin Wilson-David Legwand-Patric Hornqvist
Craig Smith-Nick Spaling-Matt Halischuk
Brandon Yip-Paul Gaustad-Brian McGrattan
Roman Josi-Shea Weber
Scott Hannan-Kevin Klein
Hal Gill-Ryan Ellis
Pekka Rinne starts in goal; Former Blue Chris Mason is the backup.
The Predators' scratches include winger Rich Clune and defenseman Jonathon Blum.