Wednesday, February 13, 2013

(2-13-13) Blues-Red Wings Gameday Lineup

DETROIT -- Jake Allen called it "another game."

Yeah right.

Allen might be saying all the right things, but for the 22-year-old 2008 second round pick (34th overall) for the Blues, getting his first NHL start on the road at arguably one of the toughest venues in Joe Louis Arena where the Blues (6-5-1) will face the 11-time Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings (7-4-1) today (6:30 p.m. on NBCSN, KMOX 1120-AM), nerves will be aplenty.

"It's a great feeling," Allen said after Wednesday's morning skate. "It's something you work for your whole life. You want to make the most of it. I know I'm definitely going to enjoy it. I'll remember it for a while.

"It's another game. I'm excited. ... It's hopefully another step in my career. It's more experience under my belt and I'm looking forward to the challenge tonight."

Allen was
recalled Tuesday from Peoria for the second time because Jaroslav Halak re-aggravated the groin strain injury during pregame warmups prior to Monday's game against Los Angeles that has forced the Blues' netminder to miss four-plus games already.

Allen is 12-16-2, with a 2.94 goals-against average and .903 save percentage for the Rivermen this season but has played much better of late.

"We had a slow start to the year, but since about Christmas on, I've felt like I've been playing well," Allen said. "I feel confident in the net. I just want to get back in there. I haven't been in there in a bit. I'm looking forward to it, I'm anxious and hopefully turn these things around tonight and get off the losing streak."

The Blues are 0-4-1 in their last five games and Brian Elliott has been in goal for all five, since replacing Halak midway through a loss here on Dec. 1. He's got a 4.67 GAA and .810 save percentage since replacing Halak.

"It's a reset button for Brian," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We just can't keep going down the same path with Brian because Brian's got to catch his breath here and reset and get back to what he was. We've got to get him calmed down and playing the position because we don't know where Jaro's at.

"This is unfortunate for us that we're in this spot, but we've got to get Brian back playing better. If Jake can give us a breather here and we can catch some lightning in a bottle with him, that's great. But we need our two starters back playing again or it doesn't matter what we do up front. We can't keep giving up the goals we're giving up and expect to win hockey games. That's not gonna work."

The Fredericton, New Brunswick native Allen, whose parents bought the NHL Center Ice package to watch their son play, wants to be a buffer for the Blues, not the solution.

"I'm not trying to be the hero," Allen said. "I'm just going to try and play my game. We have the talent in this locker room to be able to do it. ... I'm going to try and keep things as simple as I can and hopefully we can pull out the win.

"Parents are excited. They bought the NHL package just so they could get the game tonight at home. It's going to be good for them. I can't say enough. They helped me get here."

Hitchcock admitted tonight will be an element of the unknown. The veteran coach hasn't gambled with a goalie choice like this since doing so with Manny Fernandez in Dallas.

"I don't know. I haven't done that before for a long, long time, so I have no idea how this is going to turn out," Hitchcock said. "This is new ground for all of us.

"(Allen's) played really, really well. His last four or five starts in Peoria have been excellent. But this is a different league. We're a lot like Detroit. Detroit brought (Petr Mrazek) in (a 5-1 win at St. Louis on Feb. 7). He was competitive. I thought the players fed off his competitiveness. That's what we're hoping for Jake. He's got to get his career started somewhere. Other than Toronto, you couldn't get a bigger building to play in. You couldn't get a bigger atmosphere for a young guy to start his career other than probably Toronto."

Barret Jackman knows how Allen's feeling better than anyone. The veteran defenseman's NHL debut also came in this building.

"It's definitely exciting," Jackman said. "You can always connect the Stanley Cup with the Red Wings, Original Six ... it's pretty special, but I think he's ready for it. The last couple years, he's really put his time in and worked hard. Hopefully we can have a good team game in front of him and not leave him vulnerable behind us. ... It puts a lot of onus on our team have in front of him.

"We're going to rely on him to stop the first shot, but you're going to have to give him the lanes to see the puck when he does make that first stop, have a real good stick in front, get body position on Detroit forwards and clear the puck out."

Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said it's simple: "Play better. We know we've got to play better in front of him. We've got to limit the oportunities that goalies are getting. All the goals that are going in are quality opportunities. We've just got to find a way to play better in front of him. We've got to just find a way to get a better start for them, get some energy ... especially tonight. He's going to be nervous, which is a good thing. He's going to bring some energy in the room and hopefully it translates for him."

- - -

The Columbus Blue Jackets continued their use of the Blues as a model. Consider them the 'Blues East.'

After hiring former Blues president of hockey operations John Davidson to the same spot in Ohio, Davidson went out Wednesday and brought back Jarmo Kekalainen as the team's new general manager after firing Scott Howson Tuesday night.

Kekalainen spent eight years with the Blues as their director of amateur scouting as well as assistant general manager. When the Blues take the ice tonight here in Detroit, 11 players were directly involved as a part of Kekalainen's drafts, including David Backes, David Perron, T.J. Oshie, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Patrik Berglund, Ryan Reaves, Pietrangelo, Ian Cole, Roman Polak and Allen.

"He obviously did a good job with what he did to St. Louis," said Oshie, a 2005 first round pick. "I wish him all the best and congratulations.

"He obviously thought enough of me to draft me high ... I definitely didn't want to disappoint him with anything, but not too much interaction with him. The way he carries himself and the confidence he has, it's a good way to represent an organization."

Kekalainen has been the GM for Jokerit HC in Finland since leaving the Blues in 2010, building that squad into a power.

- - -

Kris Russell sat from up above and got a different perspective of the game after the Blues' defenseman had struggled at times in the early part of the season.

But Russell will be re-inserted back into the lineup tonight, along with Schwartz, against the Red Wings.

Russell will take the spot of veteran Wade Redden, who has had a couple tough outings after a solid start with the Blues after resuming his NHL career.

"He's calmed down and ready to go again," Hitchcock said of Russell, who will be paired with Polak.

As for Redden, Hitchcock said it's a rotation of four guys on the left side.

"That left side is four guys for three spots, so whoever's going well plays and whoever isn't, that's just the game of hockey," Hitchcock said. "He had a very good emotional start. Now it's kind of settled in, so we'll give him a break and get him back in again."

- - -

The probable Blues' lineup:

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

Jake Allen makes his first NHL start; Brian Elliott is the backup.

Healthy scratches include Matt D'Agostini and Redden. Halak (groin strain) and Jamie Langenbrunner (hip) are out.

- - -

The Red Wings' probable lineup:

Valtteri Filppula-Henrik Zetterberg-Damien Brunner

Joakim Andersson-Pavel Datsyuk-Daniel Cleary

Patrick Eaves-Justin Abdelkader-Tomas Tatar

Drew Miller-Cory Emmerton-Jordin Tootoo

Niklas Kronwall-Brian Lashoff

Jonathan Ericsson-Ian White

Kyle Quincey-Jakub Kindl

Jimmy Howard is the starter; Petr Mrazek is the backup.

Healthy scratches include former Blue defenseman Kent Huskins and Jan Mursak. Johan Franzen (hip flexor) was a late scratch and is out, according to Todd Bertuzzi (back), Darren Helm (back), Mikael Samuelsson (groin), former Blue Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder), Brendan Smith (shoulder), Jonas Gustavsson (groin) also will not play because of injury.

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