By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The burning question for Blues fans has been the inclusion of Matt D'Agostini in the Blues' lineup or not.
D'Agostini is a former 21-goal scorer who has shown flashes of brilliance as well as times of inconsistency.
But D'Agostini's game in Detroit was a perfect example of what the Blues get when he's in the lineup: speed down the wing and a missile exploding off his stick when he unleashes a shot.
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock has officially included D'Agostini "in the mix" as far as players of who gets in and who sits. Before, D'Agostini was not even in the equation.
"It's based on an earned basis," Hitchcock said about who gets in and who is out. "I think he didn't have a good training camp and he's really picked up the pace. His training camp was drifty in and out, scrimmages were in and out and now he's really picked up the pace.
"He's pulled himself into the mix here, so based on his practices and leading into his last game where he was a very good player, he's put himself in the mix here rather than a guy outside waiting for somebody to get hurt. He's giving us choices now, which is a really good sign. These are hard choices we are making, but nobody's getting pushed out right now."
D'Agostini, who's played in two of eight games and scored in Detroit Friday, was not certain to be in the lineup tonight when the Blues (6-2-0) face the Nashville Predators (3-2-3) for the third time this season (7 p.m. on FSN, KMOX 1120-AM) but chances are good that he's going to get in.
"It can be tough mentally," D'Agostini said. "You want to be in there every night and help the team win, but at the same time, you look at our lineup and who we put in, we've got a good chance of winning no matter what kind of lineup we've got in there.
"Sometimes it's tough when you come in here and your number's not up on the board, but I'm just trying to stay as much of a team player as I can and practice as hard, stay in my good spirits for the boys and do what I normally would be doing. It can be tough, but you've got to look at the big picture and we're trying to win a Cup. Whatever lineup the coach puts out, then you go out there and play your best when you get the chance."
D'Agostini, who's in the final year of a $3.3 million contract he signed in the summer of 2011, has been a trooper about being in and out of the lineup -- mostly out.
"I'm no dummy," D'Agostini said. "I know when the team's winning and the guys are playing good, the lineup's not going to change. I was just waiting patiently.
"(Hitchcock) just told me to be ready. I'm going to get my chance to play. Just be ready to play. ... I'm at my best when I'm skating hard and forechecking trying to create some turnovers. That's when I play my best game.
"We have great fans here. They're in it the whole game. They bring a lot of excitement to it. They can see plays developing, and you can feel it on the bench. It helps a lot. That support from your fans is great."
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The Blues come into tonight's game with the best home record in the NHL since the start of last season (33-6-5), which includes a shutout streak of 182:44 against the Predators dating back to Dec. 30, 2011.
They've scored 133 goals in that stretch, an average of 3.02 goals per game while allowing only 73 goals, or 1.66 goals-against.
Why the success?
"You've got to be good in your own barn," defenseman Kris Russell said. "We've been good at our starts lately, we keep it simple. Sometimes you can get a little fancy in front of your own fans, but I think we've done a good job of playing to our strengths and system and we try to go after teams early."
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The Blues' lineup was not set after the morning skate but will likely resemble something like this:
David Perron-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
Andy McDonald-Alex Steen-Vladimir Tarasenko
Vladimir Sobotka-Patrik Berglund-Chris Stewart
Jamie Langenbrunner-Scott Nichol-Matt D'Agostini/Ryan Reaves
Wade Redden-Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell-Roman Polak
Brian Elliott is in goal; Jake Allen, recalled Monday for the injured Jaroslav Halak (groin strain), is the backup.
Scratches include Halak, who was placed on injured-reserve retroactive to Saturday; likely healthy scratches include either D'Agostini or Reaves, Jaden Schwartz and Ian Cole.
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The Predators' lineup could include seven defensemen tonight, according to coach Barry Trotz. His team is wrapping up a seven-game trip, going 3-2-1 so far:
Sergei Kostitsyn-Mike Fisher-Martin Erat
Colin Wilson-David Legwand-Gabriel Bourque
Brandon Yip-Nick Spaling-Craig Smith
Matt Halischuk-Paul Gaustad
Scott Hannan-Shea Weber
Hal Gill-Kevin Klein
Roman Josi-Ryan Ellis
Pekka Rinne starts in goal; Former Blue Chris Mason is the backup.
The Predators' scratches should include enforcers Rich Clune and Brian McGrattan. Patric Hornqvist (knee) will not play tonight, missing his fourth straight game.