By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Blues coach Ken Hitchcock loves Jaden Schwartz's game so much, he hates having to pull the 2010 first-round pick out of the lineup.
But Hitchcock's early beef with the 20-year-old Schwartz has been his willingness to defer scoring opportunities.
The 61-year-old Hitchcock even mentioned as such last week prior to the Blues' game against Minnesota, and Schwartz has sat two of the last three games. But the rookie will get back into the lineup tonight when the Blues (6-3-0) play host to the Detroit Red Wings (4-4-1) at Scottrade Center (7 p.m. on FSN, KMOX 1120-AM).
Schwartz, who started the season playing alongside Patrik Berglund and Chris Stewart but dropped to the fourth line a couple times, will get the opportunity to play with Berglund and fellow 2010 first-round pick Vladimir Tarasenko, while Stewart jumps up to play with Alex Steen and Andy McDonald.
But for Schwartz, who has one assist in seven games, Hitchcock wants to see more of a selfish attitude.
"I've just got to shoot it more," Schwartz acknowledged this morning. "I don't know if you can call it deferring every time you make a pass. You've got to make the pass when it's there. That's a given. It's just when the opportunity comes, I've got to shoot it.
"Playmaking's always been a part of my game. When the pass is there, I usually make it, but I can shoot the puck a little more. It's something I've been working on. I've been doing it in practice, so hopefully it carries over to the game."
Hitchcock said he's noticed "More of a take-it-to-the-net mentality ... way better.
"I think it's like every young guy, you watch guys grow up on TV, you watch guys play, it's hard not to take matters into your own hands," the Blues' coach said. "You want to do things yourself to a certain extent and then defer to somebody. He's such a sincere, humble kid, I think not playing, you have to make a decision. So his decision is I want to play more than I want to just keep deferring, so I think we're going to see the player I thought we were going to see because there's so many things he does effectively. He's a great forechecker, he turns pucks over, he creates all kinds of opportunities for others, but when it's his turn, he's trying to make the next play rather than make the play of putting it on the net and finding it from there."
Schwartz, who scored on his first two NHL shot attempts last season, is getting a crash course at a young age on the nuances of the NHL.
"I think I can bring a lot of things to the table," Schwartz said. "I can use my speed a little more, I can shoot the puck a little more ... I haven't been shooting enough. I've got to make plays offensively. I'm playing a top-nine role. I've just got to be aware defensively as well. I'm just looking to work hard. I'm playing with Tarasenko and Berglund tonight so hopefully I can make things happen offensively."
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Looking at the numbers, when Ryan Reaves plays, the Blues are 6-1-0. When he's out of the lineup, the Blues have not won a game, going 0-2-0.
But in looking at his game, Hitchcock feels Reaves alters his course at times and becomes inconsistent. The coach wants more of a consistent game, and when the Blues get it, Reaves becomes a tough player to play against.
"We need the game on a consistent basis, which is a north-south game, not east-west," Hitchcock said. "When he plays north-south, he's a very difficult player to play against. That's the game we're looking for on a consistent basis. When he plays like that, he's a tough guy to have to compete against. When he's got that mindset.
"I think it's a little bit our fault, too, because we've been screwing around trying to get people into the lineup and make them part of the team. The lineup, if you look at it tonight, this is the same lineup that we had the first couple games and we stayed with it and we played very well and then we started moving around that fourth line to try and get people involved. I'm not sure it helped. It kept people involved, but I'm not sure it helped long-term, so we've experimented enough and we'll just settle in. If you're playing well, you play, and if you don't, then you have to sit out. Revo's got to be consistent in his performance of playing north-south. He does it, and then gets away from it at times. I'm hoping the last game is an eye-opener. Now he's got to get back on track."
The Blues have been looking to re-establish their forecheck, and Reaves is a guy that can lead the way.
"I don't know if it's going to be one guy," Reaves said. "I think it has to be collective. I think there's going to have to be some guys that will have to stand out, kind of lead the charge a little bit, but I think in order for us to be successful, I think it's going to have to be every guy kind of going hard on the forecheck and making sure that their defense aren't looking over their shoulder every time the puck goes deep.
"... I've been fortunate that I can lead a little bit of the charge with the physical aspect and the forecheck when I get into the lineup. It's going to be the same tonight. I've got to be kind of that leader that builds energy for the team and build some energy when we're having a couple rough shifts."
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Mike Babcock felt like Jimmy Howard couldn't play 48 straight games, so the Detroit Red Wings coach is going to give a young Czech Republic native his first experience in the National Hockey League.
Petr Mrazek will make his NHL debut tonight when the Red Wings face the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center.
Mrazek, 20, was recalled as the Wings have a host of injuries with Jonas Gustavsson (groin) and Joey MacDonald (back) nursing injuries. Plus, Babcock feels like Howard needs a break. He's started all nine games for the Red Wings this season and in a compressed schedule, could use a breather.
"We didn't think [Howard] could play 48 straight, so we thought we better give him [a night off]," Babcock said. "This whole time we thought we'd be getting another goalie back. We just assumed that Gus would play, maybe MacDonald would play, but that never happened so we felt after the last two games that Howie needed a mental break. ... He needs a day where he doesn't have to think about getting another start."
Mrazek, who played for the Czech Republic at the 2011 World Junior Championships and was named to the tournament's all-star team, including the top goaltender award, was 16-7-1 for the Red Wings' American Hockey League affiliate in Grand Rapids. He had a 2.26 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage and was a member of the Western Conference all-star team.
"I'm really excited," said Mrazek, who includes Dominik Hasek and Marc-Andre Fleury as his idols growing up. "I didn't expect it to happen that fast, but I can't wait for tonight. I will try and do my best to stop the pucks tonight. I will enjoy every minute on the ice."
Added Babcock: "This kid ... he's been the berries everywhere he's been, so let's watch him.
"He just wins," Babcock added. "Nothing seems to faze him ... he just wins. Grand Rapids was 0-4-1 when he arrived there, and then all he did was come there and change the whole thing."
The Red Wings begin a stretch of three games in four days tonight.
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The Blues' probable lineup:
David Perron-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
Andy McDonald-Alex Steen-Chris Stewart
Jaden Schwartz-Patrik Berglund-Vladimir Tarasenko
Vladimir Sobotka-Scott Nichol-Ryan Reaves
Wade Redden-Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell-Roman Polak
Brian Elliott will get the nod in goal after being pulled from Tuesday's 6-1 loss against Nashville; Jake Allen is the backup.
Healthy scratches include wings Matt D'Agostini and Jamie Langenbrunner as well as defenseman Ian Cole. Goalie Jaroslav Halak (groin strain) is expected to practice tomorrow and could be ready as early as Saturday.
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The Red Wings' probable lineup:
Johan Franzen-Henrik Zetterberg-Damien Brunner
Valtteri Filppula-Pavel Datsyuk-Todd Bertuzzi
Daniel Cleary-Justin Abdelkader-Tomas Tatar
Drew Miller-Cory Emmerton-Jordin Tootoo
Niklas Kronwall-Brian Lashoff
Kyle Quincey-Jonathan Ericsson
Jakub Kindl-Ian White
Petr Mrazek will make his NHL debut in goal tonight; Jimmy Howard gets his first night off but is the backup.
Healthy Scratches include wing Patrick Eaves and former Blues defenseman Kent Huskins. The Red Wings have a slew of injuries, including wing Jan Mursak (shoulder), center Darren Helm (back), wing Mikael Samuelsson (groin), defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder), defenseman Brendan Smith (shoulder), MacDonald (back) and Gustavsson (groin).