Saturday, February 9, 2013

(2-9-13) Ducks-Blues Gameday Lineup

The Blues' 6-1-0 start seems like a distant memory.

So in order for the Blues (6-4-0) to break a three-game losing streak tonight against the Anaheim Ducks (7-2-1), coach Ken Hitchcock will try and spice things up by juggling his lineup.

Andy McDonald will move up with David Backes and T.J. Oshie, David Perron slides in with Patrik Berglund and Chris Stewart, while Alex Steen will be flanked by the two Vladimirs -- Sobotka and Tarasenko.

"The twosomes [on defense] aren't changing, but just looking at trying to add," Hitchcock said. "I think we've gone pretty close to three games without scoring five-on-five. Our power play's been terrific all year, but if you don't score five-on-five, you're not gonna win a lot of hockey games."

The Blues have not scored a five-on-five goal since Matt D'Agostini's goal at the 13:04 mark of the first period at Detroit on Dec. 1 -- three games ago. They've played 166:56 since and have three power play goals in that stretch.

"As I said to the players, this is an opportunity from a team-building standpoint we just don't want to pass up," Hitchcock said. "You can't build your team through good times. You build it through the tough times, and this is an unbelievable opportunity for us. We've got to take advantage of this.

"Over the next two or three games, this can really cement good team play because you have to. Things were a little bit easy at the start and now we've hit some rough water. Now this is a chance for the players to rebuild some chemistry and good play. We're right on the cusp of doing that if we just continue down the same path."

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One change that the Blues will make is inserting Ian Cole in on defense, and Kris Russell will be a healthy scratch for the first time this season and since he was acquired by the Blues.

Russell, who doesn't have a point in 10 games, is a combined minus-4 in the last two games and Hitchcock wants him to get a chance to rest and hit "a reset button."

"It's a group of seven ... it's more a group of four on the left," Hitchcock said. "Ian Cole hasn't come out from poor play. He came out from numbers. You've got to earn it, and Russ had a tough night the last night (against Detroit Thursday). This is a chance for Ian to step up. He's got size, he's got good ability, we'd like to see him play with Petro, so take a look at that again. The two games they played together, they played very well, so we'd like to continue down that path and take a look at it."

When asked if there's something missing in Russell's game, Hitchcock said it's about getting back to his comfort zone.

"I think it's more identity," Hitchcock said. "He's a small guy, but he's a great defender. I think sometimes we need him to get back to that baseline where he's just a strong, defending player.

"I think this is just a reset button for him, take a rest and we'll get him back in right away."

Cole, who has one assist in four games but has been a scratch in six of the previous seven after starting the season playing the first three games,

"We've had a couple tough games obviously," Cole said. "That's pretty apparent with a 6-1 and 5-1 loss. ... It's no fun sitting out, no one likes it. You'd much rather get into that flow and play every night, but it is what it is. You practice hard, practice well and try to be ready to go when they need me. The number was on the board today, so get the nod, play well and hopefully can play a couple more games here in the future."

Cole understands it's a numbers game, even though it hasn't been exactly said to him in that fashion.

"No one's explicitly said that, but it is kind of the situation," Cole said. "I understand the situation ... I get it. I'm not going to be the guy that comes to the rink all (upset) and down and calls and demands a trade. That's not who I really am. My job when I'm not playing is come to the rink, be in a good mood, be a good teammate and just work hard and prepare myself to play when that happens. You can't get (upset) about it."

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The breakdowns the last couple games can be attributed to everyone on the ice, from the goaltending to the defensive lapses to forwards not back-checking, etc.

The Blues need goaltending, that's for sure. It was the team's backbone last season, but the Blues' defensemen have to limit the quality scoring chances allowed and have better coverage and positioning in front of their netminders.

"It's just panic. I think we're just not trusting each other in the defensive zone and trying to do other people's jobs," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "I think that trust that we had last year and the beginning of this season in the defensive zone is what makes us so sound defensively knowing that your teammate is going to get his job done and not having to worry about his one-on-one matchup in the zone, and even if something does break down, having the poise to make a recovery on it."

As veteran defenseman Barret Jackman put it, allow your teammate to make a one-on-one play.

"It's a little bit of a lack of trust and it's a little bit of trying to do too much," Jackman said. "Sometimes you might see one of your partners or forward are in trouble and you want to help out. Really, the best thing to do is hold your ice, make sure you have your guy and let the one-on-one's take place.

"(We need) everyone on the same page, everyone checking together. Just making sure that we're not over-thinking the game. It's simple: you work hard, you work in the right direction, you work together and you get results. That's something that we haven't done. For one shift it's been good, and then two or three shifts, things get tough and we kind of get away from it. That's not what our identity is."

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The Blues' probable lineup tonight:

Andy McDonald-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

David Perron-Patrik Berglund-Chris Stewart

Vladimir Sobotka-Alex Steen-Vladimir Tarasenko

Jaden Schwartz-Scott Nichol-Ryan Reaves

Ian Cole-Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk

Wade Redden-Roman Polak

Brian Elliott will get his third straight start in goal; Jake Allen is the backup.

Scratches include wings Jamie Langenbrunner and Matt D'Agostini as well as Russell. Goaltender Jaroslav Halak (groin strain) took shots today in the morning skate and will skate on his own Sunday. He could return as early as Monday.

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The Ducks, who fell 3-1 at Dallas Friday night, did not skate this morning. But here is their probable lineup:

Emerson Etem-Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry

Kyle Palmieri-Bobby Ryan-Teemu Selanne

Andrew Cogliano-Saku Koivu-Daniel Winnik

Matt Beleskey-Nick Bonino-Brad Staubitz

Francois Beauchemin-Sheldon Souray

Luca Sbisa-Toni Lydman

Bryan Allen-Ben Lovejoy

Viktor Fasth is expected to get the start in goal; Jonas Hiller, who was lifted Friday night in Dallas with a lower-body injury, was out of the lineup, as the team recalled Jeff Deslauriers from the AHL Saturday afternoon to be the backup.

Ducks scratches include defensemen Jordan Hendry and Sami Vatanen as both were assigned to Albany. Right wing Rickard Rakell is a healthy scratch. Defenseman Cam Fowler has an upper-body injury and is out, listed as day-to-day.

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