Jackman, Shattenkirk reunited; Halak eager to play; tonight's lineup
By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- When the Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning drop the puck tonight at Scottrade Center, there will be a familiar defensive paring on the ice once again.
Barret Jackman and Kevin Shattenkirk, who shared so many games and ice time together for much of the past year and a half under Ken Hitchcock, will line up next to each other again tonight in the third preseason game. The puck drops at 7 p.m. (Y-98.1 FM)
There was a perception that Hitchcock would leave the units the way they ended last season, with Shattenkirk playing with Jordan Leopold and Jackman and Roman Polak as the third unit, or better known as the shutdown pair.
But Hitchcock has a thought in mind when reuniting the younger Shattenkirk with the veteran Jackman, which will leave Leopold and Polak as the third unit.
"I think one of the things we're looking at all three pairs is can we have people that can move the puck in transition, out of trouble for us," Hitchcock said prior to Friday's game. "This pair looks like it works and allows us to play Leopold with Polak, which gives is a pair that can move the puck also.
"I think (Jackman) just brings stability and allows Shatty to do what he does best, which is get up in the play, play a little bit reckless. I think he's dependable there. ... You've got to be able to trust your third pair if we're going to play this pair together. Let's see what happens."
Shattenkirk said it will be a smooth transition if the coaching staff chooses to move in this direction heading into the season.
"I think we're still familiar with each other," Shattenkirk said. "... There hasn't been much of a transitioning period. It's been pretty seamless. I know the way that he likes to play and his tendencies. I think he remembers mine, so it's been pretty easy.
"With Leo, he definitely had his offensive tendencies but he was still encouraging me to be a little more aggressive on the offensive side of the puck. With Jacks, he encourages me to do it and he's a stalwart back there. He's just a great guy to have as your partner because you know he's going to take care of you and bail you out at times."
Tonight marks Jackman's first game and Shattenkirk's second. He played Sunday in the preseason opener with Jay Bouwmeester, who gets Alex Pietrangelo as a partner tonight.
"Today will give us a good indication of where guys are at," Hitchcock said of his d-pairs. "We've got two potential players playing today, so we'll see where that is.
"This is a first game for a guy like Petro, second game for Bouw, first game for Jackman, second game for Shatty so we'll see where this gets to, get a better read on their conditioning level after tonight ... how many more games they're going to need."
- - -
The Blues' lineup tonight:
Alexander Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
Magnus Paajarvi-Patrik Berglund-Vladimir Tarasenko
Adam Cracknell-Maxim Lapierre-Ryan Reaves
Yannick Veilleux-Corey Locke-Tyler Shattock
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk
Ryan Whitney-Joel Edmundson
Jaroslav Halak will also make his preseason debut; Brian Elliott will be the backup.
- - -
Hitchcock said the Blues will make roster cuts down to 30 by tomorrow and have those players in place for Saturday's home game against the Dallas Stars, who the Blues beat 6-5 in a shootout in Dallas Sunday.
Some of the players playing tonight will likely not be here by the morning.
"By tomorrow night, we'll get down to 30 people total," Hitchcock said. "That should take us right to the end of exhibition.
"I think the players that are going to play the back-end of the lineup the next two games are going to be the players that we want to take a look at to get into the group of 30. I think you'll get a good read on the four or five guys that are playing tonight and then the four or five guys that we are going to evaluate to see if we're prepared to stick around with them."
- - -
Tonight also marks the second game for the Patrik Berglund line, with linemates Magnus Paajarvi and Vladimir Tarasenko. The trio played in Sunday's win and were scoreless. Hitchcock is looking for more.
"More pursuit on the puck, more winning puck races, more playing like they practice," Hitchcock said. "I thought the first game they played together, they were tentative. I think they know that and I think we're looking for a step up and I think we'll see it tonight."
- - -
Tonight also marks the debut of Halak, who hasn't seen live game action since suffering the second groin injury of the season April 1 in Minnesota. Halak stopped all five shots in that game but would not see a game again the rest of the season.
The 28-year-old Halak, who spent the summer working himself into physical shape here in St. Louis, dropped 14 pounds and reduced his body fat percentage from 13.5- to 8-percent after going 6-5-1 a season ago with a 2.14 goals-against average but only an .899 save percentage.
"I think he's eager," Hitchcock said of Halak. "I think he's been excellent after the first day of camp. I think he's been a guy that looks like he's ready to play. He's obviously going to play in two or maybe even three of the next four games, so we'll get him ready and see from there.
"He looks like he's ready. He looks like he's flat-ready to play some games now. The next process for him is being in the net. We're going to play him all three periods today and hopefully get his timing going."