Saturday, October 12, 2013

(10-12-13) Rangers-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- In search of their first 4-0-0 start in franchise history, the Blues are not focused on records.

Instead, they're more focused on the New York Rangers (1-3-0) and winning a hockey game today (7 p.m. on FSN, KMOX 1120-AM and Y 98-FM).

With the Rangers coming off back-to-back lopsided losses (9-2 at San Jose Tuesday and 6-0 at Anaheim Thursday), the Blues are hoping to keep a fragile team down but are more focused on their immediate game and not chasing records and whatnot.

"I think I read that somewhere yesterday, but we can't start thinking about the history and setting records," Blues captain David Backes said. "It's been a good start for us, no question, but (if) we take our eyes off the prize, and that's 60 minutes against the Rangers tonight, that record could still be there tomorrow.

"It's one shift at a time, one game at a time. We'll let you (media) guys write all the fuzzy, warm stories, but we've got to keep our eyes on one game at a time. ... 3-0 is great, but that means there's 79 more left. One at a time."

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The Blues will play the second of three games that coach Ken Hitchcock said will give the coaching staff a better evaluation of where the team is and where it needs to get.

The veteran Blues coach identified Wednesday's game against Chicago, tonight vs. the Rangers and Tuesday's matchup against San Jose as true tests.

And what did Hitchcock learn about his team following Wednesday's 3-2 win over the Blackhawks?

"I thought once we engaged at the end of the first period, we were right there in the second and third with them," Hitchcock said. "They can overwhelm you with their ability to win stick battles and have the puck all the time. Once we dialed that up a little bit, we were more competitive. I think the other thing is it was the first time for both teams where the game was so emotional and so intense, that if you're thinking wasn't proper on the ice, you just gave up odd-man rushes. For a 3-2 hockey game, there were almost 17 or 18 odd-man rushes, which is a lot. That's because the tempo and puck movement is way ahead of the acknowledgement of the checking, so you're caught halfway a lot.

"You get a playoff game this early in the season, I don't think your defensive responsibilities are up to speed, so I think both teams learned from that."

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Some nuggets of note for tonight's game:

* Jaroslav Halak, who has a 1.34 goals-against average and .948 save percentage (both good for sixth in the league), will be shooting for his first 4-0 start to his career. He also began 3-0 last season.

* The Blues will be gunning for their 10th consecutive home victory tonight, which dates back to last season.

* Hitchcock earned his 75th win with the Blues, which ties him for seventh in team history with Mike Keenan.

* Since the 2000-01 season, the Blues are 9-1-3 against the Rangers, including 5-1-2 at Scottrade Center.

* Rangers goaltenders Henrik Lundqvist (0-3-0) and Martin Biron (1-7-0-2) are a combined 1-10-0-2 against the Blues in their careers. The Blues are the only team in the NHL Lundqvist hasn't beaten in his career.

* The Blues won the last meeting between the teams, a 4-1 victory on home ice Dec. 15, 2011.

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The Blues will go with the same lineup for a fourth consecutive game:

Alexander Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

Brenden Morrow-Derek Roy-Chris Stewart

Jaden Schwartz-Patrik Berglund-Vladimir Tarasenko

Vladimir Sobotka-Maxim Lapierre-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Jordan Leopold-Kevin Shattenkirk

Barret Jackman-Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak will earn his fourth consecutive start tonight; Brian Elliott is the backup.

Healthy scratches include LW Magnus Paajarvi, RW Adam Cracknell and D Ian Cole.

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The Rangers had a very limited optional skate, with only four skaters on the ice. Their projected lineup:

Brad Richards-Derick Brassard-Ryan Callahan

Benoit Pouliot-Brian Boyle-Jesper Fast

Taylor Pyatt-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello

Derek Dorsett-Dominic Moore-Arron Asham

Marc Staal-Dan Girardi

Ryan McDonagh-Anton Stralman

John Moore-Michael Del Zotto

Martin Biron will earn his first start in goal; Henrik Lundqvist will be the backup.

Rangers injuries include RW Rick Nash (upper body), C Carl Hagelin (shoulder). D Justin Falk will be a healthy scratch for a fourth consecutive game.

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