Saturday, November 23, 2013

(11-23-13) Stars-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Brenden Morrow knew the day would come sooner or later.
At some point in time after he was traded away from the only team he's ever known, Morrow was going to face the Dallas Stars.

Morrow, the 34-year-old left wing who now dons the St. Louis Blues jersey, will line up against the team that took him with the 25th pick in the 1997 NHL Draft when the Blues and Stars meet for the first time this season as Central Division rivals Saturday night.

Morrow, who's played in 865 career games over 14 seasons, 835 of them have been with the Stars, including the last seven as their captain.

"It's going to be strange," Morrow said after the morning skate Saturday. "I think there's nine or 10 fresh faces over there, so it's not like I know the whole team but it's still some great memories of that franchise and I'm still real close with a lot of the players there. It's going to be a strange game.

"There's going to be a little bit more intensity into it tonight. Usually it's messing around and joking around. I still haven't put a whole lot of thought into how I'm going to feel. It just feels like another game at the moment right now, but once I get out there and see all the guys and the puck's dropped, there might be some different feelings going through my mind."

When Morrow was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins before last season's trade deadline, it ended his captain's reign with the Stars and Morrow more or less sent the baton over to current Stars captain Jamie Benn, who Morrow took under his wing after the Stars drafted him in the fifth round in 2007.

"We got to build a pretty good relationship," Benn said. "I was a few years younger than him. He's done a lot for me and it was nice to catch up for dinner with him last night. I'm looking forward to tonight and I'm sure he's going to look a lot different with that Blues jersey on.

"I guess it's going to happen. It's going to be a little different. He was obviously a big player, a big part of me developing into the player I am today and just growing up and being a professional and the way he treated others. He kind of took me under his wing when I first came in as a rookie."

Morrow spent Friday night with some of his former teammates over dinner, and there were some playful jabs exchanged. But when the puck drops Saturday, it's all business.

"I still care about how that team's doing and how those guys are doing," Morrow said. "I keep an eye on some games when I get a chance, but once the puck drops tonight, I know who's team I'm on."

Best Stars memories for Morrow?
"The first season going to the Stanley Cup Finals ... the only time I've been there so that was a great time," Morrow said. "Getting to play with my hockey idol Brett Hull in Dallas was pretty special for me and then we had a good run in '08. Those are probably my top three memories of that franchise."

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Blues center Patrik Berglund (upper body) will be a game-time decision after skating for the second straight morning skate. Berglund, who's missed three games, said he feels better after skating Thursday in Boston and Saturday.

"The rehab has been good and skating and shooting's been much better. We'll see," Berglund said. "Hopefully I can be out there and playing."

Added Blues coach Ken Hitchcock: "We put him through the paces again today. If he feels fine, then a good chance he plays, yeah."

Hitchcock said it's been a big difference with Berglund's big body out of the lineup.

"He’s really competitive on the puck," Hitchcock said. "I think when you play against teams like Washington and Boston, you get a real good look at what happens when you don’t have size in the lineup … because they do. They’ve got competitive big guys in the middle of the ice and I thought it really showed on the road trip."

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Jaden Schwartz may have been the last person to know the first goal the Blues scored in Boston Thursday was his.

The goal that tied the game 1-1 late in the first period was initially given to Derek Roy, whose shot from the top of the left circle slow-motioned through three pairs of skates -- including goalie Tuukka Rask -- before the puck found the back of the net.

Schwartz was tangling to the left of Rask with Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski before the two went down. The puck apparently grazed the skate of Schwartz and the NHL officially changed it late Friday morning.

"My parents told me ... well, a couple people told me that they thought it went off my skate," Schwartz said. "I was getting mauled in front, so I had no idea.

"I think it went through (Rask's) legs and just hit me. I was getting in front of the net and the guy was kind of on my back and tying me up."

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After a pair of strong starts by Jaroslav Halak in Buffalo and Boston, Hitchcock will go with Brian Elliott in goal tonight.

Elliott, who is 3-0-1 with a 1.94 goals-against average and .921 save percentage, last started the Blues' 4-2 win against Carolina a week ago today. Elliott came on after Halak was pulled from a 4-1 loss to Washington last Sunday.

"We need to reward good play," Hitchcock said. "Heck, he’s played great. He’s played great every game. We need to reward good play. He’s deserved probably to play more just based on his play, so this is an opportunity with us playing every second night for four more games here, an opportunity for him to hopefully get a couple of more starts here."

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The Blues are in a similar position today as they were beating the Pittsburgh Penguins two weeks ago.

That 2-1 victory over the Penguins was an emotional win, and the Blues (15-3-3) came out flat in their next game against a Phoenix, a 3-2 overtime loss.

After an emotional 3-2 shootout win Thursday against Boston, Hitchcock is interested to see how his team responds tonight.

"I don’t know. With these days off that the players get, I don’t know what takes place the next day," Hitchcock said. "Because you’ve got a day away and you’re trying to do four jobs in one day. We tried to keep it a little loose today and see if we can get more energy than we can from perfection. We’re in that time where you just can’t practice. You have to save your energy for games and boy we would love to have a couple of hockey practices. We’re a literal team not a visual team, and when we practice we really play well. We’re not getting that opportunity right now so we’re going to have to do it with energy. This is going to be a big challenge for us because Dallas plays with high energy."

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The Stars (11-8-2), who have played the fewest home games in the NHL this season, will be shooting for their seventh straight road win tonight.

"Our goalie's been unbelievable," defenseman Stephane Robidas said of Kari Lehtonen, who will start tonight and is 10-4-2 with a 2.08 GAA and .931 save percentage. "Kari's been standing on his head, especially that last game in Vancouver (a 2-1 Stars win). He stole the game for us.

"I think overall we've been playing a good team game. We keep things simple. We try to play a fast, high tempo North-South game."

But the Stars certainly respect their opponent here in the Blues.

"Right now, they're going as good as any team in the league," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "Obviously their record speaks for itself. Their special tams are good, they've got a good mixture of size, their backends is one of the top backends in the league. That size alone on the backend is something with that mobility."

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The Blues' probable lineup (with the status of Berglund a game-time decision):

Alexander Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

Jaden Schwartz-Vladimir Sobotka-Vladimir Tarasenko

Brenden Morrow-Derek Roy-Chris Stewart

Magnus Paajarvi-Maxim Lapierre-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk

Ian Cole-Roman Polak

Brian Elliott will start in goal. Jaroslav Halak is the backup.

Healthy scratches include Carlo Colaiacovo and Adam Cracknell. Patrik Berglund (upper body) is a game-time decision. Jordan Leopold (hand) is on injured reserve.

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The Stars' probable lineup:

Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin-Valeri Nichushkin

Erik Cole-Cody Eakin-Alex Chiasson

Antoine Roussel-Vernon Fiddler-Rich Peverley

Dustin Jeffrey-Shawn Horcoff-Ryan Garbutt

Brenden Dillon-Stephane Robidas

Alex Goligoski-Trevor Daley

Sergei Gonchar-Jordie Benn

Kari Lehtonen will start in goal. Dan Ellis is the backup.

Healthy scratches for the Stars include Kevin Connauton and Aaron Rome. Veteran Ray Whitney (groin) is on injured reserve.

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