Thursday, February 6, 2014

(2-6-14) Bruins-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Brenden Morrow remembers his first NHL game. He looked across the ice and remembers some intimidating players for the Philadelphia Flyers.

"I remember it being in Philadelphia and I'm looking at the 'Legion of Doom' line," Morrow said of Eric Lindros, John LeClair and Mikael Renberg. "I didn't get a whole lot of sleep that night. I flew in the day of the game. I was going on adrenaline. I'm sure I ran around and made a thousand mistakes in the game."

Which led to a lot of screaming and yelling at ... by none other than Dallas Stars coach Ken Hitchcock.

"Oh for sure," said Morrow, who becomes the 47th active player to accomplish the feat. "He didn't have many on that team he could yell at. I took the brunt of a lot of it."

Hitchcock said he remembers it, too.

"Yeah, I remember that too," Hitchcock joked. "... He was a guy we had to convince that he could play in the league. He had a great training camp, but I think we spent the first month or two convincing him that he could play because I think he was in awe of everybody. Once he felt comfortable that he could play ... he got in a couple fights the first month. Once he felt comfortable he could play in the league, I think he just started to take off from there."

Morrow is in his 14th season. He has 258 goals and 561 points in a career that includes serving as captain of the Stars from 2006-2013.

"I've fooled a lot of people for a long time when you've got that many games here," Morrow joked. "They all kind of blend into each other, but I'm just happy to get one in this league and to be around this long, it's just gravy on top."

The modest guy he is, Morrow never looks to gain attention. He was willing to talk more about the impressive run of consecutive games teammate Jay Bouwmeester has played in.

"I don't really look at myself a lot," Morrow said. "I look at guys like 'Bouw' that have played that many consecutive. That's an accomplishment. Mine's just fooled a lot of people for a long time. His ... that's just something pretty special to be able to play at a high level like he does and stay healthy."

Bouwmeester, who has played in 690 consecutive regular season games and holds the NHL's Iron Man streak, gives credit to players like Morrow for persevering playing the game the right way.

"A thousand is obviously the benchmark," Bouwmeester said. "You appreciate it more just sort of the everyday grind it is. Guys are always dealing with injuries and that sort of thing. It takes an amount of perseverence and hard work obviously, but guys like him and the kind of game he plays it's a workers game. He spends a lot of time in front of the other team's net and getting in those areas where things can happen and you get banged up a little bit. He's not a small guy, but he's not the biggest guy either. That speaks for him and the effectiveness that he can play with for obviously a long period of time. That's something to be proud of."

Morrow would like to reach 1,000 games, but that would take at least two more seasons of relatively healthy hockey.

"I think I can," he said. "If you would have asked me a couple years ago, I thought I would have been ready to hang 'em up, but the body's starting to feel a lot better now. I feel pretty good.

"I'm sure it was a breath of fresh air going to Pittsburgh last year knowing you're going to be part of the playoffs again and getting those juices going. I think that helped a lot. Those last few years in Dallas, attendance was really low. Payroll's not really competing with a lot of other teams in the league. It took its toll. Being on a good team certainly helps a lot."

- - -

The Blues (37-12-6) are likely to be without winger Vladimir Tarasenko today when they host the Boston Bruins (36-16-3) at 7 p.m. (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM).

Hitchcock said Tarasenko has flu-like symptoms and the team told him to stay at home.

Dmitrij Jaskin, who has one goal in six games, will play tonight and is expected to play with Derek Roy and Jaden Schwartz.

"Yes. Jaskin will go in, Tarasenko has got flu-like symptoms so he was left at home. I don't think he'll play tonight," Hitchcock said. "... We haven't lost Tarasenko yet. He's still got the rest of the day, but we like Jaskin. He's a good player for us. He's come up, made a good account for himself. If he plays tonight, I don't think we miss a beat. I know he's 20 years old, but he's a dominant player in the American (Hockey) League. He's big, he's strong, he protects the puck well, fits the way we play. He's right on the cusp of being a regular player for us. If he gets the chance to play, I gotta feeling he's going to take advantage of this knowing the window if opportunity here for the next couple of games."

Jaskin, whose father Alexei and brother Mikhail are in town, will have the chance to play his first NHL game in front of family and is excited for the opportunity.

His father has been his biggest coach and critic.

"I think I've done it enough times," Jaskin said of playing in front of his dad. "I'm just so excited. I can't be more excited. It's a big game, especially since my father and brother are here.

"He's always saying something to me. It doesn't matter, after the game or before the game. He always has something to say. I just appreciate him for it. I learned a lot from him. When he's back home, we're on the phone all the time."

The Blues did avoid a bit of a scare when Roman Polak was struck in the face during a drill this morning when a deflected puck caught him. Polak went off the ice holding his face but Hitchcock said his rugged defenseman will be fine to play after getting some stitches.

- - -

Hitchcock also revealed Thursday morning that Vladimir Sobotka (broken kneecap) is doing well and that missing the 2014 Sochi Olympics will be the third time Sobotka will miss playing in international competition for the Czech Republic.

"I never knew this, but it's his third time," Hitchcock said. "This is the third time he's been invited to represent his country ... all three times he's got hurt. That was the bigger devastation. This would have been the first time (playing). 

"With three invites and to go down, he thinks there's some black magic going on right now. He's pretty good right now. He feels pretty good today. He's thinking if he could have bought another week, he probably could have played. But he's really disappointed. He's heart-broken by this."

- - -

Hitchcock was greeted at his morning presser by six-year-old Aiden, who has kidney cancer called Wilms' Tumor

Aiden got to ask Hitchcock the first few questions.

Aiden: "Are you going to win tonight?"

Hitchcock: "That's a lot of pressure Aiden. I sure hope so. If the broadcasters have a good game, we'll be alright."

Aiden also asked about any lineup changes and what are the Boston Bruins going to bring.

See Aiden interview Hitch here:|STL|home

- - -

When David Warsofsky takes the ice Thursday night for the Bruins, he can only hope to help alleviate the void left by Zdeno Chara's absence. 

Warsofsky will play in only his fifth NHL game against the Blues, replacing the Bruins' captain in the lineup. 

The Bruins will be without Chara for the final two games leading up to the 2014 Sochi Olympics because the Bruins' captain and 2009 Norris Trophy winner has left for Sochi and will be the flag bearer of Slovakia for the opening ceremony Friday. 

"I don't think I can play that high, how many minutes he usually plays," Warsofsky said of Chara, who averages 24:57 minutes per game. "I just want to play my game. The whole 'D' corps will have to step up. I'm looking forward to it." 

Warsofsky, coincidentally, was the originally drafted by the Blues in the fourth round of the 2008 NHL Draft. Warsofsky, who grew up 30 miles south of Boston, was traded to the Bruins in 2010 for Sobotka. 

"I was still in college. At the time, I hadn't played in any professional games, so that wasn't a big deal to me," said Warsofsky, who has one goal in four games with the Bruins. "Obviously I got traded to my hometown organization. For me, that was a special opportunity. 

"You never want to get traded from any team, but for me, to get traded to Boston and have an opportunity to play tonight, it's a good feeling." 

Bruins coach Claude Julien said the responsibility doesn't fall on one player. 

"I think the responsibility lies on everybody that's out there," Julien said. "Everybody has to do their job. You just can't expect a player to say, 'I'm going to pick up the slack.' They may get more ice time. That may be what's expected. ... To expect someone to give more is unrealistic. 

"We're going to try and manage it as best as we can, but at the same time, you've got to rely on those guys to do a job. It's as simple as that. It's not about putting pressure on [Warsofsky], it's about letting them know they've got to go out there and play their game. If they're here, we've got confidence in them to play well."

Hitchcock is in favor of what the Bruins did. Not only because the Blues won't have to see Chara, but because it's the honorable thing to do.

"First of all, it's a real classy move," Hitchcock said. "I think it speaks volumes of the organization to allow the player to do that, but I think it also shows you why the Olympics mean so much to the players because it's the first and only time an NHL player feels like he's an athlete, not an entertainer. The players yearn for that. They want to just go and play hockey. They want to be part of a team. They love that atmosphere. They love living in te village. They love that simple life. They only get to do it for two or three weeks every four years, but man, they love being able to be thought of just being part of a big-picture team. For a guy like Chara to be able to go and carry his flag, that's one of the biggest honors you get as an athlete. The Bruins allowing him to do that is pretty significant. I think it goes a long way."

If a Blues player was given that opportunity?

"I don't control that part of it, but if they're asking for my green light, I don't care who it is," Hitchcock said. "They get the green light."

- - -

Both Hitchcock and Julien, who will be assistant coaches for Canada at the Winter Olympics, have very similar comparisons when talking about tonight's opponent.

"Weight, size, structure, well-coached, good leadership, sound ... just deep," Hitchcock said. "They play four lines. They play deep in the hockey games with four lines, they trust their method, tthey trust their strategy and know at the end of the day that if you're not willing to dig in and match their pop, you're going to end up losing games in the third period. They win more games for me and control the game ... they manage the game as well as anybody in the National Hockey League right now. They've got great structure, they've got a certain way of playing. It's a little bit different than a lot of teams, but it's good for them, it's good for their personnel and they build their team around the way they want to play. I find their games really good challenges. 

"We had a great challenge in Boston (on Nov. 21, a 3-2 Blues shootout victory). They were probably a little bit better than us, but our goalie was great that night. I'm really looking forward to getting a good read on our players. This will be a great test for us and for them. Both teams are relatively healthy and I think from our standpoint, it's going to be a really good test to see the depth of our play."

Said Julien: "They're big, they're physical and they're talented. Those two teams matching up creates a pretty interesting game. It did last time. You're probably going to end up seeing the same thing tonight."

- - -

The Blues' probable lineup:

Alexander Steen-David Backes-Chris Stewart

Magnus Paajarvi-Patrik Berglund-T.J. Oshie

Jaden Schwartz-Derek Roy-Dmitrij Jaskin

Brenden Morrow-Maxim Lapierre-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk

Jordan Leopold-Roman Polak

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

Healthy scratches include Ian Cole and Carlo Colaiacovo. Vladimir Tarasenko (flu-like symptoms) is doubtful. Vladimir Sobotka (knee) is on injured reserve.

- - -

The Bruins' probable lineup:

Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Jarome Iginla

Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Reilly Smith

Carl Soderberg-Chris Kelly-Loui Eriksson

Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton

David Warsofsky-Dougie Hamilton

Matt Bartkowski-Johnny Boychuk

Torey Krug-Kevan Miller

Tuukka Rask will start in goal. Chad Johnson is the backup.

Healthy scratches include Zdeno Chara and Jordan CaronAdam McQuaid (leg) and Dennis Seidenberg (knee) are on injured reserve.

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