Tuesday, March 4, 2014

(3-4-14) Lightning-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS --  The emphasis on the Blues' blockbuster trade was bringing goalie Ryan Miller into the fold.

But it shouldn't fall on deaf ears when Steve Ott was included in the trade with the Buffalo Sabres that yeiled Jaroslav Halak, Chris Stewart, prospect William Carrier and a pair of draft picks.

Ott, a first round pick (25th overall) of the Dallas Stars in 2000, has nine goals and 20 points in 60 games this season, but the Blues didn't just take him on as a throw-in to the Miller trade. Ott will play a key role down the stretch and from the Blues' perspective, a long playoff run.

"He's tenacious," said Brenden Morrow, Ott's teammate and linemate in Dallas. "That would be the best way to describe him. He brings a lot of energy, he's a sparkplug and he's going to ruffle some feathers for the other team. He's one of those guys where you hate him when you play against him, but he's one of the guys you love on your team. We're going to have a lot of fun together. Guys are going to kind of gravitate towards him."

Ott's game has been described as one with a sandpaper, abrasive mentality. He agrees.

"Yeah, completely," said Ott, who can play all three positions up front. "I think my offense comes from that. Obviously I want to help contribute. Being physical and being able to play in different spots in the lineup and trying to be versatile is something that I've tried to establish over my career.

"I'd probably say I'm more of a left winger that takes faceoffs. I play center, I play right wing. This year, I've probably broken it up all three equally to be honest with you. I think trying to be versatile in a sense that you can play any kind of position. You can move up or down the lineup where needed to be. Also you want to try to grab as many minutes as you can."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, whose 40-14-6 Blues will host the Tampa Bay Lightning (34-22-5) at 7 p.m. today (NBCSN, KMOX 1120-AM), has heard it all before, that Ott is just someone that the opposition hates to play against. But there's more to his game.

"When you're physical and you're smart, it's hard to do," Hitchcock said. "He's a physical, smart player. What makes him hard to play against is he never gives up on a puck. He never gives up on a shift.

"I think what he is is a real detailed player. When you're looking at video the next day, just things that you need to win with, he does. He's on the right side of pucks, he knows where to reload, he's got good stick, he's a physical guy when it's not reckless, he understands, he can count numbers on the ice, when to go after it, when to not ... I've always found him to be a real cagey, smart player. He's got great hockey sense. His competitiveness has always been there, but when you've got competitiveness with great hockey sense, I think it's a good fit. The way we need to play and the way we play, he's a real fit for us. He's a real good fit because we're able to play him in every situation."

Ott has heard it before as well, that he's hated and that opposing fans give it to him. But in that sense, he understands he's doing his job right.

"Yeah I love to be hated in a sense I'm doing my job out there if people are noticing or are unhappy with the compete," Ott said. "I just want to contribute in any possible way I can. I've got to keep my game at a high level of compete and kind of grind away. There's a lot of guys in this dressing room that play that way, so just continuing to press that way. Having wave after wave after wave of lines coming at you in strength in numbers makes you just want to fit in here."

Being traded to the Blues was the ideal situation for Ott, who comes into a situation where he gets to be re-acclimated with familiar faces of the past.

"I was drafted in 2000 and Hitch won the Cup in '99 (in Dallas) and the next year they went to the conference finals I believe," said Ott, who has 103 goals and 264 points in 674 career games with Dallas, Buffalo and St. Louis. "He would come over and watch me play when they'd come to Detroit and come over to Windsor. I had him for training camps and summer times and exhibition games there. Obviously I have some old times with Hitch and Doug Armstrong was my GM for six years. He was instrumental along with Robbie Dimaio, who's the head scout here and also Brett Hull that's part of this organization that I had as a general manager and some exhibition stuff as well.

"If you could ask me the ideal situation, it would have to be St. Louis by far. I've played with good friend Brenden Morrow. I played world juniors with (Jay) Bouwmeester and 'Jacko' (Barret Jackman). I've played with Jordan Leopold as well in Buffalo. I have some small connections here, also coming along with Ryan Miller. It couldn't be more of a perfect situation on an individual side of things."

Ott will be No. 29 in your programs tonight, but at first glance, Blues fans will quickly learn the number on the back is irrelevant. He'll play for the logo on the front and is eager to showcase himself to the Gateway City.

"I want to make a favorable impression, for sure," Ott said. "I would say the last game was nice to get all those butterflies out. I felt like a kid again in a sense of being a rookie. Coming into a dressing room with new faces and the nerves of excitement. Tonight it's going to be fun to maybe back off the nerves a little bit in terms of establishing all the guys and meeting everyone already."

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Miller will also make his home debut tonight after stopping 23 of 25 shots Sunday in a 4-2 win against the Phoenix Coyotes, a game in which the Blues rallied from a 2-0 third-period deficit.

Miller's ties with the Blues don't just go back to Friday. He was a fan growing up watching his cousin Kevin Miller (1992-95) whirl around in the Bluenote and a being real fond of Curtis Joseph (1989-95).

"Kevin being here definitely helped, but Curtis Joseph being here is a big deal for me; my favorite goaltender growing up," Miller said. "Him and (Martin) Brodeur were kind of the guys I looked (up) to. Curtis Joseph really first before Brodeur even broke into the league. 

"Just the way (Joseph) would compete and go about his business. You could tell he was a good person. He competed really hard and did whatever needed to stop the puck. He was really inspirational for a young goaltender and something where I really am blown away that I'm playing for the St. Louis Blues. I had a jersey, I had a hat. It was all about 'Cujo' and all about my cousin for a long time."

Miller, who sported a backup white goalie mask in his debut Sunday, said it will stay with him for roughly "10-14 days." He's in the market for a new one and may solicit Blues fans for ideas.

"I just had the white mask as a backup ready to go in Buffalo," Miller said. "I'll get a new one painted up here shortly. I don't know ... you guys got any ideas? I'd like to keep the (Olympic) one for the international. Maybe I'll have to put one up on Twitter and see what fans can come up with. I think the Blues emblem is great ... yeah, I've got to call Cujo. Maybe he can bust one out from back in the day."

And Miller's No. 39 stems from his days in junior hockey and not going with it in Buffalo had to do with respect for former Sabres goalie Dominik Hasek.

"The only reason I really switched away from 39 when I turned pro was Dominik Hasek was there," Miller said. "In juniors, I had the option of wearing No. 1 or No. 39. I've never had much luck with No. 1 and (the) No. 39 jersey was ripped to shreds and I still took 39. 

"When you inherit jerseys in junior league, you get the one that's passed down. I started wearing (39) and started having success and stuck with it in college. I really wanted to wear it in the pros but when you have Dominik Hasek leaving the organization, I wanted to write my own story and not have a whole lot of comparison even though it goes without saying when you play in Buffalo after Dominik Hasek, you're going to have a lot of comparisons thrown at you. But I just wanted to get as far away from No. 39 as I could going in there. Every opportunity I could wear it internationally, I would."

Miller, 33, said he's open to staying in St. Louis beyond this year, but he seems focused on the moment.

"I think it's definitely a possibility," Miller said. "I think it's a great organization. Just talking with Doug Armstrong and some of the coaching staff, they really seem to have a good handle on the kind of team they want to have. With that being said, I think it's something where I don't think we're going to have too much discussion until later on. I'm very open to it, but right now, it's going to be more about the hockey and we're going to have a lot of time later on to feel that out."

- - -

Patrik Berglund's success and play for Sweden at the Olympics has transported into his NHL game.

Berglund's two goals notwithstanding, but his play in general has been crucial after the Blues gave up Stewart in the trade to Buffalo.

"I think I've been a little bit unlucky this year too," Berglund said. "Chances have been there. They just haven't gone in. As long as I keep going and competing, especially on every shift. I have to do a good job defensively. I'll work as hard as I can to make that happen. Obviously it was nice that it paid off a little bit."

Hitchcock has noticed a few of the Blues' Olympians.

"Berglund, Bouwmeester and (Alex) Pietrangelo are the three players for me right now that I've seen that have really gone up from their Olympic experience," Hitchcock said. "They've really moved their game to another level, especially Bowumeester and Berglund. They've gained confidence. Being able to play in that atmosphere has really helped them. You can see it in their games, you can see it in their disposition on the ice. Those two guys, especially for me."

Berglund said he was concerned about his post-Olympic time with the team, but not from an on-ice perspective.

"I was kind of more worried about if I would be tired or not," Berglund said. "It's been doing pretty good so far. Now, you're getting into the times again. It has not affected me as much as I thought it would."

Berglund got the ball rolling for the Blues in that four-goal outburst in the third period that snapped a franchise-longest scoring drought of 187 minutes, 44 seconds. Berglund's goal, after a nifty behind-the-back pass from Jaden Schwartz, was the first of four goals in 15:03.

"I think we were pretty calm about it because I think we played well in Vancouver and had a really good game in Anaheim," Berglund said. "We obviously didn't score, but we created a whole lot. I think it would have been a different feeling if we didn't create anything. We just put in another gear in the third period. It was obviously nice that we could score four goals."

- - -

After sitting the three games post-Olympics, defenseman Ian Cole will return to the lineup tonight against the Lightning. He'll be paired with Roman Polak. Cole replaces Carlo Colaiacovo, who played well in his first three games of action after not playing in more than a month.

"We've got to keep him part of the team," Hitchcock said of Cole. "He's practiced hard, he's a guy that adds a lot to our team. We want to keep him and Carlo both going. We don't want to sit out guys too long. Leo's probably still 10 or 14 days away from 100 percent. We can afford having seven guys who can play. We can afford to sit on Leo until he's as close to 100 percent before we put him back in."

- - -

The Blues recalled Chris Porter from the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League Tuesday afternoon. Porter, 29, has seven goals and 18 points in 38 games with the Wolves this season.

- - -

Lightning goalie Ben Bishop, who grew up in St. Louis, will play in his first game at Scottrade Center during the regular season as an opposing goalie tonight.

Bishop, drafted by the Blues in the third round (85th overall) in 2005, was traded to the Ottawa Senators before being shipped to the Lightning late last season.

Bishop, 27, is having a Vezina Trophy-like season for Tampa Bay (29-10-4 with a 2.05 goals-against average and .932 save percentage) and is a big reason why the Lightning are in a playoff position.

"I just think I've gotten better each year," Bishop said. "Each year, I feel like I'm more calm out there. ... I've had the experience of being the starter and I think that helps tremendously."

Bishop will have plenty of family and friends in attendance tonight.

"There will be a lot of family and friends here," he said. "It'll be fun to play in front of them, but I've played in St. Louis. They've all seen me play. ... There will probably be some nerves, but I think it helps that I've played a lot of games this year. This one game's not going to make or break my season."

Also, former Blues B.J. Crombeen and Eric Brewer will be in the Lightning lineup tonight. Crombeen was acquired in 2012 for a two draft picks. Brewer was acquired via trade in 2011.

- - -

The Blues' probable lineup:

Alexander Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

Jaden Schwartz-Patrik Berglund-Vladimir Tarasenko

Brenden Morrow-Derek Roy-Steve Ott

Magnus Paajarvi-Maxim Lapierre-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk

Ian Cole-Roman Polak

Ryan Miller will start in goal; Brian Elliott will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Carlo Colaiacovo and Chris Porter. Vladimir Sobotka (knee) and Jordan Leopold (ankle) remain on injured reserve.

- - -

The Lightning projected lineup:

Ondrej Palat-Tom Pyatt-Martin St. Louis

Alex Killorn-Valtteri Filppula-Teddy Purcell

Ryan Malone-Nate Thompson-B.J. Crombeen

J.T. Brown-Vladislav Namestnikov-Nikita Kucherov

Victor Hedman-Sami Salo

Matt Carle-Michael Kostka

Eric Brewer-Mark Barberio

Ben Bishop will start in goal; Anders Lindback will be the backup.

The healthy scratch will be Keith Aulie. Injured players include Steven Stamkos (tibia), Tyler Johnson (foot) and Radko Gudas (leg).

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