Tuesday, April 1, 2014

(4-1-14) Flyers-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Magnus Paajarvi doesn't care where he plays, as long as he's in the lineup for the Blues.

Paajarvi, who's been playing left wing for the Blues (50-17-7) throughout the season, will line up as the right wing with Patrik Berglund and Steve Ott when the Blues host the Philadelphia Flyers (39-27-11) at 7 p.m. today (NBCSN, KMOX 1120-AM).

Paajarvi, who has six goals and 12 points in 48 games, was a healthy scratch Saturday against the Dallas Stars.

"As a forward, you end up on both sides a lot," Paajarvi said. "To me, it doesn't matter. The only difference is I'm coming lower just because of the breakout. That's pretty much it. That maybe helps me a lot to come low and get some space. Other than that, it doesn't really matter to me. Either side, I don't care."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock has been searching for a replacement at right wing since Vladimir Tarasenko (thumb) left the lineup following the Blues' win at Nashville on March 15. 

"To play the off-wing, you either have to have a quick stick or quick feet, and he's got both," Hitchcock said of Paajarvi. "He's a really effective player. I think for us, when Tarasenko went down, we tried to use other people on the right wing. 

"It doesn't suit Steve Ott. He's a left winger-center iceman. He plays much better on the left, he plays with more tempo. When you're playing on the off-wing, you've got to play a lot of the game with  your back to the play; Paajarvi's comfortable playing over there like that. He knows how to spin and get away from people. It's a better line."

Hitchcock has used Ott, Berglund and Paajarvi previously and likes the group. 

"We've had that line play twice together," Hitchcock said. "It's been very effective. Paajarvi's back feeling good about himself now, so we'll put him in and keep him going. We want to keep that line together as much as we can here to finish the season and see how we look."

Hitchcock said he'd "send a message" to some players following Saturday's 4-2 loss to the Stars. Brenden Morrow moves up to play on the second line, Derek Roy will play left wing on the fourth line and Chris Porter will be a healthy scratch. Also, Carlo Colaiacovo goes back in on defense and Ian Cole comes out.

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The Blues' penalty kill has been a good source of motivation for the team for much of the season, but moreso in the past month.

Since Feb. 1, the penalty kill has thwarted the opposition 62 of 67 times and the Blues have jumped up to No. 2 in the NHL overall with an 86.1 percent efficiency rating (behind New Jersey at 87.1 percent).

In the past 11 home games, the Blues are 31 of 34 on the penalty kill.

"The game against Dallas, we killed the penalties, but we probably could have been a little more sharper," defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said. "Penalty kill for the most part is hard work and trying to 1) not let team set up and when they are in vulnerable positions in your end, you want to jump on them and pressure. It's just four guys working together. 

"At the start of the year, we let in a whole bunch of power play goals and since then, we've tightened it up and have been pretty good. The last couple games we haven't been as sharp but maybe have gotten away with it. You adjust some things and move forward."

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The Blues, who lost the most recent meeting with the Flyers on March 22 (4-1), will not see Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen Tuesday after the 39-year-old suffered an upper-body injury taking a puck off the face.

The Flyers adjusted all their defensive pairings, and Erik Gustafsson will be inserted into the lineup for the first time in 15 games.

Hitchcock said the Blues will adjust accordingly.

"A little bit because their three groups of defensemen are really defined," Hitchcock said of the Flyers, who the Blues outshot 33-19 in the last meeting. "You've got a physical player, puck mover, physical player, puck mover across the board there. 

"For us, it's more that their defensemen are coming all the time on the attack. It's more of our defending against the rush. They're one team that's brought more numbers on the attack than we've seen for a long time. ... In the game in the afternoon (March 22), that's one game that we weren't ready for. They were bringing all five guys right into the top of the circles. I think hopefully we'll be a little more ready for it this time."

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Flyers captain Claude Giroux, named the NHL's Third Star of the Month in March on Tuesday, is looking for that elusive first goal against the Blues.

Giroux, who has three assists in five career games against St. Louis, has scored on the other 28 teams in the NHL aside from the Blues.

"They're a good team," Giroux said of the Blues. "There's a reason why they're at the top of the league. They play hard, they don't lose a lot of battles. 

"We can't be fooling ourselves. They kind of outplayed us. We obviously got the win (last time), but I think they out-battled us in the faceoff dot and in the corners. They're a big team that works hard and they're pretty strong. It's going to be a really good test for us tonight."

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* The Blues power play has heated up again the past three games, going 5-for-12. Prior to the past three games, the Blues needed 18 games to score five power play goals.

* The Blues finished March 11-3-1, tying for the best month of the season (11-3-1 in November). 

* The Flyers are visiting St. Louis for the first time since Oct. 9, 2010, a 2-1 Blues victory in overtime. 

* The Blues' top line of David Backes, Alexander Steen and T.J. Oshie has 18  points the past three games.

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The Blues' probable lineup:

Alexander Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

Brenden Morrow-Vladimir Sobotka-Jaden Schwartz

Steve Ott-Patrik Berglund-Magnus Paajarvi

Derek Roy-Maxim Lapierre-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman-Roman Polak

Carlo Colaiacovo-Kevin Shattenkirk

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

Healthy scratches include Ian Cole, Chris Porter and Dmitrij Jaskin. Jordan Leopold continues to recover from a high-ankle sprain; Leopold said his injury is manageable enough to play but he won't be 100 percent until given sufficient time to rest. Vladimir Tarasenko (thumb) began skating Monday but is still at least a couple weeks away from being fully activated. 

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The Flyers' probable lineup:

Scott Hartnell-Claude Giroux-Jakub Voracek

Tye McGinn-Brayden Schenn-Wayne Simmonds

Matt Read-Sean Couturier-Michael Raffl

Zac Rinaldo-Vincent Lecavalier-Adam Hall

Luke Schenn-Erik Gustafsson

Braydon Coburn-Nicklas Grossmann

Andrew MacDonald-Mark Streit

Ray Emery will get the start in goal; Steve Mason is the backup.

Healthy scratches include Jay Rosehill and Hal Gill. Kimmo Timonen (upper body) and Steve Downie (upper body) will not play.

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