Thursday, April 3, 2014

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

ST. LOUIS -- Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Wednesday there were a couple players dinged up and might miss tonight's game against the Buffalo Sabres.

Turns out Alexander Steen (upper body) and Barret Jackman (lower body) will be out of the lineup when the Blues (51-17-7) face the last-place Sabres (21-45-9) at 7 p.m. (FSN, KMOX 120-AM).

Dmitrij Jaskin will replace Steen in the lineup and initially on the top line with David Backes and T.J. Oshie, while Jordan Leopold will replace Jackman in the lineup.

"Unless a guy's out for the season, these guys are day-to-day with injuries," Hitchcock said. "Steen is upper-body, Jackman's lower-body. Both won't play tonight and then we'll see whether they're going to play on the weekend or not right now."

Leopold, who has missed a combined 44 games this season (26 earlier in the season with a hand injury and another 18 recently with a high ankle sprain that turned into the stomach flu), will see his first action since being injured Feb. 8 against Winnipeg.

"It's been a long year," Leopold said. "I'm excited to go out and play a hockey game instead of practicing with nobody.

"It's not unfamiliar situation for myself. I went through it many years back in Colorado. It's definitely not fun, but the biggest thing is we're a collective group of guys here, not just 20 that suit up for games. I just have to keep myself ready and get the rust out tonight. That's the biggest thing for me. It's a been a long year. I haven't played a lot games consecutively other than the start of the year. To go out and build on something would be good."

Leopold has one goal and six points in 24 games and will play with Roman Polak.

"It's just a matter of getting timing down really," Leopold said. "It's simple; simple is better than trying to be complex out there. I don't think you'll see anything special out of myself out there tonight other than just move the puck and play good 'D.'

"It's not a very easy injury to deal with. It's unfortunate, but it is what it is. You go out there and deal with it as you go."

Hitchcock feels it's all about being part of the group but was asked what to expect from his veteran defenseman.

"I'm not sure," he said. "It's the first game in a long time. He's had a stop-and-go season. We're going to need him. You never know with a veteran player. I think if he was a younger player, this would be a really difficult time. I think he's going to manage his minutes well. We are going to try and play him a few times here and get him up to speed and get him part of the group as much as we can. We're going to put him in situations, mostly defensive situations and get him used to playing some minutes. ... We're hoping the ankle is like 99.8 percent and hoping he can survive on that. The quicker we get him up to speed, the better it is."

Jaskin, a healthy scratch the past five games after playing three in a row since being recalled from the Chicago Wolves for the fourth time, is relishing the role of perhaps playing the entire game in a top six role.

"I can't wait for the next game," said Jaskin, who has a goal and an assist in 12 games. "It's here now and I'm just really happy and excited for tonight. Hopefully it's going to go well.

"I think it's a huge opportunity for me to get a lot of experience. Just learn and listen."

Hitchcock said Jaskin has had unfair expectations placed on him in the early going.

"I think it's unfair. We're going to use Jaskin there, we're going to use Derek Roy there," he said. "One of them is going to play there. We'll see how it looks early in the game, which way we go. They're going to do some flipping of positions. We're hopeful that we get both Jacks and Steener back quickly here. They're not going to miss a lot of time, but they're going to miss some time here. We're going to use other guys and hopefully they can keep us up to speed.

In the long run, Hitchcock feels this time in the NHL will be beneficial for the 2011 second round pick.

"Yes, very much so.," Hitchcock said. "Two things. First of all, he was pretty banged up when he came because he's played so many minutes. He's been a target, he's a young player in the American Hockey League. He had more ice bags than anybody on our team when he first came in. He's a little healthier now and I think you're going to see a fresher player."

- - -

Ryan Miller may not be facing his former team since the trade, but Steve Ott is.

Ott, who has nine goals and 22 points in 75 games this season, was captain of the Sabres this season and co-captain last season.

"Any time in your career, you never know how many chances you have at (the Stanley Cup), this year's obviously a very strong contending team," Ott said of the Blues. "We want to win the Stanley Cup. This is a team that's built from a lot of depth. Just to be a part of it and try to contribute any way possible, it's been a lot of fun so far.

"Ryan and myself obviously went to dinner with a lot of the boys last night, reminisce on some good times. There's a lot of close friends that I'll have for life over there. But once game on, game on's game on."

Sabres coach Ted Nolan said the Blues have a quality player.

"Steve's a character guy and I'm sure he added quite a dimension to the St. Louis team," Nolan said. "He's a competitive soul. ... St. Louis is well taken care of."

Asked if he was disappointed not to see Miller in goal tonight, Nolan joked, "No no, not at all. We'll save that for another day. He's going to do a good job for St. Louis."

- - -

Chris Stewart, part of the trade sent to Buffalo for Miller and Ott, was on the ice for the morning skate with the Sabres Thursday morning.

The former Blue, who had 15 goals and 26 points this season in St. Louis, has missed the past 13 games with a right ankle injury suffered March 7 against Tampa Bay.

Stewart was initially ruled out for the remainder of the season but there's hope he can play now.

"I hope so. We're still optimistic," Stewart said. "We're just going to take it one day at a time. I'd like to push it a little more every day. So far, so good. ... Initially I thought I was going to be done for the season. 

"It was a good opportunity here to get on the road and get a couple skates in with the boys. It's just good to be around. You miss that when you're hurt."

Stewart will not play tonight, but was able to visit with former teammates for dinner Wednesday night. Turns out Kevin Shattenkirk could use a few pointers on how to accomodate for a steak dinner at the bachelor pad.

"I went to dinner with a couple of the boys last night," Stewart said. "Shatty had me over and cooked me a nice little steak, but you could tell he's a bachelor. He was out of propane five minutes into the barbeque. Still a couple more things he needs to learn. It was good to see the boys."

Did Stewart get to finish his steak? Yes, after some improvisions from Shattenkirk.

"He put it in the oven," Stewart laughed. "That's what they used to do in college days. Must have been a BU thing (Boston University)."

It's the first chance Stewart got to speak to St. Louis media since the trade Feb. 28. 

"It was pretty plain and simple. They wanted the big goalie and I got voted off the island," Stewart said. "I was the casualty. It sucks, but that's the business. I had a lot of good times here in the three-and-a-half years. I made good friends, but I'm just trying to turn the page and I'm in Buffalo now and excited for the opportunity.

"I was a little disappointed at first. You go from being ranked to win the Stanley Cup to being out of the playoffs in a day. Initially it sucked, but I wasn't necessarily happy with my role on the team. I'm happy with my role here and I'm going to get an opportunity to play big minutes and be the player I can be."

Stewart said there's no point in looking back.

"There's no point in getting caught up with that," he said. "There's nothing you can do. This is a business. That kind of stuff is going to happen. If you start reading why, why, why, you're never really going to get the answer. It's out of your control. Take the show on to Buffalo."

The silver lining is Stewart, a Toronto native, is just a short drive away from being home. Toronto is roughly 90 minutes away and his wife is pregnant with twins.

"That's kind of a blessing in disguise," Stewart said. "It's perfect. I'm an hour-and-a-half away from home. I get to see my family. I'm excited to see them, with it being a quick drive. It's a quick back and forth on days off. We're expecting kids right now, too, so it's going to be a big help."

- - -

The Blues' probable lines:

Dmitrij Jaskin-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

Carlo Colaiacovo-Kevin Shattenkirk

Jordan Leopold-Roman Polak

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

Healthy scratches include Ian Cole and Chris Porter. Barret Jackman (lower body), Alexander Steen (upper body) and Vladimir Tarasenko (thumb) are out.

- - -

The Sabres' projected lines:

Ville Leino-Tyler Ennis-Nicolas Deslauriers

Cody Hodgson-Zemgus Girgensons-Brian Flynn

Marcus Foligno-Johan Larsson-Matt D'Agostini

Cory Conacher-Matt Ellis-John Scott

Christian Ehrhoff-Rasmus Ristolainen

Mike Weber-Chad Ruhwedel

Jake McCabe-Jamie McBain

Nathan Lieuwen will start in goal; Matt Hackett will be the backup.

Drew Stafford (undisclosed), Henrik Tallinder (lowerr body), Kevin Porter (lower body), Chris Stewart (ankle), Alexander Sulzer (upper body), Michal Neuvirth (lower body), Jhonas Enroth (lower body), Torrey Mitchell (undisclosed), Tyler Myers (midsection), Zenon Konopka (back).

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