Tuesday, April 8, 2014

(4-8-14) Capitals-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Alexander Steen was casual, joking with the media after the team's morning skate Tuesday before the Blues (52-19-7) faced the Washington Capitals (35-30-13) at Scottrade Center.

The puck drops at 7 p.m. on NBCSN and Y-98 FM, and Steen will be there with the rest of his teammates.

Steen, who's missed the previous three games with an upper-body injury, will return to the lineup tonight. He's the team leader in goals (33) and is tied with T.J. Oshie for most points with 60.

"He'll play," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "He's good to go."

Steen returns to the lineup, as Hitchcock said, "when he's healthy, he's ready to go. If he's not healthy, he's not playing. He wasn't healthy the last few games so he wasn't ready to go. 

"This was the player's call and the trainer's call. When they leaned over the boards and said, 'I'm good to go,' I think it's my obligation considering he's had an unbelievable year and he's been our best player most nights. I'd be smart to put him in, so I'm pretty smart and putting him in."

Steen's return is a welcomed addition for a Blues team that dropped back-to-back games over the weekend with Colorado (4-0) and Chicago (4-2).

"It's always tough," Steen said of sitting out. "It's tough being on the side either way. Winning or losing, you want to be a part of what's going on. In a tougher stretch, you want to help turn it around. When things are going good, you want to be a part of the fun atmosphere. It's always difficult, but there's not much you can do. You just wait it out, take your time, make sure youget healthy and when you come back, you come back strong."

The Blues' line combinations this morning had players all over the place and Hitchcock said when asked about looking at people in different situations, "No, it's based on Steen."

The veteran coach then joked, "Every time I look up in the stands, you all are sleeping, so I got in the situation where I thought maybe you guys can start writing and do some work rather than just sitting there with your feet up drinking coffee."

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The Blues were inspired in the locker room this morning with a visit from Army Ranger Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg, who was an honored guest of President Barack Obama at the State of the Union address in January. 

Sgt. Remsburg, who is from St. Louis, will attend tonight’s game and drop the ceremonial first puck. He was injured by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on his 10th deployment. He was in a coma for three months and is recovering. He is partially paralyzed and brain-damaged.
Blues players (from left to right) David Backes, Derek Roy, Barret Jackman,
Vladimir Sobotka, Maxim Lapierre and T.J. Oshie surround Army Ranger
Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg this morning in the locker room. 

Sgt. Remsburg watched today’s morning skate and visited the locker room, where he met the team.

"We get more inspiration out of him being here than he has the enjoyment of being here," Blues captain David Backes said of Sgt. Remsburg. "Awesome that he'll drop a puck tonight. His sacrifices for our freedom to allow us to do what we're able to do cannot go unnoticed. We owe a lot to men and women just like him that have sacrificed a lot for us."

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Former Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak returned to St. Louis for the first time since the trade that sent him to the Buffalo Sabres that brought Ryan Miller to the Blues.

Halak, who was then shipped a few days later to the Capitals for goalie Michal Neuvirth, will not play against his former team tonight. That distinction goes to Braden Holtby, who beat the Blues 4-1 on Jan. 17 with a 46-save effort.

"It's still too fresh," Halak said of facing the Blues. "Maybe if it was under different circumstances, like next year, you know. 

"I didn't think my mind would be on the game, but it's good to be back."

In 40 games with the Blues this season, Halak was 24-9-4 with a 2.23 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. With the Caps, he's 4-4-3 with a 2.53 GAA and .923 save percentage. He started 4-2-0 and has gone 0-2-3 the past five outings.

Capitals coach Adam Oates left the decision to Halak.

"I talked to Jaro about it because (Capitals goalie coach) Olie (Kolzig) and I talked and both of us have been traded," Oates said. "We know the feelings when you go into your old stomping ground. It's not always easy and you're not always comfortable, at least not the first time. We talked to him and you know what, he just wasn't 100 percent comfortable. Unfortunately this time of year and where we're at, we can't afford that. 'Holts' has played great lately, we feel really good about that and 'Holts' is playing."

Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said he understands Halak's mental state of mind.

"It's always tough coming back for your old team and playing them," Shattenkirk said. "I've been on the other side of that. It's a little tougher as a goalie to face that kind of situation."

Another former Blue, defenseman Tyson Strachan, will play against the Blues. Strachan, played in 67 games over three seasons (2008-2011) with the Blues.

In 14 games with Washington this season, Strachan has one assist and will face the Blues for the first time since he departed via free agency.

"It's good to be back," Strachan said. "It'll be fun."

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The Blues' projected lineup:

Alexander Steen-David Backes-Jaden Schwartz

Patrik Berglund-Vladimir Sobotka-T.J. Oshie

Brenden Morrow-Derek Roy-Dmitrij Jaskin

Steve Ott-Maxim Lapierre-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk

Carlo Colaiacovo-Roman Polak

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

Healthy scratches include Jordan Leopold, Ian Cole, Magnus Paajarvi and Chris Porter. Vladimir Tarasenko (thumb) is out.

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The Capitals' probable lineup:

Mikhail Grabovski-Nicklas Backstrom-Alex Ovechkin

Evgeny Kuznetsov-Marcus Johansson-Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera-Eric Fehr-Joel Ward

Dustin Penner-Jay Beagle-Tom Wilson

Karl Alzner-John Carlson

Dmitry Orlov-Strachan

Julien Brouillette-Connor Carrick

Braden Holtby will start in goal; Jaroslav Halak will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Aaron Volpatti and John Erskine. Mike Green (upper body), Jack Hillen (upper body) and Patrick Wey (upper body) are out.

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