By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- A familiar face is expected to face the Blues on Thursday.
Vancouver Canucks goalie Ryan Miller, who was acquired by the Blues from the Buffalo Sabres prior to the NHL Trade Deadline last season, will face his former teammates when the Canucks and Blues battle at Scottrade Center (7 p.m. on FSN, KMOX 1120-AM).
Miller, who was 10-8-1 with a 2.47 goals-against average and .903 save percentage in 19 regular season games for the Blues, was expected to be the missing piece for a deep Stanley Cup Playoff run. But after the Blues went up 2-0 in their first round series against the Chicago Blackhawks, they went on to drop the next four games and lose the series in six.
Miller was 2-4 with a 2.70 GAA and .897 save percentage in the series against the Blackhawks and took a lot of heat from fans in St. Louis for the playoff failure.
The Blues informed Miller, 34, he would not be offered a contract and he went on to sign a three-year, $18 million contract with the Canucks on July 1.
"It's a team game," Blues right wing T.J. Oshie said, citing fan criticism as being unfair. "Maybe there's some pucks that he'd like to stop, but there's a lot of pucks that we would have liked to go in. You can look at our top guys, our core guys and put the blame just as much on us for not putting the puck in the net as much as for him letting them go in."
Miller, who is 3-1-0 in four games with the Canucks with a 3.20 GAA and .884 save percentage, was pulled from the Canucks' 6-3 loss to the Dallas Stars on Tuesday in the second period after allowing five goals on 13 shots.
The Blues are expecting a motivated Miller Thursday night.
"He knows us," Blues center Patrik Berglund said. "It's obviously going to boost him a little extra. We know he's one of the best goaltenders in the world. We need to have a lot of traffic in front of him so he can't see the shots.
"It was nice to just catch up and all that, but tonight we want the two points, they want the two points. It's just 100 percent going for it. Doesn't matter who plays for them or who doesn't."
The key to beating Miller?
"We've got to take his eyes away as much as we can and just shoot the puck, keep shooting," said Oshie, who also was Miller's Olympic teammate in Sochi, Russia. "I'm sure coming in here tonight, he's going to bring his 'A' game. We have to elevate our game. ... When he sees the puck, he can make some really good saves. He makes it look really easy. Traffic and second and third opportunities are going to get us some goals tonight."
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The Blues are dealing with the flu bug going around the locker room the past few days. Coach Ken Hitchcock called his lineup Thursday "fluid."
"We'll dress 20; we'll let you know who they are," Hitchcock said. "We don't know right now.
"We'll figure it out once we get to the game and see who can play and who can't."
Alexander Steen, who missed practice Wednesday because he was under the weather, briefly skated before players took the ice for the optional skate and then departed.
Jori Lehtera, who missed Sunday's 3-0 loss at Anaheim and did not practice Tuesday, was back on the ice Wednesday and was one of 15 skaters to practice Thursday morning, so he looks like he'll be ready to play tonight.
Hitchcock said Wednesday as many as 5-6 players were affected by the flu, and that number could have increased by Thursday morning.
"It's probably going to be like this throughout the whole year," Berglund said. "People get hurt. They're gone for a few days or a long time, people get sick. It's just something everybody has to deal with."
As for players who are injured, Paul Stastny (shoulder) was not wearing a sling on Wednesday at the team's practice facility. He'd been wearing it the first couple days. Hitchcock said they would reevaluate his status over the weekend.
Defenseman Carl Gunnarsson skated again Thursday and is in line to make his season debut whenever he's ready, according to Hitchcock.
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It's early, but one area the Blues would like to see improvement on is the team's goal production in the 5-on-5 game.
Coming into Thursday, the Blues are tied for last (with Florida and Carolina) for fewest goals scored 5-on-5 with six.
But compared to the goals for and goals against in 5-on-5, the Blues are tied for fifth with the Ducks at 1.50 because they've only allowed four 5-on-5 goals (behind Minnesota's two and Chicago's three).
"We've played five hockey hockey games; it feels like we've barely started," Hitchcock said. "Some teams are at eight already.
"We've played four great hockey games, and one we were a step behind. They were rested. They were waiting and they were ready (Anaheim) and we were a step behind. It took us half the game to get caught up. It's hard to argue. We haven't given up a lot of goals. I guess our concern is can we get more 5-on-5 goals? We don't want to sit there and rely on the power play like we did for the first half of last year to score all our goals for us. I think we need to be better with the puck 5-on-5, but our play without the puck has been really exceptional."
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The Blues' probable lineup:
Steve Ott-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
Alexander Steen-Patrik Berglund-Joakim Lindstrom
Jaden Schwartz-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko
Magnus Paajarvi-Maxim Lapierre-Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Ian Cole-Kevin Shattenkirk
Barret Jackman-Jordan Leopold
Jake Allen will start in goal. Brian Elliott is the backup.
Chris Porter will be the healthy scratch. Paul Stastny (shoulder) and Carl Gunnarsson (hip) are out.
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The Canucks' probable lineup:
Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Radim Vrbata
Chris Higgins-Nick Bonino-Alexandre Burrows
Shawn Matthias-Brad Richardson-Zack Kassian
Derek Dorsett-Linden Vey-Jannik Hansen
Dan Hamhuis-Kevin Bieksa
Alexander Edler-Christopher Tanev
Yannick Weber-Luca Sbisa
Ryan Miller will start in goal. Eddie Lack will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Frank Corrado and Tom Sestito. Ryan Stanton (lower body) is out.