By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Dmitrij Jaskin will get throw right into the fire of the rivalry between the Blues and Chicago Blackhawks, who renew their acquaintances today at 7 p.m. (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM).
It's the first meeting since the ill-fated first-round playoff series from last spring that saw the Blues go up 2-0 before falling in six games.
Jaskin, who scored his first NHL goal last season when these two teams met last season, was recalled by the Blues Friday when center Paul Stastny (shoulder) was placed on injured-reserve.
Jaskin will play with Patrik Berglund and Joakim Lindstrom on a line tonight after being tied for the points lead with the Chicago Wolves (four on one goal and three assists in four games).
When the Blues made their final cuts, Jaskin was one of them and general manager Doug Armstrong said he took the news hard.
"It's never good when you get sent down, but it is what it is," Jaskin said Saturday after the morning skate. "You go with it and just try to do my best to keep it going.
"That's the only thing you can do and only thing you have to do. Just keep doing your stuff and do your best down there and keep waiting for your chance here. It's a huge opportunity, big game. Can't be happier."
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said it's a deserved opportunity to play immediately, saying Jaskin, "Weight on the puck, heavy on the puck, strong on the puck.
"Look, out of training camp, he deserved to be on the team," Hitchcock added. "So sure, it's going to take him a couple games to get ramped up here and get back up to speed, but he went down to the American (Hockey) League with a great attitude. If you put everything into perspective, he deserved to be on the 20-man roster. So this is his opportunity. We're hoping he takes advantage of it."
Jaskin played with Ty Rattie and Philip McRae the first couple games but recently, had Gergo Nagy as a center iceman.
"I'm going to try and do my best and do everything I can to stay here," Jaskin said. "I don't want to be that guy traveling back and forth. I'm going to do everything I can.
"We did a lot of good things in the summer to get ready. It's what it is. The situaton here is there are a lot of guys here. Can't really think about it. Just play. It's a huge game, big opportunity for me."
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The Blues have gotten off to a rocky start at 2-3-1, but the team has been dealing with a bacterial infection that's affected players in the locker room.
It started with center Jori Lehtera, who felt sick after a 6-1 victory against the Arizona Coyotes last Saturday that caused him to miss the team's 3-0 loss against the Anaheim Ducks the following night.
Lehtera missed practice Tuesday but was back at practice Wednesday and played in a 4-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday, a game in which multiple Blues players played after contracting the infection.
But Hitchcock said Saturday things are looking up.
"We're better. Today's the best we've been since (last) Saturday," Hitchcock said. "We're better today. This is a lot better."
Blues right wing Ryan Reaves, one of the players affected, said it's been a rough time.
"I think it's more just frustrating you've got a bunch of guys getting sick, but it's not really an excuse," Reaves said. "I think a lot of teams go through it. One team gets it, a couple guys are going to get it. You've just got to find a way to play smarter and conserve your energy when you can, take short shifts and leave your teammates in a good spot."
The Blackhawks (4-1-1) come in off their first regulation loss against the Nashville Predators. They won't look at the Blues as a team struggling to stay healthy but one that's a formidable opponent.
"They have a good team," defenseman Duncan Keith said of the Blues. "They have a good organization with great coaching and good players. They’re a tough team to play against. They play hard, they compete hard and they play their system well. It just makes for a challenging game playing those guys. It’s fun at the same time."
Teammate Brent Seabrook, who stirred the pot between the teams during the playoff series last season with a hit to Blues captain David Backes in Game 2, agreed.
"They’re a hard, big, physical team," Seabrook said of the Blues. "They do a good job of playing tight defensively so it’s tough for our forwards. It makes it more of a grinding, physical-type game and you’re trying to get to the net and trying to get shots through."
Look for some spark between the fourth lines, with Reaves, Maxim Lapierre and Steve Ott leading the charge if fans need a pick-me-up.
"I think it's a pretty big rivalry between the two teams," Reaves said. "We seem to not like each other the last couple years. Obviously they beat us out last year. We're looking to make a statement. It's early, but I think our season hasn't gone how we want it. This is a big statement game for us.
"When we're slumping or the team needs a little spark, teams look to their fourth line and I think with Lappy and Otter, all three of us can do that job. Tonight when we need it, we're going to do it. Hopefully it works."
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Hitchcock switched some line combinations around, moving Jaden Schwartz to the top line with David Backes and T.J. Oshie and putting Alexander Steen with Jori Lehtera and Vladimir Tarasenko. Although the Schwartz-Lehtera-Tarasenko line has been strong, Hitchcock feels some people need a jump-start to their game.
"Quite frankly, we've got to get more people involved in good play," Hitchcock said. "We've got to get more people playing better. That line's been tremendous, but we've got to get more people involved in having success on our hockey club because we're goinbg to become easy to play against when there's one line getting all the scoring chances. That's pretty obvious to any coach who's watching the tape. We've got to get some of our key players playing better so why not share the wealth a little bit? Our left wings are going to get rotated a little bit, but we need to get some help for some people so they can feel better about themselves and contribute a little more.
"Regardless of the score tonight, I want us to see us play our game and I want to see a lot of good minutes out of it. If we get that consistent play from our team, that consistent behavior, then I just know whether it's tonight or a week from now, we're going to really get on a roll here. You don't want to be continually searching for it trying to find it and be in scramble mode."
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The Blues' probable lineup:
Jaden Schwartz-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
Alexander Steen-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko
Dmitrij Jaskin-Patrik Berglund-Joakim Lindstrom
Steve Ott-Maxim Lapierre-Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Ian Cole-Kevin Shattenkirk
Barret Jackman-Jordan Leopold
Brian Elliott will start in goal. Jake Allen is the backup.
LW Chris Porter and LW Magnus Paajarvi are healthy scratches. C Paul Stastny (shoulder) was placed on injured-reserve Friday and D Carl Gunnarsson (hip) has yet to play this season.
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The Blackhawks' probable lineup:
Patrick Sharp-Jonathan Toews-Marian Hossa
Kris Versteeg-Andrew Shaw-Patrick Kane
Bryan Bickell-Brad Richards-Brandon Saad
Daniel Carcillo-Marcus Kruger-Ben Smith
Duncan Keith-Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Trevor van Riemsdyk-Michal Rozsival
Antti Raanta will start in goal. Scott Darling will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include F Jeremy Morin and D David Rundblad. G Corey Crawford (upper body) is day-to-day.