Thursday, October 30, 2014

(10-30-14) Ducks-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- The early-season adversity, much like the end-of-season adversity to hit the Blues last season, has taken another bad turn.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock confirmed the worst for his hockey club when he announced that both David Backes and T.J. Oshie are out indefinitely after being diagnosed with concussions and will miss today's 7 p.m. tilt against the Anaheim Ducks.

Backes was injured with 4:49 remaining in the first period after a collision with Stars defenseman Trevor Daley. Backes' left side of his head hit the ice as he went down and needed assistance. He did not return to action and did not practice Wednesday.

Oshie was also injured against the Stars in the second period when he crashed into the Dallas goal after being shoved from behind in the slot in the second period by Patrick Eaves. He finished the game but did not practice Wednesday.

"Backes is concussed, out. Oshie's concussed, out," Hitchcock said following the morning skate. "Oshie has something else going on plus the concussion so we're not sure whether it's the bacterial."

Also, right wing Joakim Lindstrom, who did practice Wednesday, was not part of the morning skate and Hitchcock didn't completely rule him out Thursday.

"Lindstrom's bacterial and out right now," said Hitchcock, referring to the rash of bacterial infections that have plagued the team in recent weeks.

Center Paul Stastny (shoulder) is, "out, not ready," according to Hitchcock. Although Stastny is close to returning. He's missed four games after sustaining the injury Oct. 18 against the Arizona Coyotes.

"Some seasons are smooth and some seasons are scrambles," Hitchcock said. "We're in scramble mode. Nobody's feeling sorry for us; we've got to get points. We've just got to keep pace with everybody until we get a lot of these players back in. 

"We can't get too far away from the pack. That's what's impressive. The last two wins, we had a lot of banged-up guys with a lot of sickness still rolling through the team. But we still got wins. We have another big game tonight."

The Blues, 4-3-1 on the season, have been able to persevere with wins against two formidable opponents (Chicago and Dallas) the past two games. They'll have to rely on a makeshift lineup against the top team in the West in the Ducks (8-2-0).

As of early Thursday afternoon, the Blues did not make any recalls from the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League, and depending on Lindstrom's availability, might have to go with seven defenseman tonight.

"We just have to have other guys step up," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "That's the way we're built, we're deep, we have guys who can do it. They're going to be tough losses. They're hard to fill those voids, but we should be fine with what we have on the back-burner.

"We did a great job on Tuesday night. We didn't have the greatest second period, but we came back in the third and established our game again and were able to win a gritty game on the road against a divisional opponent."

To make matters tougher against the Ducks, the Blues have been blanked by Anaheim goaltending for the past 125:29, including two straight shutouts dating back to last season. Jaden Schwartz was last to score on the Ducks at 14:31 of the third period of a 3-2 loss on Jan. 18.

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Shattenkirk is among the NHL leaders in points by a defenseman with eight, tied with a plethora of others with eight points, trailing only San Jose's Brent Burns (12).

With two assists Tuesday, Shattenkirk has seven assists on the season and will play with Carl Gunnarsson tonight.

"First of all, he's in the best shape of his life so he can play that way," Hitchcock said of Shattenkirk. "He's really helped himself. He tried to play that way last year, but he ran out of energy, especially after the Olympics. He didn't have the energy to play that way. But his conditioning level has allowed him to play. He's a better player when he plays with more risk, and we're not talking about risk with the puck. He's great at anticipating it. 

"Every team's got these players. Anaheim's got a player like him, (Chicago's Duncan) Keith plays this way. Sometimes you can allow the defensemen to attack the rush more when the other team has the puck because they've got great anticipation and Shatty's got that. he knows how to attack and close gaps moving forward as much as he does skating backwards. He's been more aggressive defensively rather than passive,and his energy's allowing him to do that late in games. He couldn't do that last year. He couldn't keep up to the pace we needed him to play at. Now he can."

Shattenkirk talked about his training regimen and diet changing up this past summer, and the rewards seem to be paying off in the early part of the season.

"Just staying very aggressive and picking my spots really well," Shattenkirk said. "I think I've trusted my skating a lot and that's allowed me to really jump in the rush and know that I have the confidence to recover and get back if something does go the wrong way."

And changing defensive partners can make it a challenge to stay afloat, but according to Shattenkirk, it hasn't been a problem.

"Not really," he said. "I've just tried staying with the game that's been successful for me. I think  the other guys have adjusted and they know I'm going to play that way. Even though we've had new D-partners, there's still some of the same faces we've had here over the past few years. Everyone knows how I like to play. It's not getting way out of position. It's doing it the right way."

As for playing with Gunnarsson, it's the first true chance for the Blues' top four defensemen to be on the ice together, although Gunnarsson and Shattenkirk got some time in Dallas.

"He's very solid, very calm and poised, which is great for me because he keeps me level-headed as well," Shattenkirk said of Gunnarsson. "I think defensively I've really noticed something out of his game. He's very strong on the puck and on his stick and very physical in the corners. I think a lot more physical than we kind of anticipated."

Gunnarsson played 12:53 in his season debut Tuesday and Hitchcock said it would take four or five games to get him fully acclimated and up to speed. No such plan now with the rash of unavailable bodies.

"We had a little time in the third period last game," Gunnarsson said of Shattenkirk. "It'll be great. I felt alright. Not the best start but I got better as we went along."

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The Blues' projected lineup (if Lindstrom doesn't play; if he does, slot him on RW with Schwartz and Berglund):

Alexander Steen-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko

Jaden Schwartz-Patrik Berglund

Dmitrij Jaskin-Steve Ott-Magnus Paajarvi

Chris Porter-Maxim Lapierre-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson-Kevin Shattenkirk

Ian Cole-Barret Jackman

Jordan Leopold

Jake Allen will start in goal. Brian Elliott will be the backup.

David Backes and T.J. Oshie are out with concussions. Paul Stastny (shoulder) is close to a return to action but is still on injured-reserve. Joakim Lindstrom has fallen ill with the bacterial infection and is questionable. If Lindstrom plays, Leopold will likely be the healthy scratch.

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The Ducks' probable lineup:

Matt Beleskey-Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry

Dany Heatley-Ryan Kesler-Devante Smith-Pelly

Andrew Cogliano-Nate Thompson-Jakob Silfverberg

Emerson Etem-Rickard Rakell-Tim Jackman

Cam Fowler-Clayton Stoner

Hampus Lindholm-Francois Beauchemin

Mark Fistric-Sami Vatanen

John Gibson, coming off a 38-save shutout performance in a 1-0 victory at Chicago on Tuesday, will get the start against the Blues. Frederik Andersen will be the backup.

William Karlsson, Chris Wagner and Josh Manson will be healthy scratches. Ben Lovejoy (finger), Bryan Allen (lower body), Kyle Palmieri (ankle) and Patrick Maroon (knee) are all out with injuries.

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