Thursday, November 13, 2014

(11-13-14) Predators-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- T.J. Oshie is optimistic. Coach Ken Hitchcock was not so sure.

Turns out Oshie's optimism won out.

Oshie, who sustained a concussion Oct. 28 against the Dallas Stars, skated again Thursday prior to the Blues facing the Nashville Predators and the team announced today that Oshie was activated from injured reserve and will return to the lineup. Oshie, who has one assist in eight games and has missed the past seven games, skated for a fifth straight day without any setbacks and said he feels physically fit.

"I think so," Oshie said after the morning skate. "I've skated the last five, six days in a row now. I feel good out there. I've been riding the bike in here, I've been getting my workouts in. 

"Whenever I do go, it's probably going to take me a couple shifts. It's usually a period to kind of get your lungs going and get everything back in. I'm as ready as I will be."

Oshie needed medical clearance from team doctors before being activated from injured reserve and placed on the active roster and got it. 

"They need me to be 100 percent healthy," Oshie said of team doctors. "If I feel like I'm 100 percent healthy.

"... We're on the same page. That was a miserable first week that I had. If there's any chance that I'm at a higher risk of re-injuring my head or another concussion, I won't come back. But if I feel 100 percent ready and they feel 100 percent that I'm gonna come back and not be at any higher risk than any other player, then I'll be back in."

Hitchcock played the cautious role.

"Well, he's been good for about three or four days," Hitchcock said. "... If he gets a call, we'll put him in. If not, then we'll just keep going until somebody tells us. It's got to come from the doctors and the medical people before there's approval."

Oshie will be back where he started the season with a pair of familiar faces.

"With (David) Backes, right where they were before," Hitchcock said. "Backes and (Patrik) Berglund, the way we were the first two or three games at the start of the year back to where we started the season and lets just go from there."

Oshie, who sustained a concussion late in the season last year against the Minnesota Wild following an elbow to the head from Mike Rupp, knows better than anyone when to come back and when not to come back too early.

"Last time we didn't rush it, but I think I maybe could have waited one or two more days," Oshie said. "This time, everyone's been very clear and very up front about me waiting until I'm ready. The only way that I'll be playing tonight or Saturday night or whenever is if I feel that I'm 100 percent ready and I give them the go-ahead."

With the Blues (10-4-1), who host the Predators (10-3-2) at 7 p.m. (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM), winning eight of their past nine games, there was no need to rush.

"This has nothing to do with rushing," Hitchcock said. "This has to do with he's got to be ready. But as far as physical conditioning and as far as everything, he's been up to speed for three or four or five days now. Until we get the approval, he's not going in. If we get the approval, then we'll just put him in and play him as a normal player. Until we get that call, we're not doing anything."

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After testing out the ankle he injured on Monday when he was hit with a shot during practice, right wing Ryan Reaves will return tonight after missing a 6-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday.

Reaves, who missed out on all the extracurricular fun during the game with the Sabres, will replace Chris Porter in the lineup.

The Blues were looking to see if Reaves could take part in an optional skate Thursday. All went according to plan.

"I've had to modify a couple things in there," Reaves said. "Got a little padding in there. It feels pretty good.

"... As long as everything goes well during the day, yeah, I'm hoping to (play)."

Added Hitchcock: "Revo's in tonight. He's the one guy that's playing."

The Blues missed Reaves' toughness and grit Tuesday. When Hitchcock was asked if the Sabres were more aggressive than teams would be without Reaves in the lineup, he replied, "Yep ... yep. I would, too." 

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Since being drafted 18th overall in the 2007 NHL Draft, defenseman Ian Cole has patiently waited his turn to ascend up the ladder on the Blues' defensive corps.

Some seasons, Cole has been thrust into a prominent role -- largely because of injuries to veteran players -- and has had his ups and downs.

But so far this season, the Ann Arbor, Mich. native has seen the ice more prominently and on a more regular basis than in any of his previous four seasons.

Cole, who hasn't hit the score sheet yet through 15 games, is averaging a career-high 15 minutes, 35 seconds of ice time average per game. He's been paired with Barret Jackman on the Blues' third defensive pairing after starting the season with Alex Pietrangelo and can finally come to the rink feeling good and not having that unknown factor of whether he's playing on a game by game basis. That distinction has been placed on veteran Jordan Leopold, who will miss a seventh consecutive game tonight.

"It's probably been the most consistent that I've been playing, which is great," Cole said. "There's always going to be mistakes in the game for everyone. For every team, there's always going to be mistakes. I think trying to limit the big ones and making sure that they're small, minor and nothing happens because of it is what you want. But I think it's been good. We've obviously won a lot of games. Personally, I think it's been a good stretch. Has it been perfect? Absolutely not. There's still obviously stuff to work on. ... But I think I've been playing much more consistently. I'm really trying to give the coach someone they can rely on. Jax and I can go play against lines one through four."

Blues coaches have been hesitant to use Cole, who played in a career-high 46 games last season, on a more consistent basis because of mistakes that have been made in the past but feel

"He's a guy for us that has tremendous upside still," Hitchcock said of Cole. "This is the first time that he's been in the lineup on a regular basis night in and night out. I think the thing that I see is he's managing his game better and better every night, which is allowing him to get more minutes. There's a real confidence that he's real good on the penalty kill. There's a real confidence that he's a trusted guy in our own zone and stuff like that. I think it's allowing him to not force issues offensively. When you play occasionally, you're trying to hit home runs. Now he's just comfortable playing. The big errors are getting fewer and fewer and now he's starting to manage the game and the ice in a much better fashion. It's a good sign."

Would Cole consider himself a risk-taker? No, but playing with risk is a better option than playing with hesitancy in his game.

"I don't ... I really don't," Cole said. "I think everything I do, I'm trying to make the right play. I wouldn't consider myself a risk-taker. Some things work, some things don't. I just try to catalog that and learn from it. ... I'm not rushing up making backhand sauces through the zone or anything like that. I'm not going to try it or even attempt it. But you do try to make the right play. I try to keep it as simple as possible. Make the best day while limiting mistakes. It is a tough balance between those. There's an inherent risk in every play."

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With Oshie's status settled, the status of Magnus Paajarvi was also settled.

Paajarvi, who had arguably one of his best games Tuesday since joining the Blues following the trade with the Edmonton Oilers, was supposed to skate with Backes and Berglund tonight if Oshie was declared unavailable. But he will be a healthy scratch.

Hitchcock pointed to the fact that Paajarvi grasped the concept of playing "through people" as the reason for his strong game.

Paajarvi agreed.

'That's what they want everyone to play like," Paajarvi said after the morning skate. "It was a good game for me the last game and for the team, so yeah, I'm glad they're happy.

"It's the way we play. It doesn't necessarily mean that you should kill every person and knock everybody down. It's more like stick-work and other stuff. To play through people, it's get the puck and win the battles. Hopefully I can keep it going. ... I felt like I created more space, and I think that's key."

The Blues know they can rely on Paajarvi now, as long as he can continue to play with that "play through people" mentality.

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The Blues have launched a commemorative brick program allowing fans to purchase bricks that will help build the foundation of the Blues Hall of Fame Plaza. Personalized memorial bricks will be featured outside Scottrade Center, surrounding the Blues Hall of Fame statues, with installation of bricks taking place during the summer of 2015.

"We invite our fans to add to our rich heritage and be included in our most prominent display of Blues history,” Blues CEO Chris Zimmerman said in a statement. "Our fans are the cornerstone of this team’s history and future and it’s time their memories, tributes, and messages be included as part of our story."

Three brick sizes are available for sale and vary in price from $165-$375, with a premium brick option being offered at $1,000 (plus tax). For each brick bought, purchasers will receive a replica brick and a certificate of ownership to proudly display in their home or office. Those that buy before Dec. 5 will also receive two free tickets to the Dec. 8 or Dec. 11 Blues game.

Fans are able to purchase commemorative bricks and gift certificates online at or by phone at 1-844-BLUES-PLZA (844-258-3775). To purchase a brick and receive a certificate of ownership in time for the Christmas holiday, buyers should place their order by Dec. 5. Gift certificates may also be purchased to allow a recipient to craft his or her own personal message.

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The Blues' probable lineup:

Patrik Berglund-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

Alexander Steen-Paul Stastny-Joakim Lindstrom

Jaden Schwartz-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko

Steve Ott-Maxim Lapierre-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson-Kevin Shattenkirk

Barret Jackman-Ian Cole

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

Healthy scratches include Jordan Leopold, Chris Porter and Magnus Paajarvi. Brace yourselves -- the Blues have no current injuries/sicknesses.

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The Predators' probable lineup:

Filip Forsberg-Mike Ribeiro-James Neal

Matt Cullen-Derek Roy-Craig Smith

Olli Jokinen-Calle Jarnkrok-Gabriel Bourque

Eric Nystrom-Paul Gaustad-Taylor Beck

Roman Josi-Shea Weber

Mattias Ekholm-Ryan Ellis

Anton Volchenkov-Seth Jones

Pekka Rinne will get the start in goal. Carter Hutton will be the backup.

The healthy scratch will be Victor Bartley. Mike Fisher (Achilles tendon), Viktor Stalberg (lower body) and Colin Wilson (lower body) are out with injuries.

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