BY LOU KORAC
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Brian Elliott has been out so long -- only a month as a matter of fact -- that even his own coach doesn't know who he is.
Elliott, who sustained a knee sprain Nov. 25 against the Ottawa Senators, was activated from injured reserve Tuesday and will get the start tonight against the Nashville Predators (7 p.m. on FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).
Elliott has done everything right and was right on course to get back into the lineup after the Blues listed him as week to week. So what did Hitchcock notice about his progress?
"Nothing," he said. "I haven't even watched him. I can't tell Elliott from (Jake) Allen. How about I give you that evaluation when I know No. 1's in the net tonight. They both look the same to me on the ice, so I couldn't tell the injured guy from the healthy guy."
Elliott is 8-4-1 with a 1.82 goals-against average and .931 save percentage. And with Hitchcock saying on Sunday not to rule Elliott out for tonight after a strenuous practice, no time like the present to get him in.
"It's a game that Brian has to get into to get into some type of playing rhythm," Hitchcock said. "I think what we have done is buy some time. Marty (Brodeur) seems to have caught a second wind here. That buys us even more time to get back on track to where we were before with our goaltending."
Brodeur earned the 125th shutout of his career Monday, an NHL record, with a 3-0 victory against the Colorado Avalanche. Brodeur made 16 saves and earned at least one other start but will be a healthy scratch tonight for one of the few times, if ever, in his 22-year career.
"Jake will back up and Marty is going to play one of the next two games (Friday at Anaheim or Saturday at San Jose) and we'll see from there," Hitchcock said.
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Magnus Paajarvi, placed on waivers on Monday, cleared and was assigned to the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League.
The 23-year-old Paajarvi, who has played in 65 games in two seasons with the Blues, has never seemed to blend into the system the Blues are trying to get him to absorb, and he became somewhat expendable with the team wanting to keep three goalies for the time being.
General manager Doug Armstrong has said that they want to carry three goalies to make sure Elliott is up to par.
The Blues only retain $275,000 of Paajarvi's $1.2 million cap hit while he's off the roster.
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Winger Chris Porter, who sustained a nasty foot/ankle injury Monday night, was placed on injured reserve when the team activated Elliott.
Hitchcock said Monday after the game that Porter, 29, will be evaluated in six weeks.
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Only a handful of skaters took part in an optional this morning, and defenseman Carl Gunnarsson was one of them. Expect the defenseman to return to the lineup either Friday against the Ducks or Saturday against the Sharks.
But for the Blues (22-11-3), they want to build off a strong outing against Colorado and hope to catch the Predators (23-9-3) in a letdown after losing a 3-0 lead at Chicago Monday before falling 5-4 in a shootout to the Blackhawks.
"We built on the good stuff we did in the Dallas game," Hitchcock said. "This is really three of the last four games we've done a really good job of managing the game. We were really good in San Jose. We throw out the game in Colorado and then the last two games we've bee very good. The biggest thing is we eliminated some of the mistakes. We still have two or three that end up right in the slot that don't need to be, and those are ones that still have to be eliminated. We're eliminating easy scoring chances and making teams earn it and then continue to build on the good things in three of the last four games.
"There's a process in becoming a team, and sometimes that process evolves quickly and dissipates. Sometimes it grows gradually. You've just got to stay with the program."
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Dmitrij Jaskin and Paul Stastny may have been named stars of the game -- along with No. 1 star Brodeur -- Monday night, but the Blues won't forget the job Ryan Reaves did. Reaves, who played 13 minutes, 20 seconds, will be with that pair again tonight.
"I wouldn't call it a new role, I'd call it a new line," Hitchcock said. "After a while, you've got to reward good play. Ryan's played really well. I just decided why am I giving ice to people who don't deserve it at some period of time. This is a guy that deserves it. At eight minutes, he's done a really good job so why not extend it to 12? ... He's earned the right to play more minutes so why not give it to him?"
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The Blues' projected lineup (UPDATED pre-game warm-up):
Alexander Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
Patrik Berglund-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko
Dmitrij Jaskin-Paul Stastny-Ryan Reaves
Steve Ott-Maxim Lapierre-Joakim Lindstrom
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk
Chris Butler-Ian Cole
Brian Elliott will get the start in goal. Jake Allen will be the backup.
Martin Brodeur will be a healthy scratch. Jaden Schwartz (foot), Carl Gunnarsson (concussion) and Chris Porter (foot/ankle) are on injured reserve.
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The Predators' projected lineup:
Filip Forsberg-Mike Ribeiro - Craig Smith
Colin Wilson-Mike Fisher-James Neal
Gabriel Bourque-Calle Jarnkrok-Olli Jokinen
Eric Nystrom-Paul Gaustad-Taylor Beck
Roman Josi-Shea Weber
Anton Volchenkov-Seth Jones
Mattias Ekholm-Ryan Ellis
Pekka Rinne will get the start in goal. Carter Hutton will be the backup.
Newly acquired Mark Arcobello will be a healthy scratch. Arcobello was acquired from the Edmonton Oilers on Monday for former Blue Derek Roy. Matt Cullen and Victor Bartley are also a healthy scratches.