Saturday, February 21, 2015

(2-21-15) Penguins-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- A night after handling the Boston Bruins on home ice, the Blues have that rare -- and only -- opportunity for back-to-back games at Scottrade Center when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday (7 p.m.; FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).

The Blues (38-16-4) go from the physical, in-your-face Bruins to a more highly-skilled Penguins side that's had a tough go of scoring goals in recent games.

The Penguins (32-17-9), who are 0-2-1 in their past three games, have scored one goal in each loss.

The Blues will quickly shift gears from one opponent to the other.

"I think we do things a little bit different than some teams," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We don't really prepare for Pittsburgh until tonight. We kind of do a little review here based on last night's game or even if we played two days ago. ... This morning will be a review on what happened last night real quick and then we'll get ready for Pittsburgh tonight. We know the energy they play at, we know the energy we've got to have for tonight, so it's save it all to put it in and prepare closer to the game.

"I don't look at (the Penguins) from a star power standpoint. They're just good players. They're strong players, they're strong 1-on-1 players with (Sidney Crosby) there and (Chris Kunitz) and David (Perron), that's a strong line. That's a strong 1-on-1 line, it's a strong line offensively. We're going to have good players playing against them, they're going to be good players playing against us. For a coach, they're fascinating matchups. I think they're matchups where you get a real good critical review after a game like this."

Penguins coach Mike Johnston, who will give backup goalie Thomas Greiss a rare start, calls the Blues a tough matchup. 

"Knowing Ken Hitchcock so well, they play with a lot of structure, a lot of discipline to their game," Johnston said of the Blues. "They're a hard team defensively. I watched the game close last night and the last couple games that they've played, and certainly I thought Boston played pretty well in the first period last night. I know they got down, but I liked some of the things they did and we've got to pull from the last two games what teams did well and [assistant coach] Gary Agnew knows the team, so he can provide us with some more information that way."

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The game marks the first game for centers Marcel Goc and Maxim Lapierre against the teams that traded them Jan. 27.

The Blues traded Lapierre to the Penguins for Goc in a deal Hitchcock said "helped both teams. We have a hunter mentality on our fourth line and we needed someone to just kind of calm it down between the dots. Goc has done that for us. He's allowed those guys to turn it loose and get after people. He's been a good sweeper. I think when the line when 'Lappy' was there, it was a very high-energy line, but the puck was a magnet and it was over-pursued at times and a lot of odd-man rushes. It certainly wasn't a reflection on 'Lappy,' it was the way the three guys were built. They're very emotional players, very intense players. We just needed someone to kind of calm it down a little bit. I think on the other size, Pittsburgh needed that size and that durability that 'Lappy' brings. It's a good hockey trade for me for both teams."

Johnston agreed.

"Both players have similar responsibilities now with different teams," Johnston said. "Lapierre for us is a quick guy on the forecheck as you know, good penalty killer, good on draws, good faceoff guy and he's a guy that adds a little more size and quickness to our lineup when he comes in, and sometimes I think when trades are made, both teams are looking for a certain ingredient to make their team overall better. I believe from our end it's been good and I know Gocher's a real quality guy and a quality player. I'm hearing it's worked out here."

Lapierre said he was having dinner with his wife and one-year-old daughter when he got the call from Blues general manager Doug Armstrong.

"It's always surprising," Lapierre said. "We were just having dinner here and relaxing in St. Louis when I got the call. I think I'm happy. I'm in a good spot, good team and I like my role here. I liked my time in St. Louis, but obviously it's going to be a special feeling to come back here tonight. I really enjoy where I'm at right now.

"I don't think we were expecting that, me and my family. It's part of the game, it's a business and sometimes you need to make a little change on both sides. I think I got lucky I get to play for another great team."

The Blues are 9-3-0 since the trade; the Penguins have gone 5-5-1.

"It's a little funny feeling because it has been so recent,  but I think I'm happy where I'm at right now," Goc said. "I hope to be able to have a good game tonight."

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The Blues will get left wing Chris Porter back in the lineup tonight.

Porter, who's missed 22 games with a left ankle injury, will play his first game since injuring himself on an awkward collision near the Blues bench against Colorado on Jan. 29.

"I'm excited. The team's playing great," Porter said. "I don't want to change anything to what they're doing but hopefully come in, add a little bit of energy and physicality.

"Training staff, Ray (Barile) and everybody else have done a great job with weights and treatments. I think I've done everything I can to get back. I'm chomping at the bit to get back in."

Hitchcock, who didn't disclose who would be out of the lineup but hearing it could be Steve Ott, likes Porter's tenacity.

"We've missed his energy," Hitchcock said of Porter. "He's after it. He's on the puck and he's not fun to play against and that's exactly what we need right now."

Porter is expected to start the game with Paul Stastny and Dmitrij Jaskin tonight.

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Perron returns for the first time as a member of the Penguins. Perron played here earlier this season with the Edmonton Oilers, has joined a playoff team and is happy about it but is always glad to come back to St. Louis.

"A chance to play for a team that's had a lot of success recently," Perron said. "I want to come and add to that, kind of play my game and I think I'm doing that more and more. Last couple games we haven't had success, but we've got to get back to our game and we'll be fine.

"(St. Louis) always is and I think it always will be for a city I got to know for six years."

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The Blues are 4-0-1 in the past five meetings with the Penguins and have surrendered only five goals.

Defenseman Petteri Lindbohm became the first Blues player in team history to score his first NHL goal against a goalie (Bruins' Malcolm Subban) that allowed his first NHL goal Friday night. 

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The Blues' projected lineup:

Alexander Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

Jaden Schwartz-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko

Chris Porter-Paul Stastny-Dmitrij Jaskin

Patrik Berglund-Marcel Goc-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson-Petteri Lindbohm

Barret Jackman-Ian Cole

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

Healthy scratches include Steve Ott, Joakim Lindstrom and Chris Butler. Kevin Shattenkirk (abdomen) is on injured reserve.

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The Penguins' projected lineup:

Chris Kunitz-Sidney Crosby-David Perron

Blake Comeau-Evgeni Malkin-Patric Hornqvist

Nick Spaling-Brandon Sutter-Beau Bennett

Craig Adams-Maxim Lapierre-Steve Downie

Paul Martin-Kris Letang

Rob Scuderi-Simon Despres

Derrick Pouliot-Robert Bortuzzo

Marc-Andre Fleury will start in goal. Thomas Greiss is the backup. 

The healthy scratch is Zach Sill. Pascal Dupuis (blood clot), Christian Ehrhoff (concussion) and Olli Maatta (upper body) are on injured reserve.

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