Saturday, March 28, 2015

(3-28-15) Blue Jackets-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues are fully aware of the run that the Columbus Blue Jackets are on.

And in situations like these, a potential playoff team facing one that likely won't make it, those can be the most dangerous situations for teams like the Blues (46-21-7, 99 points).

After a 5-2 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday, Columbus team record with its seventh straight road victory that tied a record for most wins on the road (21) in one season. The Blue Jackets (35-35-4, 74 points) have won five in a row, are 8-1 in the past nine games and have won nine of 11.

And Columbus beat the Blues 7-1 on Feb. 6 to end St. Louis' 13-0-1 streak. The rematch is slated for 7 p.m. today (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).

"I think you have to mindful of their record the last while," left wing Steve Ott said of the Blue Jackets. "Obviously we don't see these guys very often, but I think they're 9-2 in their last 11. They're playing some really good hockey against some really good teams and when you do that, I think that's a bigger reason to be more cautious. Our situation at the time, we just threw that game (on Feb. 6) out the window and we start over."

Columbus has scored 22 goals during its five-game winning streak and for the first time all season, the Blue Jackets appear to be healthier than any other point in the season despite currently missing six players.

The Blue Jackets have lost 476 man games due to injury coming into the game Saturday, more than any team in the NHL.

"I think it's typical of when you look at the standings and you see a team below you in the standings and not going to make the playoffs, your assumption is, 'Well, this might be easier than we think,' and the second part is the players don't really look at who's injured," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of the Blue Jackets. "They've had a season full of nothing but injuries and haven't even put a roster on there that's remotely close to what they started with at training camp. Now they're getting a little bit healthier, if you can say five guys out is healthy. And they look very dynamic. They've got a ton of skill, they're scoring goals like crazy, they're beating good teams. To me, when I watched the Anaheim game (Tuesday) and I watched the Chicago game (Friday), they're exactly the same. If you're sloppy against them, they make you pay."

The Blues are 16-2-1 the past 19 against the Blue Jackets on home ice.

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Right wing T.J. Oshie was absent from the morning skate Saturday. Olli Jokinen took his spot during line rushes along with Alexander Steen and David Backes.

Hitchcock said Oshie was under the weather and was told to stay home and he's expected to play.

"He's under the weather. We're assuming he's going to play tonight," Hitchcock said of Oshie, who has 16 points in 27 career games against Columbus. "We told him to stay home, get rest and be ready for tonight."

*UPDATED* -- Oshie was not in the lineup on Saturday and was replaced by Chris Porter.

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Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk will finally find out what it feels like to play in a live game for the first time since Feb. 1 (25 games). 

Shattenkirk (abdominal surgery) will play for the first time since sustaining the injury at Washington and play alongside Barret Jackman.

Despite being a seasoned pro, Shattenkirk said there will be nerves.

"Yeah, definitely," he said. "I think it's only natural to be a little nervous and anxious. I think it's going to be fun, but I think the important thing is to keep all those emotions in check early on and just get my mind and my body back into the game as quickly as I can. It's going to be a process, and I think I have to realize that not try to go too crazy early on."

The biggest adjustment will be, "I think adjusting to the speed of the game," Shattenkirk said. "Not only is this game fast normally, but now we're in the crucial part of the season where teams are playing their best. I know Columbus isn't a playoff team, but they're playing probably the best hockey of most teams right now in the NHL. Just getting the timing back of making passes, putting them on the tape and just being quick with my decisions is something that will probably be the hardest adjustments to start."

Hitchcock will ease Shattenkirk in on the third pairing and eventually give him more responsibilities.

"I think you've just got to be patient," Hitchcock said. "You've got to be patient because he's passed every test but now the test is he's going to play against somebody in a different sweater than doesn't necessarily like him. He's going to have to play through that competition. Our hope is that he comes through healthy. We know we're going to get some good play from him and that he gets back and has enough games. I think he has plenty of games to get game-ready for the end of the season These are good tests for him, there's good challenges, but I think more than anything, getting him accustomed to not just playing, it's the whole routine of gameday. All of the sudden, you're playing with some nerves, you're playing with nervous energy, he's got some butterflies ... all those things that you stayed away from to get back in your body now. You've got to get used to that now."

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The Blues will attempt to break a cycle of eight straight games without a first-period goal tonight.

The last time they were able to light the lamp was March 10 against the Winnipeg Jets. The Blues gave also shut out the opponents in the first period in seven of those eight games.

"I didn't even know that one. Don't really care," Hitchcock said. "I think at the end of the day, you go through cycles like that. To me, it's at the end of the game. I'd rather see us be stronger at the end. We've had great second periods, good third periods; I'd rather be that way. It's also the way we play. We manage the game properly at the start, we don't try to supply the knockout punch, we just manage the game properly and sometimes that leads to not scoring. But I think at the end of the day, more important is how you play in the second and third period."

Ott agreed.

"By the third period, we try to take over games by our heavy style of hockey," he said.

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Blues left wing Jaden Schwartz play in his 200th NHL game tonight.

Despite facing 33 shots against Chicago on Friday, Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky will start against the Blues.

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The Blues' probable lineup:

Alexander Steen-David Backes-Chris Porter

Jaden Schwartz-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko

Dmitrij Jaskin-Paul Stastny-Patrik Berglund

Steve Ott-Marcel Goc-Ryan Reaves

Carl Gunnarsson-Alex Pietrangelo

Jay Bouwmeester-Zbynek Michalek

Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk

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

Scratches include T.J. Oshie (sick), Olli JokinenChris Butler and Robert Bortuzzo.

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The Blue Jackets' projected lineup:

Boone Jenner-Ryan Johansen-Cam Atkinson

Scott Hartnell-William Karlsson-Marko Dano

Brandon Dubinsky-Artem Anisimov-Nick Foligno

Corey Tropp-Mark Letestu-Jeremy Morin

Jack Johnson-David Savard

Kevin Connauton-Cody Goloubef

Fedor Tyutin-Dalton Prout

Sergei Bobrovsky is will be the starter. Curtis McElhinney will serve as the backup.

Justin Falk is the healthy scratch. Jared Boll is serving  three-game suspension. Injuries include David Clarkson (oblique), Jack Skille (shoulder), Matt Calvert (concussion), Ryan Murray (lower body), Alexander Wennberg (hand) and Rene Bourque (upper body).

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