Monday, March 30, 2015

(3-30-15) Canucks-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- In a best-case scenario, the Blues were looking to get two important pieces back in the lineup Monday against the Vancouver Canucks.

They'll have to settle for one.

Right wing T.J. Oshie, who sat out Saturday's 4-2 loss against the Columbus Blue Jackets with the stomach flu, will return against the Canucks (7 p.m. on FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM) in an important Western Conference game. 

"It always sucks when you have to miss the game, especially with something that's just the flu," Oshie said. "It would seem something that you would be able to battle through, but I had a tough one there. I'm ready to go tonight. Had a couple good meetings here and ready to go.

"I haven't done anything. I just had my first full meal last night. I have to keep my feet underneath me tonight. I ate breakfast so I'm ready to go."

When asked what will keep him going to get some of that missed energy back, Oshie shot back jokingly, "Red Bull." 

"It's not too hard to get up for an NHL game, especially when you sit out and you have to watch your team on TV and they lose a game," Oshie added. "I was telling (fiancee) Lauren at home, 'I wonder if I can make it in for the third?' I'm excited to get out there tonight, try to get my legs back underneath me. It'll take a couple shifts in the first period to start feeling good again but hopefully Backes can carry me through that."

Oshie, who is fifth on the Blues in scoring with 56 points, will slide back in next to David Backes, but the duo will play Monday without left wing Alexander Steen, who sustained a lower-body injury in the first period against the Blue Jackets. Steen is listed as day-to-day.

"He feels a lot better today," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Steen, who leads the Blues with 38 assists and is second in points (62) behind Vladimir Tarasenko (71). "He's day-to-day, moment-to-moment. We'll keep him out tonight and just see over the next 48 hours when he's ready to play again."

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The Blues, who do not play again until Thursday, will slot 18-year veteran Olli Jokinen into the lineup. 

Jokinen, acquired at the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline from the Toronto Maple Leafs, will play left wing on the top line Monday after playing on the fourth line his first three games with the Blues.

"I'm no different than any other guy," said Jokinen, who has 320 goals and 747 points in 1,226 NHL games. "Everybody wants to play. Once you get a chance, you try to do your best, try to play in the system, keep the game simple. 

"We're a good team here. We believe that we're going to need every player here. If you're playing or you're not, you're still a big part of the team. You've got to stay ready and once you get a chance to play, you've got to fill the role they ask you."

Jokinen, who doesn't have a point in three games, was acquired for this very time if and when the Blues needed a top-nine player at their disposal.

"He was pretty excited yesterday," Hitchcock said of Jokinen. "He skated really well. Yesterday was one of his best days with us. It's a good fit for David because Olli can take faceoffs on the left side and he's played a lot when he played in Nashville. He's played with replaceable players where they interchanged the center and wing position, so this is a good fit. We're going to give him lots of ice time and get a real strong evaluation in the next couple games on him.

"His first game was kind of playing out of position because we had him on the right side and the last two games he's played, we've really liked him. This is an opportunity for us, especially the game in Detroit, we really liked what he did, but this is an opportunity to play with good players. We need to get this evaluation. If he's able to play like he did for the first 30 or so games there in Nashville, if he's able to get up to speed by us pushing him further up the lineup, this is going to be really good news for us."

Jokinen goes when he gets the call.

"I try to work hard every day," Jokinen said. "I think it's one of the few practices that we actually had since I've been here. We haven't practiced that much. It's been a lot of games, a lot of optional practices. We're hockey players, our job is to work hard every day when you put the skates on. I'm not in a position here that I can take days off."

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The Blues (46-22-7) can clinch a Stanley Cup Playoff berth Monday if they win in regulation or overtime OR if they win in a shootout AND either the Calgary Flames or Los Angeles Kings lose in any fashion OR the Flames lose in any fashion or the Kings lose in regulation. The Blues cannot clinch a if they lose in regulation.

The Canucks (43-27-5), who begin a four-game road trip, are in their own playoff battle. The Canucks, who have 91 points, lead Calgary by two and the Kings, who play at the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday, by three points. Vancouver holds second place in the Pacific Division.

"This is a first. It's the first year where you see this many teams involved in the playoff race this late," Canucks center Henrik Sedin said. "You look at Chicago, if they would have lost last night, they would have been right there, too. I think it's exciting for us, for fans and for the league.

"I think everyone looks (at the standings). You try to follow other teams' games. That's the fun part of it. For us, it's to win games. That's what it has been since a lot of weeks back. It seems like you win two games and you're in, and then you lose a couple, and you're out of it again. It's so tight. But it makes it fun. Every shift, you can go out there and make a difference. Not only that night but in the standings."

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Despite getting defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk back, the Blues' power play was thrown into chaos on Saturday. They've scored power play goals in three of the past four games, but going 1-for-6 in a game they felt they could gave won Saturday, the Blues hope to rectify some things tonight.

"I hope a lot with our power play because we were somewhere completely or normally dysfunctional the last game," Hitchcock said. "We were not in sync. We could have won the game on the power play alone. We scored one goal, but man, we were passing to cover people and we were standing still. I think we were trying to play too much with our skill instead of our downhill mentality. We've had a heck of a year on the power play by playing downhill and we started to play sideways. So we've addressed that and we'll see if we can get back to where we were for most of the year."

Not having Steen on the point of the power play means "A lot, because he's the bomb," Hitchcock said. "He's the guy that shoots the puck. You've got to have that threat. But even in saying that, man, we play too East-West, trying to make plays through people. Teams watch video. They sat on that and we still tried to force pucks. We didn't function properly. Even on our entries, we were on the wrong side of the ice and passed it to cover people most of the game. We've got to fix that for tonight."

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Blues prospect Ty Rattie was named the American Hockey League player of the week, announced on Monday afternoon.

Rattie, the Blues' second round pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, had two goals and five assists as the Chicago Wolves went 3-0-0-0 last week.

Rattie is second on the Wolves in goals (21), third in assists (21) and second in points (42) in 59 games this season.

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The Blues' probable lineup:

Olli Jokinen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

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. 

Healthy scratches include Chris Porter, Chris Butler and Robert Bortuzzo. Alexander Steen (lower body) is day-to-day. 

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The Canucks' probable lineup:

Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Alexandre Burrows

Shawn Matthias-Nick Bonino-Radim Vrbata

Chris Higgins-Linden Vey-Derek Dorsett

Ronalds Kenins-Bo Horvat-Jannik Hansen

Alexander Edler-Christopher Tanev

Dan Hamhuis-Yannick Weber

Luca Sbisa-Kevin Bieksa

Eddie Lack will get the start in goal. Jacob Markstrom will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Brandon McMillan and Ryan Stanton. Ryan Miller (knee), Brad Richardson (ankle) and Zack Kassian (back) are out with injuries.

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