By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The Blues will make tweaks to their lineup today when they host the Winnipeg Jets (7 p.m. on KMOX 1120-AM, FS-MW).
The Blues will move David Backes up to a top-line center role between Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarassenko, move Dmitrij Jaskin up to the second line with Jori Lehtera and Troy Brouwer and insert Jeremy Welsh, recalled from the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League on Sunday, into the lineup in place of Ryan Reaves.
The defensive pairs have been shuffled as well, with Joel Edmundson playing with Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester and Kevin Shattenkirk paired together.
Lehtera had been playing with Steen and Tarasenko since Paul Stastny (broken foot) has been out of the lineup, but coach Ken Hitchcock wants to create some stability throughout the lineup.
"It's less based on Backes and more based on more secondary scoring," Hitchcock said. "We've sat on one line. David can play anywhere. He can play there, he can play the next line, whatever. We want to get an identity with the Lehtera line. That's a weighty line, that's a line that can really cycle the puck. We've got to get more secondary scoring. Our goal is to help other people find an identity with a line like that that brings a lot of weight and size to see if we can create more offensive zone time. It's not going to be long before teams can sit on one line and then we lose the impact of having some versatility. We've been kind of based on versatility here. We need to make sure we've got other people that can contribute offensively.
"It's more just trying to create a little bit of different energy. We've played some of our best hockey the last three games. Actually, we have played some of our best hockey the last three games but have been on the short side on two of them, so we're just trying to keep the energy going. We know where we're at injury-wise and stuff like that and see if we can build a little bit different type of energy with the same players. I don't know if this is going to last long, but it looked good last night when I was scribbling it on paper, so I brought it today."
Steen, who has played with Backes and T.J. Oshie primarily in the past, said it won't be a difficult transition.
"Backs and I have played a lot together over the last few years, so it'll be easy to get reunited tonight," Steen said. "He's extremely good at creating space. He's smart with little stick plays and getting in the way of guys creating that extra second for yourself. Obviously he's great on the forecheck, too; a heavy body."
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Welsh, who has 25 games of NHL experience in the past with the Vancouver Canucks and Carolina Hurricanes, has five goals and three assists in 11 games with the Wolves this season.
"This is mostly information from the Wolves that he's been a great player for them," Hitchcock said of the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Welsh. "He's been hard on the puck, he's been determined, he's been a weighty player, he's scored because of it. He goes into the hard areas offensively and defensively. He's a guy that's got rewarded for really good play down there. He's been excellent every game, he's been a leader down there. The way we are, we've got to look at versatility, really, from the second to the fourth line so he's another guy that if he can help us chip in a few goals and continue to play his hard, edgy game he's got, it's going to help us."
Welsh said things have been going well for him in the AHL this season and was surprised to get the call.
"It's very exciting. With a team this good, they're obviously one of the top teams in the NHL," Welsh said. "Pretty excited. I wasn't really expecting the call there. I'm just excited and I'll go out and do my thing.
"Out of camp, I thought maybe (have a shot at being called up at some point). Obviously they signed some guys since then. It's a really deep team. They have a deep prospect pool down there, too. My mindset's just focused on things in Chicago. We have a good team and we're trying to win a championship ourselves. This kind of caught me by surprise. Obviously I'm excited. ... I've done the drive-up, call-up thing three, four, five times I guess."
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One of the lines Hitchcock was pleased with at the end of a 4-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks Saturday was that of Magnus Paajarvi, Scott Gomez and Robby Fabbri.
Hitchcock said the trio created a lot when the Blues assembled that group and it's a unit that will at least play from the outset tonight.
"Me and Gomer, we have a great relationship off the ice and it adds to our chemistry on the ice," Fabbri said. "(Paajarvi) just fits really well there. He's an easy pair to play with, a lot of speed, a lot of skill. It's a fun line to be a part of."
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The Blues and the Better Halves (also known as wives and significant others) have teamed up with local non-profit (Operation Showers) to host an Operation Shower group baby shower for 30 local military moms-to-be who are either active in duty themselves or whose spouses are deployed members of Scott Air Force Base or Whiteman Air Force Base.
The event will take place on Tuesday from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Peabody Opera House. Amanda Elliott, a U.S. Air Force veteran and wife of Blues goalie Brian Elliott, will serve as the event’s emcee.
Amanda Elliott was commissioned as an intelligence officer in 2007 and earned the rank of Captain during her four years of service in the U.S. Air Force.
The “Welcome, Little One”-themed event will include lunch, prize giveaways, and an opportunity for the moms to share camaraderie and gain support from other military women in the same situation.
The highlight of the event will be the presentation of Operation Shower’s signature “Shower In A Box.” Each mom will receive a box containing an array of unique, high-quality products and gift items for mothers and babies that have been generously donated by a variety of companies. Special guests participating in the shower will include the Blues Better Halves, wives and girlfriends of the Blues players.
"For military women who are expecting a baby and whose spouses are deployed or soon to be deployed, the impending arrival of a child can be both exciting and stressful," said Operation Shower Founder and Chief Shower Officer LeAnn Morrissey in a release. "Operation Shower was created specifically to honor these courageous military moms for all they do at home that enables their spouses to proudly serve our country."
"The St. Louis Blues and the Blues Better Halves are honored to support this effort giving back to those who serve our country. We proudly support Operation Shower and all they do for military moms across the nation," Amanda Elliott said.
Established in 2007, Operation Shower (www.operationshower.org) is a non-profit organization dedicated to celebrating and honoring military families by providing joyful baby showers for military moms-to-be to ease the stress of deployment. Since then, it has honored more than 2,700 military moms and moms-to-be from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and National Guard during Operation Shower events on military bases, during PGA TOUR tournaments, and at other locations
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The Blues' probable lineup:
Alexander Steen-David Backes-Vladimir Tarasenko
Dmitrij Jaskin-Jori Lehtera-Troy Brouwer
Magnus Paajarvi-Scott Gomez-Robby Fabbri
Jeremy Welsh-Kyle Brodziak-Scottie Upshall
Joel Edmundson-Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Bouwmeester-Kevin Shattenkirk
Carl Gunnarsson-Colton Parayko
Jake Allen will start in goal. Brian Elliott will be the backup.
Robert Bortuzzo and Ryan Reaves are the healthy scratches. Paul Stastny (foot), Jaden Schwartz (ankle), Patrik Berglund (shoulder) and Steve Ott (upper body) are out with injuries.
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The Jets' probable lineup:
Mathieu Perreault-Bryan Little-Blake Wheeler
Andrew Ladd-Mark Scheifele-Nikolaj Ehlers
Chris Thorburn-Adam Lowry-Drew Stafford
Anthony Peluso-Andrew Copp-Alexander Burmistrov
Toby Enstrom-Tyler Myers
Adam Pardy-Dustin Byfuglien
Mark Stuart-Jacob Trouba
Michael Hutchinson will start in goal. Ondrej Pavelec will be the backup.
Ben Chiarot, Paul Postma and Nic Petan are the healthy scratches. Grant Clitsome (back) is out.