Wednesday, November 25, 2015

(11-25-15) Blues-Penguins Gameday Lineup

PITTSBURGH -- The Blues will make one lineup chance ahead of their matchup today against the Pittsburgh Penguins (6 p.m.; FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).

Ryan Reaves, who has had a tough go of it in the first quarter of the season trying to battle back from a knee injury sustained during training camp, will play for the Blues (14-6-2) against the Penguins (12-8-0). 

Reaves, who has no points in 14 games this season, has been scratched in seven of the past 10 games, including three straight.

But with the Blues playing a talented group like the Penguins, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock felt it was time to bring in someone who can add some energy and add a player the coaches feel is healthy.

"An edge," Hitchcock said when asked what Reaves brings to this game. "He's uncomfortable to play against. He's had very much an up-and-down season. Most of it based on health. He's healthy now, he feels good. We've conditioned him. This is about as far as we can go with him and the rest is going to kind of be in his court. He's going to have to continue to maintain a fitness level from the injury and keep up to pace during the games. We think he can bring a good energy. If he's up to speed, he can bring a good energy."

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The trade that happened more than eight-and-a-half months ago seems like a distant memory for both Robert Bortuzzo and Ian Cole.

The Blues, who acquired Bortuzzo and a 2016 seventh round pick for Cole on March 2, has settled into his new duds as has Cole, who is third on the Penguins in average ice time per game (19 minutes, 26 seconds) behind Kris Letang (25:42) and Ben Lovejoy (20:04).

"It's been great. It's been a great situation," Cole said. "Playing a lot in a lot of different situations. From that aspect of it, it's fantastic. Obviously miss all my old teammates, miss all the boys, the equipment and training staff over at the Blues, but obviously the career is one of those things that takes precedence. 

"I get a lot of PK, which is great. ... I've been getting a lot of PK time, which is fantastic." 

The two have played against each other already, and Bortuzzo actually scored a goal upon his return to CONSOL Energy Center when the Blues won 3-2 in overtime March 24. So the time of facing the former team is all but history now.

"I think I'm definitely a Penguin now. I don't consider myself a Blue anymore," said Cole, who has three assists in 20 games. "Obviously that happened, but I am 110 percent in all-Penguins, which is great. There still is a personal side of things and a separate from a professional side of things. Still have a lot of friends on that team. A lot of friends, a lot of guys you looked up to. But there's also some guys who are gone. A guy that was a huge mentor for me was Barret Jackman and he's in Nashville and I got to play against him in Nashville. That was pretty fun."

"I think it's worked out so far," Bortuzzo, who's played 13 games and has one goal, said. "You don't know how things are going to pan out, but I'm in a great situation here with an extremely competitive team. You get a chance to contribute. I'm in a spot to do that. ... I've grown in ways. I've had another summer to work on things."

Bortuzzo will play alongside of rookie Colton Parayko. The two are 6-foot-4 (Bortuzzo) and 6-5 (Parayko), respectively and give the Blues a definite size advantage on the third pairing.

"'Borts' is really good when he distributes the puck to somebody else," Hitchcock said. "It ends up on Parayko's stick a lot. They work well together in getting the puck to Colton. Borts is such an unselfish player. He energizes our team, he energizes the pair, he plays a very physically demanding game of himself, not fun to play against from an opposition standpoint and they like playing together. I think they really enjoy playing together. I think it affords us a chance to get Colton a breath of fresh air because sometimes when you're playing a young guy in a top four position, it's a lot of stress and a lot of pressure on him and I think this just affords us to back him off a little bit. They're obviously a good third pair. They're a good third pair on any team in the league right now."

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Penguins left wing David Perron will also face his former team for just the seventh time and second in a Penguins uniform.

Perron, who was traded by the Blues along with 2015 third-round pick to the Edmonton Oilers on July 10, 2013, for Magnus Paajarvi, a 2014 second-round pick (which the Blues used to select Ivan Barbashev) and a 2015 fourth-round pick, has three goals and seven points in 20 games this season.

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The Blues' last three trips to Pittsburgh have all produced victories, including a pair of 3-2 overtime wins and a 1-0 victory.

Hitchcock said it comes from a fear factor.

"From our standpoint, when you're a little bit scared, it gets your attention," Hitchcock said. "You don't want to be embarrassed by the skillset, especially with what's out there now. It almost scares you straight. Any mistake you make checking-wise you know is going to end up in the back of your net, so you've got a healthy respect for what goes on on the other side. The fear factor is a great motivator and I think that's what does it for us, is we have a healthy dose of respect for that they have going over there and there's also the fear part of it that dictates that you better play your best game checking-wise or else you're going to get embarrassed. I think that's why we've played so well in this building is because of that. We're not taking anything for granted. We know if we go to sleep on one shift, especially on the top three lines, we're going to get beat."

Penguins center Sidney Crosby, aside from the team he's played for his entire career, has scored a goal against every NHL team aside from the Blues in his career. Crosby, who by his standards has struggled with three goals and 11 points in 20 games this season, has five assists in 10 career games against the Blues. 

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The Blues' probable lineup:

Alexander Steen-Paul Stastny-Vladimir Tarasenko

Magnus Paajarvi-Jori Lehtera-Dmitrij Jaskin

Robby Fabbri-David Backes-Troy Brouwer

Steve Ott-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson-Kevin Shattenkirk

Colton Parayko-Robert Bortuzzo

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

Scottie Upshall, Scott Gomez and Joel Edmundson are healthy scratches. Jaden Schwartz (ankle) and Patrik Berglund (shoulder) are on injured-reserve.

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The Penguins' probable lineup:

Pascal Dupuis-Sidney Crosby-Patric Hornqvist

David Perron-Evgeni Malkin-Phil Kessel

Chris Kunitz-Nick Bonino-Beau Bennett

Sergei Plotnikov-Matt Cullen-Eric Fehr

Rob Scuderi-Kris Letang

Brian Dumoulin-Ben Lovejoy

Ian Cole-Adam Clendening

Marc-Andre Fleury will start in goal. Jeff Zatkoff will be the backup.

David Warsofsky and Daniel Sprong are healthy scratches. Olli Maatta (upper body) and Bryan Rust (undisclosed) are out with injuries.

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