Saturday, November 28, 2015

(11-28-15) Blue Jackets-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Joel Edmundson said it was good for him to take a step back and observe.

The Blues' rookie defenseman said he was able to absorb plenty in light of being a healthy scratch the past two games. 

Edmundson will return to the lineup today when the Blues (14-6-3) host the Columbus Blue Jackets (10-14-0) at 7 p.m. (KMOX 1120-AM; FS-MW).

"Obviously watching the game closely and you get to see how much time you actually have in your own zone," said Edmundson, who will replace Robert Bortuzzo and play alongside Kevin Shattenkirk. "I think that's what I really needed to work on. That's what I was kind of struggling in the past few games. I wasn't too happy with my game the last time we played Columbus. It'll be a good challenge for me tonight and I'm looking forward to it.

"My past few games, I'm not too sure what it was. It wasn't there. I think just over-thinking things. I'm a simple guy and I've just got to keep it simple there, take the body out. I think I was doing too much."

Edmundson was able to work on and off the ice with associate coach Brad Shaw on a number of things, and coach Ken Hitchcock said it's up to Edmundson to implement those teaching moments moving forward.

"Get hungry again. Get hungry to bring his game out quicker," Hitchcock said. "I think he's hesitant in bringing his game into the start of the hockey game. He's like any other young player. When you're not feeling it, you hesitate a little bit. Getting his game out there, he's got a real physical edge to his game and there's nothing more than getting a few hits early in the game, getting physically involved, starting to build the energy. I find that the more physical he plays early in games, the better puck decisions he makes. So for me, get your game out there early, don't hesitate, don't worry about if there is a mistake because of it, get out there quick, get out there hard and everything else will take care of itself."

Another lineup change for the Blues will have Scottie Upshall replace Dmitrij Jaskin, who has played in 22 of 23 games this season.

But Jaskin has just five points in 22 games.

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Ryan Reaves is feeling like himself again.

The Blues' fourth-line right wing said Wednesday's game at Pittsburgh was the best he's felt this season.

Reaves, who has battled a knee injury that has hampered his game  through training camp and the first quarter of the season, said although physically he's as close to 100 percent as he can get, it's the best he's felt all season.

"I think you look at the first 20 games when I was in, I didn't have the same jump as I used to," said Reaves, who played 8 minutes, 2 seconds Wednesday. "Because of that, I wasn't getting to the body, I wasn't getting to the forecheck. It was very haphazard games I was playing. I think keeping me out for the last bit to get my conditioning back and letting my knee rest those games was probably was the best thing for it. It feels really good right now. I've just got to keep improving, keep working."

Hitchcock liked Reaves Wednesday.

"He played a good game," Hitchcock said. "He managed his game, he managed the puck well. He played a good, solid game."

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Forward Robby Fabbri has four goals in 17 games, but the rookie has made a penchant for scoring goals at critical times.

His first NHL goal was a game-winner on opening night against Edmonton. He scored a big goal Nov. 4 at Chicago to help the Blues overcome a 5-2 first-period deficit before winning in overtime, then scored a game-winner in the third period in Buffalo on Monday before tying the game in the third period Wednesday that helped the Blues earn a point.

There's a reason Fabbri, who has six points, seems to find his way around important situations.

"He's a hunter, a hunter for the puck," Hitchcock said of Fabbri. "He's hungry for the puck, he's a young guy that when he's feeling it and he's got that energy to go and hunt it down and keep it and have that energy to make people pay for making mistakes.

"... That’s a goal-scorer’s goal (against the Penguins). I mean, he knew exactly where he was shooting, he knew the angle, he knew everything and zipped it in there. Some guys can stand there all day with a bucket-load of pucks and it never goes in. But people who know how to score goals, they go in from there."

Fabbri said he wants the puck in all situations, and watching Blues left wing Jaden Schwartz helped him create that thirst for the vulcanized rubber.

"Whether it's on the forecheck or in zone or exiting the zone, I want to make plays, I want the puck to make plays," Fabbri said. "When we don't have it, I want to get it back. A guy like 'Schwartzy,' he's on the hunt for the puck. He's a guy I've payed close attention to and 'Mullsie' (assistant coach Kirk Muller) told me to watch and stuff like that. It's something in my game I want to keep providing for the team.

"A couple of those goals are always big, especially in the third period. But whether it's in the first, second or third, any of us will take them. We're just trying to work with the lead early and not have to come back too many times in the third. When you're playing with great players, they make things happen."

Fabbri has been playing with a couple of 30-somethings in David Backes and Troy Brouwer.

"He's extremely intelligent," Backes said of Fabbri. "I think it’s an adjustment for anyone playing in the NHL, especially a 19-year-old right out of junior (hockey). But he’s coming along every game, seems to be getting better and making more plays and thinking at the speed that it needs to be played at."

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The Blues, who lost at Columbus 11 days ago 3-1 on the second of back-to-back games, are catching the Blue Jackets in the same scenario.

Columbus, which got word Saturday afternoon that center Brandon Dubinsky will be suspended for tonight's game by the NHL's Department of Player Safety for the cross-checking penalty against the Penguins' Sidney Crosby to the back of the neck, won 2-1 on overtime on Friday on home ice.

Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and based on his average annual salary, Dubinsky will forfeit $31,451.61. The money goes to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.

"They outplayed us substantially in the last game in their building," Hitchcock said of the Blue Jackets' on Nov. 17. "They won a lot of the puck battles, they won a lot of the puck fights that ended up allowing them to have possession. We were on our heels for most of that game, so hopefully we got a little more energy to play tonight. They caught us on a back-to-back off a real physical game. Now we've got them on back-to-back so hopefully we can have a little more energy in the game."

It's a chance for the Blues to take the opportunity of feasting on home ice, where 12 of the next 17 games will be played.

"Yeah, I think as long as we don't take it for granted," Hitchcock said. "As long as we put in the effort we're capable of, you get in these things and sometimes you can get stale after a while. I think having to go out on the road once or twice helps us a little bit to maintain energy back home. I think the big challenge is we're playing a lot of Eastern (Conference) teams. I think that having the energy when you don't know the opposition that well is more challenging. For us, finding our own energy within our team, getting our identity back; we're more concerned with the way we're playing right now. We want to see more of our own team game take place and be a major factor in the games. We've had it for periods of time and then we've gotten away from it. This is a chance with a little bit of practice for us to really build some of the strengths that we've had in the past few years here."

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Shattenkirk will carry a seven-game point streak into tonight's game. Shattenkirk has two goals and seven assists during his streak.

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The Blues' probable lineup:

Alexander Steen-Paul Stastny-Vladimir Tarasenko

Magnus Paajarvi-Jori Lehtera-Scottie Upshall

Robby Fabbri-David Backes-Troy Brouwer

Steve Ott-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Joel Edmundson-Kevin Shattenkirk

Carl Gunnarsson-Colton Parayko

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

Scott Gomez, Dmitrij Jaskin and Robert Bortuzzo are the healthy scratches. Jaden Schwartz (ankle) and Patrik Berglund (shoulder) are out with injuries.

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The Blue Jackets' projected lineup:

Boone Jenner-Ryan Johansen-Nick Foligno

Scott Hartnell-William Karlsson-Brandon Saad

Cam Atkinson-Alexander Wennberg-Matt Calvert

Kerby Rychel-Gregory Campbell-Markus Hannikainen

Jack Johnson-David Savard

Ryan Murray-Andrew Bodnarchuk

Kevin Connauton-Justin Falk

Sergei Bobrovsky will start in goal after making 24 saves in a 2-1 overtime win on home ice Friday. Curtis McElhinney will be the backup.

Brandon Dubinsky (suspension) and Dalton Prout are the healthy scratches. Fedor Tyutin (broken nose), Cody Goloubef (jaw), Rene Bourque (upper body), David Clarkson (back) and Jared Boll (foot) are out with injuries.

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