Sunday, December 13, 2015

(12-13-15) Avalanche-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- It was emotional, it was physical, and a chance to make a statement against the best team in the NHL.

The Blues, for one night, passed after a 3-0 victory against the Dallas Stars that saw them get some timely goals (although the offense didn't exactly bust out), they shut down the league's top offense that came in averaging 4.8 goals per game and Jake Allen was at the base of that defense with his league-tying fourth shutout in 26 saves.

"We kept them to a minimum," said Allen, who will start for the Blues (17-9-4) today at 5 p.m. against the Colorado Avalanche (13-16-1). "We didn't give them a whole lot. We didn't really buy into their track meet a ton. They got their chances, but we shut them down when we did."

Shutting down the Stars (22-6-2) was no easy chose, considering they ave two of the league's top scorers in Jamie Benn, who leads the NHL with 20 goals, and Tyler Seguin, who came in with Benn tied for the team-lead in points with 40.

"Yeah, we knew we had to play them tight defensively," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "Jake played great. They're on a back-to-back too, so we tried to out-energize them, for the most part and that's what we did. We just kept coming in waves and led to a lot of zone time for us offensively.

"Me and 'Bouw' knew what was ahead of us; we knew it was going to be tough. Those guys have got some big numbers there so far. To be able to shut down those guys, it's a good feeling. It was a collective effort, penalty kill, guys did a great job there killing off for me. And when you have Jake playing the way he does, it helps."

The Blues, who are 12-3-0 against the Western Conference, continued their mastery of the penalty kill. They killed off all five opportunities by the Stars and have now killed 19 in a row over eight games, including a big 5-on-3 kill for 1:19 for the Stars. 

They come into Sunday with the top PK unit in the NHL at 87.5 percent, ahead of Anaheim, which is 87.1 percent.

"A big 5-on-3 at the end and we find a way and Jake gets the shutout," said captain David Backes, who had a goal and an assist on "Captains Night." "Things are trending in the right direction; we play like that or have a little bit better second period and we're going to like what we're doing.

"... This is a team effort that we need and we've been yearning for for a while and we've had this homestand against a lot of Eastern Conference teams and I think Dallas scared it out of us and hopefully we can bottle this up and open the lid (today) at 5 o'clock."

Nonetheless, the Blues passed the test for one game. Now the challenge is to sustain it moving forward, and the Avalanche (13-16-1) comes in after an emotional win on Saturday of its own, 3-2 at Nashville on Saturday.

"You want to play the best and see where you're at," Allen said. "It's more of a test to see how good your team is, how good yourself is individually and where you stand. We're not up to their par in the standings, I guess you could say, but we played tonight with them and we proved we can play with them, and we're only going to get better. We definitely haven't been playing our best, so once we play our best, we'll be all right."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock is being more cautious.

"I don't want to go there," Hitchcock said. "This win took a lot out of people. Hopefully Colorado's win took a lot out of them, but this win took a lot out of people. We'll see how our energy is [today], but we have the blueprint that we know what it looks like and what it feels like. So we've got something to draw on now. We haven't been able to draw on anything really since we played Winnipeg (on Nov. 16). That's the last time we had something to draw on. We've just been playing hockey. We've got something to draw on now. Now we know what it looks like and we can really build off this thing."

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Who would have thought it? Ryan Reaves scoring his first goal of the season before his first fight?

Yep, it happened last night that cemented the 3-0 win when Reaves followed up Scottie Upshall's breakaway attempt that was initially thwarted by Stars goalie Antti Niemi.

It was Reaves' first goal in 40 games (March 1 at Vancouver). He even had the perfect goal celebration to cap it off (

"I would be a poor man if that was an option in Vegas," Backes joked. "He's a guy that's coming to work every day, … two-goal lead against that team it's never over, you find a way to get that third, you start to feel a little better. 

"Great play, 'Uppie' to get out on their 'D' on a faceoff loss, I don't know about the breakaway, I don't have that move in my bag of tricks, he tries it, 'Reavo' works the whole 200 feet to get up their and pound that one home, so kudos to them."

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Colorado, which is expected to start goalie Semyon Varlamov after a 34-save effort in a victory at Nashville on Saturday, could get captain Gabriel Landeskog back in the lineup after he missed the past two games with back spasms.

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Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko, who scored his team-leading 17th goal Saturday, celebrates his 24th birthday today.

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The Blues' probable lineup:

Magnus Paajarvi-Paul Stastny-Vladimir Tarasenko

Alexander Steen-David Backes-Troy Brouwer

Dmitrij Jaskin-Jori Lehtera-Robby Fabbri

Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Petteri Lindbohm-Kevin Shattenkirk

Carl Gunnarsson-Colton Parayko

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

Scott Gomez and Robert Bortuzzo are the healthy scratches. Jaden Schwartz (ankle), Patrik Berglund (shoulder) and Steve Ott (hamstring) are on injured-reserve.

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The Avalanche's probable lineup:

Gabriel Landeskog-Matt Duchene-Nathan MacKinnon

Blake Comeau-Carl Soderberg-Andreas Martinsen

Alex Tanguay-John Mitchell-Jarome Iginla

Cody McLeod-Mikhail Grigorenko-Jack Skille

Francois Beauchemin-Erik Johnson

Nick Holden-Tyson Barrie

Brandon Gormley-Nate Guenin

Semyon Varlamov is expected to start. Reto Berra would be the backup.

Zach Redmond and Chris Wanger are the healthy scratches. Ben Street (chest), Brad Stuart (back) and Jesse Winchester (concussion) are out with injuries.

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