Saturday, December 19, 2015

(12-19-15) Flames-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Forget the numbers of the past.

Even though many of them are fresh in Blues players' minds.

The Blues (19-10-4), who entertain the red-hot Calgary Flames (15-14-2) today at 2 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM), have had their way with the Flames in recent history.

They've won five straight in the series, including a 4-3 win at Calgary on Oct. 13, and outscored them 21-5; they've won six in a row at Scottrade Center going back to April 1, 2011 and outscored the Flames on home ice 22-7.

That was then; this is now.

The Blues are cognizant of what the Flames, who are on a four-game trip that concludes Sunday at Detroit, have done here recently.

It'll be the Blues' turn to halt their run back to a playoff position. The Flames, who were six games below .500 when they began a trek of what is now a seven-game winning streak, are third in the Pacific Division.

"They've got their 'A' game going again," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of the Flames. "You knew based on their skill and speed that it would come around, especially on the back end. They've got a lot of confidence in their game, they've got a lot of transition, a lot of ability to score off the rush. I think they're one of the best teams scoring off the rush in the League. 

"We've had success against them not letting them out easy. I think that's been the difference in the series in the last couple years anyway. They haven't got out clean, but we haven't played against the lineup that's in there (Saturday). I was looking and there was four or five players' difference between what's playing there for Calgary now and what played there in Game 3 when we played in there. That's a lot of players. If we get our 'A' game and we get going, we can hem them in more than they want to be. If they get loose on us, it's going to be a tough night because they've got so many players  with puck patience, especially up front."

Leading the way are Johnny Gaudreau has 12 points (seven goals, five assists) and Sean Monahan has nine points (four goals, five assists) during the winning streak. Goalie Karri Ramo, who will start, has saved 56 of 58 shots in the first two games of a four-game trip.

"He's a very crafty player," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said of Gaudreau. "What he really does well is he buys a lot of time and space for the guys around him to get in good positions. At any moment, he's obviously dangerous shooting the puck, but he's one of the best passers around the league. If you can just play him physical and make sure that you're limiting his time and space when he does get the puck, that's the most effective thing you can do against him and that's what we've done pretty well against him so far in his time against the Blues.

"We know that they play a pretty high-octane offensive game when they're allowed to. I think the most important thing on our part is to not allow that transition game that they like so well and that they create, just a lot of plays off turnovers. We have to take care of the puck in our end, make sure that we're getting it out and getting into their defensemen because that's our strongest area. We can get pucks in deep, allow our big forwards to go to work down low, just establish that kind of grind that we do so well."

- - -

Patrik Berglund finally sees the light at the end of the tunnel.

The Blues' forward, who's been out the entire season after having shoulder surgery in September, skated for a third straight day with teammates on Friday and continues his trek to getting back into full-time action.

Berglund, who's in his eighth season (all with the Blues), has been skating on his own to keep his physical fitness up to speed for quite some time. But Tuesday was his first practice with his teammates; he then took part in Thursday's morning skate and got in a full-time practice on Friday.

"It's been a long wait. Obviously it's been tough," Berglund said. "You do all the work by yourself and you're not tagging along on the road trips and stuff like that, which I always being on the road with the boys. It's been a few months where you're kind of just putting in the work and you're getting bored at the same time. It's nice to be back in there with the guys. Just do some skating and shooting and passing with a few guys rather than by myself.

"I've been skating for a very long time. ... It's not shocking-hard. I feel good conditioning-wise. It's going to be different after the games start. I've got to prepare myself for the body contact. I'm not there yet; I'm not allowed. When that starts, it's obviously going to be a bigger test. But I'm not there yet."

Berglund is a full-go as far as the conditioning and skating drills. The next step -- and obviously biggest one -- will be full body contact to see how the shoulder reacts.

"That is for sure the next step," Berglund said. "That will tell us a whole lot of things if I'm right there and ready or if I need more time. That will tell me a lot. That's what I'm waiting for."

Berglund, a first-round pick (25th overall) of the 2006 NHL Draft, has 247 points (118 goals) in 513 regular season games and six goals and 13 points in 29 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

- - -

For those that have asked about the shoulder bumps between Ryan Reaves and Vladimir Tarasenko during pre-game warmups, the answer is simple: there is no answer.

For those that are in the dark, when the Blues take the ice for pregame warmups each game, each skater takes a few laps around their side of the ice. Reaves then situates himself to the right of the goalie on the outside of the blue line to begin his stretches. Along comes Tarasenko, crouches down on his knees and slides towards Reaves sideways and the two do sort of a fist bump, although they do it with their shoulders.

But it's become a ritual, and one nobody knows how it started.

"Honestly, that's a really good question. I have no idea," Reaves said. "I think I was just sitting there one day and he did it. I usually stretch on the blue line and he just came in hot one day and I think I looked up and bumped him and I just kind of stuck. I don't know if it was ever really talked about. I think it just happened."

Reaves and Tarasenko, real good friends on and off the ice, don't just stop with the shoulder bumps.

"We've got a couple things going," Reaves said. "We've got that, we've got our hand shake, we've got the Red Bulls. We've got a lot of stuff."

But now that it's a ritual each pregame, it must stick.

"Absolutely," Reaves said. "It takes a lot of skill on my part. He just gets to sit there and kind of look fun, but it's tough on the edges for me. But it has to be done, 100 percent."

- - -

Center Kyle Brodziak will miss his first game of the season with some sort of lower-body injury.

Hitchcock, who said Brodziak took a "skate cut" during Thursday's 2-1 win against Nashville, also said he was "sore" after Brodziak did not practice on Friday.

Veteran Scott Gomez will play for the first time in seven games. He was a healthy scratch in six straight and 10 of the past 12.

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Alexander Steen-Paul Stastny-Vladimir Tarasenko

Magnus Paajarvi-David Backes-Troy Brouwer

Robby Fabbri-Jori Lehtera-Dmitrij Jaskin

Scottie Upshall-Scott Gomez-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Petteri Lindbohm-Kevin Shattenkirk

Carl Gunnarsson-Colton Parayko

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

Robert Bortuzzo is the healthy scratch. Jaden Schwartz (ankle), Patrik Berglund (shoulder) and Steve Ott (hamstring) are on injured-reserve; Kyle Brodziak (lower body) is day to day.

- - -

The Flames' projected lineup:

Johnny Gaudreau-Sean Monahan-David Jones

Sam Bennett-Markus Granlund-Jiri Hudler

Mason Raymond-Mikael Backlund-Josh Jooris

Michael Ferland-Matt Stajan-Joe Colborne

Mark Giordano-TJ Brodie

Kris Russell-Dougie Hamilton

Deryk Engelland-Dennis Wideman

Karri Ramo will start in goal. Jonas Hiller will be the backup.

Brandon Bollig and Ladislav Smid are the healthy scratches. Michael Frolik (upper body) and Lance Bouma (broken fibula) are out with injuries.

No comments:

Post a Comment