Thursday, February 25, 2016

(2-25-16) Rangers-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- It's never a anything a player wants to go through, but sometimes, a kick in the pants in the form of being assigned to the minors can be a good thing in the grand scheme of things.

Such is the case for Dmitrij Jaskin, who will return to the lineup for the Blues (35-18-9) against the New York Rangers (34-20-6) at 7 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).

Jaskin, who was recalled from Chicago of the American Hockey League on Sunday, will step into the lineup in the absence of Ryan Reaves, who will begin serving the first of a three-game suspension tonight stemming from a boarding major against San Jose's Matt Tennyson on Monday. 

Jaskin had been a healthy scratch in five straight games prior to being assigned to the Wolves and wasn't surprised.

"I wasn't," Jaskin said. "When you don't play five games, you start thinking about what is going on, what is going to happen. I kind of expected it. I just took it as an opportunity to get better and get my confidence back. That's the attitude I went there with. I think it worked. I think I played some good minutes down there and I enjoyed it. Hopefully I'm going to take it and put it in tonight."

Jaskin went down and played three games with the Wolves and had a goal an an assist.

"He played awfully well down there," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "He's in a position where he's bigger than a lot of the guys down there, bigger than a lot of the defensemen down there. I think he was able to control the play. 

"I think when you go down there and you don't have to think and you don't have to worry when you're on the fourth line or sometimes on the third line and you're a young player, you're worried about making mistakes or what does the coach think of you and constant evaluation, when you go down there and you're playing 18-20 minutes, you just play and that's what he did, just played and played very well obviously. He got better and better as it went on. We could use him. He's a big, strong guy that's got dynamic skills 1-on-1 down low and we're going to be able to need that here in the next little while."

Jaskin will play with Kyle Brodziak and Scottie Upshall.

"Just play my game and try my best," Jaskin said. "That's all I can do."

- - -

The Blues will turn back to goalie Jake Allen, who will get his first start since injuring his left knee Jan. 8 at the Anaheim Ducks.

Allen has been thrust back into the starter's role after missing six weeks in light of the lower-body injury to Brian Elliott, who is expected to miss at least four weeks.

"I feel good in there. It's been a long six weeks," Allen said. "Some weird stretches of no practices, All-Star break, but over the last couple weeks, I've been working hard to get my game back just to feel comfortable in the net again. I feel like I'm seeing the puck well again. I'm looking forward to tonight."

Hitchcock said as long as Allen is healthy, the net is his.

"The challenge for us is to keep a goalie healthy right now," Hitchcock said. "When you lose players that have had knee injuries, you're just hoping that they're ... we waited as long as we could on Jake, even extended the time so he was 100 percent, but you never know. You never know in this business. 

"We're so grateful we've got two good goalies, but it's one of those things you never know right now. Both guys have really stepped up and been kind of the story of our team that's held this thing together when we've had these injuries. ... There's no silver lining to Elliott going down; there's none."

Asked if he's comfortable playing Allen in all games despite missing six weeks, Hitchcock said, "Yes. Yeah, I'm comfortable doing that, as long as he stays upright. I'm comfortable doing it, yeah."

Allen made a relief appearance for Elliott Monday and allowed two goals on 17 shots.

"It was alright," Allen said. "It's not the ideal way to go in, but you're in the lineup and whenever you're needed to be in, go in. I felt comfortable in there. It was nice to see some big bodies, some game presence."

Getting over the mental hurdle was one of the things Allen, who is 18-11-3 with a 2.18 goals-against average and .923 save percentage, had to overcome and he feels like he's been able to do that.

"That was part of the process," Allen said. "I think you have to understand what the whole process is in the big picture, where you want to be and where you started from. I think I knew that would come over time.  That was probably half way through that where you trust yourself and not worry about your body and just get back to yourself. I'm at that point now."

Allen's only other start against the Rangers was earlier this season at Madison Square Garden, and it wasn't a memorable one; he allowed three goals on five shots before being pulled with 5 minutes 22 seconds remaining in the first period.

"It doesn't really matter to me," Allen said when asked about gaining redemption. "Whoever we're playing, my objective is to stop the puck. It's a hockey game and just going out there to do my best tonight."

- - -

With five days remaining until Monday's 2 p.m. (CT) trade deadline, Hitchcock said this is the most trying time for coaches and players.

Coaches are trying to keep players' focus in check with what can be a trying time as players are wondering if they are staying or moving to another team.

The Blues have 20 games remaining.

"I've got to tell you, until trade deadline's over, this is a time where you really have to work your players to keep them focused because there's a lot of things, a lot of debris out there and keeping your team singular focused until next Monday is a real challenge," Hitchcock said. "It's up in their face every day and you've got to really work with your leaders to make sure you're focused on competition and not worried about what's happening either in the rumor mill or in the newspapers or whatever; you've got to really do your job because it's a distracting time for the players and you still need these points. You need to keep playing well. We've got three games left before we're even into that mode. We've got three significant opponents; we've got to keep our focus right now."

With the social media world everyone lives in now, rumors spread faster than a wildfire, and players see all of them through Twitter or any other social media means.

"We had to buy newspapers (in the past)," Hitchcock joked. "That was expensive, especially buying New York papers living in Philadelphia, that's very expensive."

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Jaden Schwartz-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko

Robby Fabbri-Paul Stastny-Troy Brouwer

Magnus Paajarvi-David Backes-Patrik Berglund

Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Dmitrij Jaskin

Jay Bouwmeester-Kevin Shattenkirk

Carl Gunnarsson-Colton Parayko

Joel Edmundson-Robert Bortuzzo

Jake Allen will start in goal. Pheonix Copley will be the backup.

Heathy scratches include Ryan Reaves, Ty Rattie and Jordan Schmaltz. Alexander Steen (upper body), Alex Pietrangelo (knee), Brian Elliott (lower body) and Steve Ott (hamstring) are on injured reserve.

- - -

The Rangers' projected lineup:

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello  

J.T. Miller-Derick Brassard-Jesper Fast   

Oscar Lindberg-Kevin Hayes-Viktor Stalberg   

Tanner Glass-Dominic Moore-Marek Hrivik

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi  

Marc Staal-Kevin Klein

Keith Yandle-Dan Boyle

Henrik Lundqvist will start in goal. Antti Raanta will be the backup.

Dylan McIlrath is expected to be a healthy scratch, although he will play if Hrivik is sick. Rick Nash (bone bruise) is on injured reserve.

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