By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The Blues will make one lineup change ahead of their first Game 7 at Scottrade Center since 2000.
Defenseman Joel Edmundson will replace Robert Bortuzzo in the lineup for the final game of the Western Conference First Round series against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Edmundson was a healthy scratch the past two games.
"Honestly, I wasn't too pleased with the way I had been playing," Edmundson said. "I kind of agree with the choice they made by putting 'Bobbo' in. He played two great games when he got in. Unfortunately, we couldn't get the two wins when I was out, so I'm going to just come in and help the team out and get the win.
"I was making too many turnovers. I wasn't handling the puck great. Just didn't feel comfortable out there. I think watching the past two games kind of let me see how much time I actually have out there, kind of when I got sent down earlier this year. I regrouped and this is a regroup stage for me."
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock has used right-hander Kevin Shattenkirk on the left side, and by getting Edmundson back in, this evens out the lefty-righty split.
"I think this sets up our lefty-righty schedule," Hitchcock said. "(Edmundson's) a young guy, it's great experience for him. He's looking forward to it, we're looking forward to having him in. He caught his breath and he'll be a good player tonight. ... Just experience-wise. 'Borts' has played a little bit more. Hunch. 'Borts' is probably a little bit better red line in, 'Eddy' is better red line back, 'Borts' more attacking player back."
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The Blues, who are 6-8 lifetime in 14 Game 7's, last played one here against the San Joe Sharks, a game that saw Owen Nolan score from just inside the red line on Roman Turek.
But this is a fresh, new group that has 15 games worth of Game 7 experience, is revved up and ready to go.
"Maybe in junior, I don't remember. Not at this level unless you guys can refresh my memory," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said of his Game 7 experience. "Great opportunity for us. There are some guys that have had it before. We're all really excited for it.
"You embrace it. You enjoy the challenge, embrace the challenge. We worked all year for home ice advantage. We deserve this and we'll take advantage of it."
Captain David Backes it's all about having fun.
"You need to," Backes said. "You've got an opportunity to knock off the defending Stanley Cup champion in your building. We worked our butts off all year to get this home ice advantage, now we've got it for a Game 7 and we need to have fun, enjoy the battle, enjoy the wounds and the nicks and the bumps and the bruises that you take for your teammate and your team to have success and here we go. Can't wait for the puck drop."
In a game with so much on the line, Hitchcock said the key for the Blues will come down to managing the puck.
"I think for both teams, it's how you exit," Hitchcock said. "For us it's all connected to puck support. When our puck support is on the mark, we look quick. We know our team speed is what it is, but we look quick when our puck support is there. For me, it's puck support. When we're skating for support demanding the puck, we can skate very fast. That's the first thing I would look at. The second thing I would look at is zone faceoffs. How many times are we in our own end or how many times are we in the opposition end? If we're in our own end a lot, it means our goalies either having to make saves or stoppages and that's a disadvantage for us. And if we're in the O-zone, then that's a big advantage. For me, those are the two things that you based on, again, if you really look at this series, what's made it so compelling and made it so emotionally engaging for teams and the fans and even the media, is that there is really no neutral zone time for either team. We're either in their zone or they're in our zone and it's made for very exciting hockey because it was a little bit low-scoring at the start, but the scoring chances were all there and now the scoring chances have been increased and it's high drama because there's absolutely zero time through the neutral zone. You're either attacking, defending and nothing in between."
For rookie defenseman Colton Parayko, the excitement level is on a high.
"It's exciting," Parayko said. "Even yesterday, I was kind of just thinking it's my first NHL playoffs, Game 7 just kind of getting thrown right into it. We have a great team, they have a great team. It's kind of something you dream of as a kid. ... Being a Game 7, it's kind of do-or-die. Everyone's going to be puttint it all on the line, them and us. Those are the games you want to be a part of. They'll be fun, obviously exciting and intense."
Make no miskate ... this is not just another game.
"Exactly," Parayko said. "It's something you've got be razor sharp all night. It's going to take a full 60 minutes to obviously win this one. If not 60, it's going to take a little bit extra. We're willing to do that if it goes a little longer. It's going to be a battle. Both teams are going to be prepared and I expect a lot of fun."
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Speaking of Pietrangelo, this is the fifth season in which he's played in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
With a goal and five assists, this is arguably his best postseason run.
"Yeah, I've kind of tried to lead the way on the backend there," Pietrangelo said. "I've been given a lot of opportunities here by the coaching staff to go out there and make plays and make an effort to lead the charge.
"I'm feeding off my teammates, they've been great. 'Moose' has been unbelievable. The list goes on and on."
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This will be Hitchcock's sixth game coaching in a Game 7; he's 3-2. On the ice side, Joel Quenneville is 3-4.
Troy Brouwer (six) and Kyle Brodziak (two) are the only players with multi-game experience, and the Blues' coach was asked if his experience could be beneficial.
"Not so much Game 7's because the last time, it's a little while, and as you get older, your memory fades, but for me, that's all I played in the Olympics," Hitchcock said. "There's nothing but Game 7's. I've learned from some very experienced people that the game is tonight and not this morning. Wasted energy is a real negative factor. If you're going to pump up the volume, but for me, the biggest thing for me is let the event itself pump up the volume. Don't spend any energy pumping it up this morning or thinking you're going to give them this big speed that's going to work out because you can throw them over the top. For us, we've had a very similar, methodical approach to what we've done all year. It's worked for us and we'll let the event tonight ... it's been a long time since we've had a Game 7 in this building. The place will be jacked and hopping and we'll let the event itself take care of the emotion."
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The Blues are spending the day at a hotel as if they were on the road, to avoid any type of distractions.
"I haven't stayed in a hotel in St. Louis in about 10 years," Backes said. "It will be a new experience I haven't had too often. You cancel out all the distractions, you have a great meal together as a group, get to the rink tonight as a group, we're going to do everything as a group here, when we do that, we have great success. Away we go."
Hitchcock was asked if he was staying at the rink or going to the hotel, and in typical fashion ...
"No, I can hardly wait to get rid of you folks so I can go watch more Barnyard Builders," Hitchcock joked, getting a rise out of the media contingency.
For the record, Hitchcock meant 'Backyard Builders.'
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The Blues' projected lineup:
Jaden Schwartz-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko
Alexander Steen-Paul Stastny-Troy Brouwer
Robby Fabbri-Patrik Berglund--David Backes
Steve Ott-Kyle Brodziak-Scottie Upshall
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Joel Edmundson-Kevin Shattenkirk
Carl Gunnarsson-Colton Parayko
Brian Elliott will start in goal. Jake Allen will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Robert Bortuzzo, Ryan Reaves, Dmitrij Jaskin, Magnus Paajarvi, Ty Rattie, Petteri Lindbohm, Chris Butler and Anders Nilsson. The Blues report no injuries.
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The Blackhawks' projected lineup:
Richard Panik-Jonathan Toews-Patrick Kane
Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Tomas Fleischmann
Andrew Ladd-Marcus Kruger-Marian Hossa
Andrew Desjardins-Andrew Shaw-Dale Weise
Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Erik Gustafsson-Brent Seabrook
Trevor van Riemsdyk-David Rundblad
Corey Crawford will start in goal. Scott Darling will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Tomas Fleischmann, Viktor Svedberg, Michal Rozsival, Christian Ehrhoff, Brandon Mashinter and Michael Leighton. The Blackhawks report no injuries.