By LOU KORAC
DALLAS -- Ryan Reaves has been salivating, to say the least, to get in the Blues lineup.
He could get his chance Sunday in Game 2 of the Western Conference Second Round series against the Dallas Stars.
Reaves, who played in 64 of the 82 games during the regular season on the Blues, fourth line, has not been in the lineup in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since Game 2 of the first round against the Chicago Blackhawks.
But on Saturday at what was supposed to be an optional skate that turned into a full practice, Reaves was skating in his customary spot on right wing alongside center Kyle Brodziak and left wing Magnus Paajarvi.
"I'm always ready to go, always hungry," Reaves said. "It's tough watching the boys go through playoffs, especially when it's crazy series like they've been so far and you can't be out there helping the boys. I'm trying to stay ready. When I get the call, I'll be ready.
"I think just making sure when you get in there, you're not too amped up and you're not over-doing anything. You're just going out there and playing your game, being responsible and making sure you're helping the team and trying to make an impact on the game."
Reaves was in the lineup for Games 1 and 2 against the Blackhawks, a 1-0 overtime win and a 3-2 loss, respectively but gave way to Steve Ott, who returned after missing 57 games with torn hamstrings and a bout with colitis.
"I thought we played well, but they wanted to make a change after we lost," Reaves said. "Whatever the team needs, that line's been playing really well. I thought they really had an impact on that Chicago series. They were able to play any line that they were out against and playing really well and played them hard and get in their face. Once that starts rolling like that, it's tough to change it up. I was happy for them, and I'll be happy when I get back in."
The Blues had a playoff low 26 hits in a 2-1 loss in Game 1 on Friday. Reaves could add to the foray.
"I think that was our least physical game (Friday)," Reaves said. "They were running around a bit and targeting ... playing playoff hockey and targeting our guys. That's exactly what you do in the playoffs. If it's me (today), then that's what I've got to do."
When asked if Reaves was in, coach Ken Hitchcock said after practice Saturday: "All available assets are at our disposal. Let me put it this way: we do not have an injury that would prevent me from making a decision."
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Scottie Upshall was the lone regular who did not participate in practice, and Hitchcock said Upshall's status is "maintenance" and will continue to be so throughout at the very least, this series.
"He's maintenance. I'm not going to let anyone know who's in and who's out right now," Hitchcock said. "He's maintenance and he'll continue to be maintenance right throughout this series."
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Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo was a participant after taking a physical toll in the opener of the series.
Pietrangelo, the Blues' leader in minutes played per game in the playoffs at 29:56, played just 25:37 against the Stars on Friday. He took a slash on the hand/wrist at one point from Stars captain Jamie Benn and came to the bench holding his arm but didn't miss any shifts.
"I didn't think it was anything other than when we were going after a couple guys, got licks on one of them," Hitchcock said. "Obviously when you play that many minutes, you're going to be a target. I think he looked like our team; he looked tired at the end because we spent too much time defending. I think anybody's going to look tired and vulnerable when you're in your zone too much. We were just in our zone way too much.
"... Oh yeah, he's fine. He's good."
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Being outhit in the opener is something the Blues are not accustomed to.
At one point to start the game, Dallas had a 13-3 edge in hits, showing they wanted to throw the Blues game off by playing their style before going back to their more traditional transition/speed game.
"That's a staple of our game," right wing Troy Brouwer said. "It's a result of not getting pucks behind, not giving ourselves an opportunity to get good licks in on their D. I thought they did a great job of breaking out quickly while we weren't able to sustain a forecheck, get in, get some bumps and make them a little nervous to go back and get the puck. It's a long series and we have to establish that physical presence, but we were outhit last night."
Hitchcock said it is what it is.
"I think they outhit us. I think they took the puck away from us, I thought they outhit us," Hitchcock said. "I thought where they did where we didn't do a good job was in the offensive zone. I thought they got up and out much easier than even some of our players anticipated. They did a good job, they knocked us off pucks in the d-zone and they were able to exit a lot easier than we wanted them too. I think that's where they outhit us. They knocked us off of pucks that we need to control a lot more and compete at a lot more."
Does it mean the Blues need to come out more physical? Not necessarily, said defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.
"You do and you don't," he said. "They're a team that when they have full possession, they're so good on their transition and with their second wave joining the rush that if you're running out of position to make a hit, they more than anyone else can make you pay. They're so good on the rush and their odd-man rushes of creating chances off of it. I don't think we're necessarily looking to win the hitting game, but we want to hit at the right time and we want to hit certain guys who we feel like we can push out of the series."
Which is why center Paul Stastny doesn't care for the final numbers, whether the Blues are on the right or wrong side of that number.
"That's a skewed stat, depends on what building you play in," Stastny said. "If you have the puck more often than not, they're going to be physical. At the same time, every time we had the puck, they were trying to finish their checks. I think there's times to hit guys and there's times to just kind of soft block a guy and get him to release the puck. I don't think we felt like we got outhit. We knew it was going to be a more physical than it was against Chicago. But for us, most importantly is when we do finish our checks, we make sure that we can't get beat back up the ice because that's what they're defensemen are good at, trying to get around our forwards and get back up the ice."
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Vladimir Tarasenko's ice time went up in Game 1, a forward-leading 21:04, but his production was at a stalemate, thanks in large part to the line of Radek Faksa, Antoine Roussel and Ales Hemsky, which kept the "STL Line" in check.
Tarasenko finished with three shots on goal on seven shot attempts but other than that, he was on the ice for Shattenkirk's tying goal.
"Good game, they won 2-1," Tarasenko said. "We don't play our best game that we can. So now we're down by one. We need to try to tie the series tomorrow.
"We just need to play our game like we play Game 7 against Chicago. They have a good team. They were the best in our conference in the regular season and it's really fun to play against those guys because like Jamie Benn said, 'They hate us, we hate them.' But it's fun stuff, both teams play physical. It's a good challenge for us and for them. Even in this series, you just need to try to have fun and play your game."
Faksa's line shadowed the "STL Line" and not only did its part defensively but accounted for both Stars goals.
And with the success the "STL Line" had against the Blackhawks, Hitchcock wants some change because he feels Dallas is doing what Chicago tried to do with the line of Marcus Kruger, Marian Hossa and Andrew Ladd.
"No, and that's the problem; they did exactly the same, so we have to change, we have to adjust," Hitchcock said. "We can't keep playing that way and expect to have success. We need to adjust. The line needs to adjust, the line needs to adjust and we need to adjust. We looked at some video to today that'll hopefully be helpful, but we need to adjust."
On Tarasenko's minutes, Hitchcock seemed a bit surprised.
"I didn't look. What did he play," the coach asked before being told 21:04> "Oh did he? Quite a bit, eh? Can we maybe shut that story up now?"
Tarasenko said he'll have to change and for the better.
"I need to play better," Tarasenko said. "But you know, we still have day before game and there's still time to think about it. We talk a lot inside our team and I think we're ready for this challenge and just try to play our best tomorrow."
"I just need to take a look at my shifts and make adjustments. All teams play kind of the same, all teams are physical. Everybody try to hit you as much as they can. You know, you need to a player that nobody can break. Like I said, it's a good challenge and it's a fun part of the year."
Some felt that after the tight-checking series against Chicago in which Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz and Jori Lehtera combined for 17 points in seven games, perhaps Tarasenko would be able to have more free ice available.
"No because of the way the (Chicago) series went," Hitchcock said. "There were glimpses in Game 70 that we saw how the games were going to be. We anticipated this. We made really good adjustments in the last series and we've got to make them again. We need to recognize what's happening and then make the adjustments accordingly. It's not a lot different than what we did to their guys, but we need to make a more concerted effort to ... it's not so much breaking free, it's just understanding where the pressure's coming from and how you react from there."
And for Tarasenko, it's a case of not thinking about who's on the ice.
"If you start thinking of this stuff, you will lose your game a little bit," he said. "So whoever you play against, you just need to be ready and be yourself on the ice and don't let nobody scare you."
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The Blues' projected lineup (UPDATED):
Jaden Schwartz-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko
Alexander Steen-Paul Stastny-Troy Brouwer
Robby Fabbri-Patrik Berglund-David Backes
Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves
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, Dmitrij Jaskin, Magnus Paajarvi, Steve Ott, Chris Butler, Peter Harrold and Anders Nilsson. The Blues report no injuries.
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The Stars' projected lineup (UPDATED):
Jamie Benn-Cody Eakin-Patrick Sharp
Mattias Janmark-Jason Spezza-Valeri Nichushkin
Antoine Roussel-Radek Faksa-Ales Hemsky
Travis Moen-Vernon Fiddler-Colton Sceviour
Alex Goligoski-John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya-Stephen Johns
Kris Russell-Jason Demers
Kari Lehtonen will start in goal. Antti Niemi will be the backup.
Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak, Jordie Benn, Curtis McKenzie and Brett Ritchie are healthy scratches. Tyler Seguin (lower body) and Patrick Eaves (foot) are out.