By LOU KORAC
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- A goalie change in the middle of a heated Stanley Cup Playoff series is normally viewed as an act of desperation by the changing team.
But for the Blues and coach Ken Hitchcock, they've used a balance of games between Brian Elliott and Jake Allen, who will get the start today against the San Jose Sharks in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final (6:15 p.m.; NBC, KYKY 98.1-FM).
"Under normal circumstances, it's probably large, but with us it's business as usual because we've played these two fellas for a long time," Hitchcock said during pregame comments Saturday. "They've shared the load. ... They've both gone on long, long runs. I think the team is used to this. I think they're comfortable with it.
"Our feeling is that we've allowed six goals (seven with the empty-netter) the last two games and it's too much. It's a zero reflection on Brian Elliott, zero. It's a reflection on us, and if we're going to win this series and get back in this series, we can't continue to allow three and four goals and expect to win games, not with the way San Jose's playing right now. We've got to amp it up defensively."
Allen will be making his first start since April 3 at Colorado when he sustained a lower-body injury, and Brian Elliott took the reigns and ran with them and started the first 17 games of the playoffs and has been arguably the best and most consistent player for the Blues.
But Hitchcock wants to change momentum, and inserting Allen, who handles the puck cleaner and could perhaps help Blues defensemen get quicker, better exits, gives the Blues a wake-up call look and maybe the jump-start they need to try and turn this into a best-of-3 series with the Blues regaining home ice advantage.
"He's stolen games, he plays big in the net," Hitchcock said of Allen. "Not a lot bothers him. Seems to enjoy the moment. He's played in a lot of big games in his life already for a young player. But like I said, if we keep allowing three goals in the playoffs against a team that likes to check well at this time of year, it's not going to work. We've got to get better."
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The Blues will likely stay with the same fourth line of Magnus Paajarvi on left wing, Kyle Brodziak at center and Dmitrij Jaskin on right wing because veteran Scottie Upshall is "not ready to play yet. Not 100 percent," Hitchcock said.
Despite the limited minutes in Game 3, Hitchcock liked that group.
"Same page forecheck, same page puck placement, same page cycle, really good," Hitchcock said. "Had the concept of support over structure.
"I think the difference for us is we've been through quite a bit to get where we're at right now and you could see their freshness and energy really help us and you could see the difference with two fresh guys come in from where some of our players were at. I think it really helped us a lot and hopefully we can get the same type of shifts and same type of energy that we had from them before because it was very helpful."
Brodziak has been the one that's played in every game on the fourth line during the playoffs. He's adjusted to different linemates, including Steve Ott and Ryan Reaves. The adjustment Thursday seemed to work.
"I think when we got a chance to get on the ice, we wanted to contribute," Brodziak said. "Those guys came into the lineup and provided a lot of energy. We’re going to look to do the same [Saturday]. ... We just wanted to play a simple game. We understand we’re not going to get a lot of easy ice out there. Our goal as a line was to try and get the puck in their end and force them to make mistakes. I thought we did a fairly good job of that. We’ve got to do it again.
"Definitely our team has to play as if our lives are on the line. Nothing has come easy so far in the series for us, I don’t think we can expect anything to change (Saturday). Our desperation level is going to have to go up for sure. I think we’re recognizing that as a group. Hopefully we can bring our best and put our best foot forward (Saturday)."
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Hitchcock did say that defensively there will be one change.
The logical choice would be to insert Joel Edmundson in for Robert Bortuzzo, but Hitchcock left the door open for another change, perhaps.
"We're going to make one change for sure, we'll see," Hitchcock said. "We'll see after warm-up."
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The Blues' projected lineup (updated):
Robby Fabbri-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko
Alexander Steen-Paul Stastny-Troy Brouwer
Jaden Schwartz-Patrik Berglund-David Backes
Magnus Paajarvi-Kyle Brodziak-Dmitrij Jaskin
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Joel Edmundson-Kevin Shattenkirk
Carl Gunnarsson-Colton Parayko
Jake Allen will start in goal. Brian Elliott will be the backup.
Healthy scratches are Robert Bortuzzo, Ryan Reaves, Steve Ott, Petteri Lindbohm, Chris Butler, Peter Harrold, Ty Rattie and Anders Nilsson. The Blues report no injuries.
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The Sharks' projected lineup:
Tomas Hertl-Joe Thornton-Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau-Logan Couture-Joonas Donskoi
Melker Karlsson-Chris Tierney-Joel Ward
Dainius Zubrus-Nick Spaling-Tommy Wingels
Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Justin Braun
Paul Martin-Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon-Roman Polak
Martin Jones will start in goal. James Reimer will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Matt Tennyson, Dylan DeMelo and Micheal Haley. Matt Nieto (undisclosed injury) is out.