Monday, May 23, 2016

(5-23-16) Sharks-Blues Game 5 Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- What is known is that Blues forwards David Backes and Robby Fabbri will dress during the pregame warmup leading up to Game 5 of the Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks (7 p.m.; NBCSN, KYKY 98.1-FM).

What isn't known is if either will play.

The Blues held an optional skate on Monday morning and neither Backes or Fabbri were part of a heavily-populated skate.

Both were injured in a 6-3 victory in Game 4 on Saturday, in which coach Ken Hitchcock said afterwards that both should be good to go moving forward.

Hitchcock was not as forthcoming Monday.

"We're going to dress the same lineup for warmup that we did the last game," Hitchcock said with a grin. "We had two extra forwards in there, one extra 'D.' No changes. All those players are there. They'll dress for warmup and then we'll run a further evaluation for warmup. The same 23 guys are dressing."

Backes was injured in the first period and played 5:34. He did come out each time for the second and third periods and sat on the bench with the team, as did Fabbri, who played 9:21 but only 52 seconds after the second period.

It's nothing new for the Blues, who dealt with a plethora of injuries throughout the season, and if they have to adjust, they'll do so accordingly.

"We know where we stand in the dressing room already," right wing Troy Brouwer said. "You guys can speculate until gametime. 

"We've had injuries, guys come in and out of the lineup throughout the season. It's shown a lot about a lot of different players in here. To see something extra out of the guys that you thought they might not have had. We've had a lot of guys step in to fill key roles at times. If something is out of place tonight, then we have all the confidence in the world in the guys that can step in."

Added left wing Jaden Schwartz: "It's a good sign of character in our locker room. Guys are hungry and ready to go. It's not a good thing to have a lot of injuries throughout the year, but guys got to play more, play in different opportunities and play in situations so I think that helped out everybody. At one point, we were probably missing three or four forwards at a time and a couple, so that helps. Guys are working hard on their off-days and making that they're getting ready if their names are getting called. ... We've got that trust in everybody. I don't think it matters who's going. We know that guys are ready and they're going to play our systems and play to our strengths."

One line the Blues want to keep together is the fourth -- or as Hitch calls it, the third -- line of Kyle Brodziak, Magnus Paajarvi and Dmitrij Jaskin, who have played well the past two games.

Yep. If we can keep it together, we would," Hitchcock said. "If we've got to make changes, we'll make changes; that's why we're dressing 23. We've got to take this to the end of the day before we can throw it in, put the blender in, but that line's been good. We'd like to call it a third line if we ca get cooperation from the media. We're going to keep our third line together."

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Held without a point in four games in the series, right wing Vladimir Tarasenko isn't too worried about personal accomplishments.

"It's that time of year when you trade your goals to reach a goal and win a Cup," Tarasenko said. "It's not the time to think about your goals."

Tarasenko is second on the Blues in points (13) behind Fabbri (14) and tied with Backes and Brouwer in goals with seven. 

The Sharks have made a point to key on him and whatever line he's playing on, but playing in the playoffs and playing late into May is new and rewarding.

"How to play hockey in May, late May," Tarasenko said when asked what he's learned. "It has been pretty fun and I think we’re doing really good right now. You know this is our coach, so if he said it, he’s right.

"I think all teams is difficult. The main part is to stay on your game and just work hard. Goals and points will come but if our team wins, it means we’re all on the same page and we’re all doing good right now.

"It’s 2-2 right now. We had a tough road trip to San Jose, we won an important game so I think we feel pretty well. (I feel) well too. It’s a tight series and it all starts from the beginning (in a tie series)."

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Hitchcock was asked about the gamesmanship and his verbal (and playful) jabs he has with Sharks coach Peter DeBoer.

"The answer do I enjoy it is yes because what you guys report, it's really boring and we've got to have some fun, too," Hitchcock said. "So I find it fun. Pete and I know each other real well. We were together in Slovakia. We survived Bratislava together. We know each other, but sending you folks on a wild goose chase is fun sometimes. We've got to enjoy it, too. You can't just be stress and pressure 24 hours a day. There's got to be some fun in it for us. I like it. I like the atmosphere. I like the focal point of it, and quite frankly I like anything that takes away from the focus on the players so that they can just play hockey. I think sometimes when there's so much discussion back and forth and there's so many elements that need stories, it can become overwhelming to the players so any time I can get people chasing down a different path, I try and do it. It's fun."

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When teams are tied 2-2 in a best-of-7 series, the winner of Game 5 holds an all-time series record of 192-53 (78.3%).

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The Sharks have had a penchant for bouncing back after losses throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They did so when they lost to the Los Angeles Kings in Game 3 of the first round and after losing Games 3 and 4 and 6 against the Nashville Predators in the second round.

"It's an opportunity for us individually and as a team to go out and play the way we expect ourselves to play," Sharks center Logan Couture said. "... We're going to need to be better and I'm sure they're going to want to bring the same game they had in Game 4. It's up to us to match it and be better than them."

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The Blues' projected lineup (will be updated during pregame warmups):

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 projected to be Robert Bortuzzo, Ryan Reaves, Steve Ott, Petteri Lindbohm, Chris Butler, Peter Harrold, Ty Rattie and Anders Nilsson. Scottie Upshall has an undisclosed upper-body injury.

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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.

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