Thursday, October 27, 2016

(10-27-16) Red Wings-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- It's the eighth game of the season and the Blues will play a full, healthy lineup for the first time.

Center Jori Lehtera was activated off injured-reserve on Thursday after he missed the past four games with concussion-like symptoms.

Lehtera, who doesn't have a point in three games, missed the past four games but began skating Monday and practiced with the team in full Wednesday. 

"It's always tough when the boys are on the road trip and you're just by yourself at home laying on the couch. It's not fun," Lehtera said. "I'm really excited (to play). ... Everything's good. I feel good, yeah. I feel like you but better."

After passing concussion protocol, the Blues deemed him fit and ready to go and Lehtera will initially at least be reunited on the "STL Line" with Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko but start off as a left wing and Schwartz stay in the middle.

"We're going to keep Schwartz at center, at least to start today and 'Lehts' play on the left wing there," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We're not opposed to making changes as we see fit. We've got three good players on the same line and if we've got to divvy up the responsibilities and move one of those guys down or up, we'll see. Obviously that line had great chemistry last year. They were a very good line and we'll keep them together to start with."

Hitchcock is obviously pleased to get Lehtera back.

"We know the chemistry that he has with 'Vlad,' which is a good sign," Hitchcock said. "But quite frankly, he was our best forward, the way he was playing before he got hurt. Through exhibition games and through the start of the league play, this is as good as he's played since he's been here.

"So what we're getting is another good player back. We've added Schwartz and we've added Lehtera now, and when you get two really good players like that back, it really gives you the depth on your team that your looking for. He was playing great hockey and hopefully we can get him back up to speed."

In order to make room for Lehtera, the Blues put left wing Magnus Paajarvi on waivers, a day after Hitchcock said Paajarvi was the team's best skater on the ice the past three days at practice.

Paajarvi, who signed a one-year, one-way contract for $700,000, had one goal -- a game-winner against the Minnesota Wild -- in three games. But the Blues opted to make him expendable over Dmitrij Jaskin or Ty Rattie.

"(Paajarvi) has been good," Hitchcock said. "Rattie has been good, lots of tough choices. Lots of tough choices on who sits out, too. When you've got a lot of players who are playing pretty well, it's competition on, it's game on. Ty gets his chance, you hope he takes advantage of it. Magnus gets his chance, hopes he takes advantage of it. Jaskin stays in, Upshall goes out, so 'Jask' has to take advantage of it. That's what happens when you're healthy and competitive like we are right now."

"(Paajarvi's) done a good job. He's a dutiful player. He checks. We'd like him to score more and he'd like to score more, but he does what he's asked to do and he did a good job of it here. But it's a full lineup right now."

With it being a tough lineup now to crack, the Blues will make Scottie Upshall a healthy scratch tonight. Upshall has a goal and an assist in seven games.

AFTERNOON UPDATE: One change on defense also includes defenseman Robert Bortuzzo in the lineup tonight in place of Carl Gunnarsson. Bortuzzo has been a healthy scratch the past two games and four of seven this season. 

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It's a reunion of sorts with another ex-teammate for the Blues when they entertain the red-hot Detroit Red Wings, winners of five in a row, today at 7 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).

After entertaining Brian Elliott and Troy Brouwer with the Calgary Flames on Tuesday, the Blues welcome friend Steve Ott back with the Wings tonight.

Ott, who was acquired before the NHL Trade Deadline along with Ryan Miller from the Buffalo Sabres late in the 2013-14 season, spend the past two-plus seasons in St. Louis, including last year's run to the Western Conference Final.

"It started when I landed obviously. I went out to dinner with a lot of the guys last night and it was great to see them," Ott said. "Obviously miss the boys. It's been a tight team here in St. Louis last year and when you have that, you make friends for life. I have a bunch over there obviously, but today's a game day and yesterday was a friendship day.

"The emotions are always ramped up. That's the human nature of everything. I want to try and play my way as much as possible, but we're here business-wise. It's another game obviously. I've done this a few times obviously when you've played your ex-teammates as you move along in your career. For us, we want to keep something as we're building as the Detroit Red Wings. We're winning games, we're playing the right way and our total game's starting to come together and that's the big picture."

Hitchcock, who coached Ott in Dallas as well, had the line of the day.

"Who?" Hitchcock said. "Don't know him. There's a little short guy on their team wearing (No.) 29, I don't know if that's him or not. Don't know him, sorry."

Ott is known as an agitator and did it well while with the Blues, and now he gets to turn it back around on his friends tonight, including chirping.

"I'm sure he'll just be his usual self," Schwartz said. "He does like to talk on the ice, create havoc a little bit. He's good at what he does. You just try not to let him affect the game too much. I'm sure he'll be fired up to play here and he'll be forechecking hard and getting to the net, so a guy we'll have to box out. I'm sure he'll have fun talking, chirping on the ice. I think we'll all be ready for it.

"I usually laugh at his jokes. I'll probably laugh and just keep on going. He's pretty quick if I give something back. I'm sure he'll come back with something better."

Could Ott perhaps get in a fight, say, with Ryan Reaves?

"I think he knows he can't get under my skin, but I can't wait for him to try," Reaves said. "I think we both are kind of similar, it's tough to rattle us with words. I've never been one for somebody to chirp at me and get me made. I'm more of a smile-in-your-face-kind-of-guy and that (ticks) people off. He's the same way. It's tough getting him off his game with words. I expect the old Otter to come in and play against us the way he days. It'll be a battle, but it'll be fun."

Ott said: "Maybe I was laying ground work last night. It wouldn't be the game the way it's supposed to be if you didn't play the way you're supposed to play and compete the way you're supposed to play. There's no letups. This is a profession. This is a business that we all play. No difference in myself in playing my way. I know guys are going to be playing extremely hard and I wouldn't expect nothing less."

Tonight will also mark the 800th NHL game for Ott.

"This is something," Ott said. "You never think you're going to play one, so to play 800 tonight, especially with as many bumps and bruises as I've had over my career, you never know when your last milestone is. This could be it, so who knows. Continue to push forward and continue to keep going and do my thing."

When Ott became a free agent this past summer, choices would be limited, and when it became obvious he wouldn't return to St. Louis, he wanted to get closer to his home of Summerside, Prince Edward Island. Ott played junior hockey for the Windsor Spitfires, across the Detroit River.

"You know what, absolutely. I talked to my agent right way and I said, 'Just try to land me a job in Detroit," Ott said. "This is where I've always wanted to play. I grew up a big Wings fan. It's close to home, and to have the opportunity to play in front of friends and family every single home game, it's something really special to me. I've really, really enjoyed my time here. It's a great organization and we're having a lot of fun."

And Ott, who signed a one-year, $800,000 contract, has made an impact in the Red Wings locker room.

"Steve's had a big impact on our team so far in two different areas," Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. "One would be intangibles off the ice. He brings energy to the locker room. We needed some of that energy. He's a fun guy to be around. He brings camaraderie, and I think that's a real critical part to winning. And on the ice, he's been a real good, complete player. He wins faceoffs on the left side especially. He's a good penalty killer, but he provides energy in physicality but is real accountable defensively. Those are rarities on the league and he's been a real good impact so far."

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Robby Fabbri-Paul Stastny-Alexander Steen

Jori Lehtera-Jaden Schwartz-Vladimir Tarasenko

David Perron-Patrik Berglund-Nail Yakupov

Dmitrij Jaskin-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Robert Bortuzzo-Kevin Shattenkirk

Joel Edmundson-Colton Parayko

Jake Allen will start in goal. Carter Hutton will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Scottie UpshallCarl Gunnarsson and Ty Rattie. The Blues report no injuries.

- - -

The Red Wings' projected lineup:

Gustav Nyquist-Frans Nielsen-Dylan Larkin

Tomas Tatar-Henrik Zetterberg-Riley Sheahan

Andreas Athanasiou-Darren Helm-Justin Abdelkader

Drew Miller-Luke Glendening-Steve Ott

Danny DeKeyser-Mike Green

Jonathan Ericsson-Alexey Marchenko

Brendan Smith-Ryan Sproul

Petr Mrazek will start in goal. Jimmy Howard will be the backup.

Xavier Ouellet is the healthy scratch. Niklas Kronwall (knee), Tomas Jurco (back) and Thomas Vanek (mid-body) are out with injuries.

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