By LOU KORAC
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Robby Fabbri will get back into the lineup for the goal-starving Blues after being a healthy scratch for the first time in his young career Thursday at Nashville.
Fabbri, who has just a goal and three assists in 14 games this season, will skate on a line with Jori Lehtera and Vladimir Tarasenko to get some of his scoring touch back after coach Ken Hitchcock felt he had a "tough night" against Chicago on Wednesday.
"It's a good feeling that they're going to give you the opportunity and now it's just my job to go in and making sure they made the right decision," Fabbri said. "... It's not something you want to dread over. It happened. It's obviously disappointing, but now's my job to work and make sure it never happens again."
It's not the first time Fabbro has skated with Lehtera and Tarasenko, so he feels he can slip right in and be effective.
"A couple times last year and in playoffs. We finished together," Fabbri said. "We got some good chemistry last year and we were talking through practice this morning. Hopefully we'll bring it over to tonight."
Fabbri, who had 18 goals and 19 assists in a solid rookie season in 72 games, got the coaching staff's attention with the benching.
"He's just got to be a good player," Hitchcock said of Fabbri. "He played two really good games and then he had a tough night. When you're going to play up the lineup like he is, we need a good player. Doesn't matter who's in that spot, has to be a good player. Can't be carrying a guy in that spot because like I said before, otherwise you make yourself part of the group of 14. We need him to be part of the group of seven or eight, and when he's there, he's really effective and that's what we need.
"We need him thinking, 'I'm a go-to guy. I've got to play like a go-to guy.' His tenacity and his compete level with that skill makes him a very effective player. That tenacity and that work ethic has to be there every night."
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With the Blues near the bottom of the NHL (27th at 2.20) in goals per game, the lineup will have some newer looks once again.
Hitchcock said the pairs have been good, but finding that third piece to the puzzle has been challenging.
"The chemistry we've got in some twosomes is good," Hitchcock said. "We always are moving around the third guy; most coaches do. Their team changed three of their lines, we changed two or three of our lines. It's the nature of the business, but I think it becomes confusing if you don't have hockey practices if you're changing all three. We know some two-man chemistry and we're looking for more depth, more participants in the game.
"We're trying to, just like Columbus is, we're trying to incorporate a lot of younger players into the mix here. By being able to do that, we want to make sure that they're protected well on the ice so we've got some maturity with them. Right now, we're counting on a lot of younger guys, especially up front."
Jaden Schwartz will move onto a line with Patrik Berglund and Alexander Steen, and David Perron slides to a line with Paul Stastny and Nail Yakupov.
Ryan Reaves will be a healthy scratch for the second time this season, as Dmitrij Jaskin slides down to play with Scottie Upshall and Kyle Brodziak.
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The Blues will be playing their fifth game in eight days, a grueling stretch by any means, and it caught Hitchcock by surprise.
"Is that where we are? Wow," he said. "No, didn't know that one. Then yes, we do. We have to manage our energy, fifth game in eight days. Wow, that's a lot of hockey. Thank you very much for that. I'll make sure I incorporate that into my coaching today. That is a lot of hockey.
"It really impacts things. You're just going day-to-day. You're not counting the days that you're not there, so it does impact things."
With the crunch of games, the Blues have had little time to get on the practice ice. They'll have one Monday after a day off Sunday, then hit the grind again with five games in nine days leading up to Thanksgiving.
"We've had one practice in 11 days and we'll have another one on Monday and then we'll have one in 10 days," Hitchcock said. "It's just the way the league is. It's the way things are for us right now. We don't have any big breaks in our schedule; we have a few of them coming up, but a lot of them are incorporated into mandatory days off, so that's a challenge for everybody. I think that's why you see everybody in the mix right now. Everybody's all around it. ... We're all around the same thing. You're going to see some emerging going on at 30, 35 games."
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The Blues' penalty kill is ranked No. 1 -- coincidentally, with tonight's opponent -- at 91.9 percent, which is good, but the power play has to be better.
At 15.1 percent, it's 21st in the league and just 1-for-26 in the past eight games.
The Blues moved some parts around Saturday morning looking for the right components and balance.
"It's almost like the two units are balanced now," Perron said. "I think that's really going to put pressure and competition on both units. That's exactly what we need to have."
One other area that could boost it is generating more power play chances on a game by game basis. The Blues have had five opportunities the past two games while having to kill 10.
"I think it's up to us, too, to draw more penalties," Perron said. "It's hard when you only get one or two power plays. We really need to put the work in 5-on-5 and I think the mentality will just carry on for the 5-on-4. ... You normally draw penalties on the O-zone, and when you're not playing there as much, you're definitely not drawing penalties."
Hitchcock tied it to effort.
"I think it's based on your second and third effort that makes people make mistakes," he said. "This is a league littered with effort. Every team has a work ethic and a very strong one, but it's the teams that have the second and third worth ethic that are kind of emerging now, and that's what we want to be. We want to be a team that really stays with it longer and forces the other team into big errors and mistakes and penalties."
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Seven Blues were in attendance Friday night for the United States World Cup qualifier match against Mexico in CONCACAF.
Perron, Steen, Stastny, Schwartz, Jaskin, Carl Gunnarsson and Kevin Shattenkirk took in the match, won by Mexico 2-1 on a late Rafa Marquez goal.
"It was pretty cool there," Perron said. "I think it was fun for us to watch. It was almost great to see the atmosphere there. The fans stood up the whole game. It was special. The national anthem was ... they had some kind of paper. We had our own color, whether it was red, white or blue, which was great. The whole experience was awesome."
Some of the players left at halftime and wanted to get out to avoid any delays getting back to the hotel.
"It was great. What an atmosphere," Shattenkirk said. "It was something I wish somehow we could replicate in a hockey arena, with the chants in the crowd and the energy in general.
"I know those games, they're kind of similar because they hang on one or two goals, it was really just a lot of fun to be part of, see how much soccer has grown in the U.S. ... USA Soccer helped us out, they let us kind of crash their party, which was nice."
"They were jumping on board, got them some gear to wear, they grew up with soccer more than we did, they enjoyed going to the actual event and watching some great players play. I stayed till the end and saw that dagger. That was tough. It was a dagger. 88th minute. With a twist."
Perron, a Canadian, was part of the group decked out in USA gear.
"Absolutely. First of all, the weather didn't help," Perron said. "If it was 80, I don't know if I would have brought a US sweater, but I think being in the US now for almost 10 years, it's like a second home; that's what it is really. People have really supported me and made sure that I felt at home when I was young. It speaks a lot for the people in St. Louis, just how great they've been with me."
Gunnarsson added: "I left (at halftime) so I could get warm. It was cold outside. ... It was fun. Mexico was good. U.S. was eh. Atmosphere was good though."
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The Blues' projected lineup:
Jaden Schwartz-Patrik Berglund-Alexander Steen
Robby Fabbri-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko
David Perron-Paul Stastny-Nail Yakupov
Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Dmitrij Jaskin
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Carl Gunnarsson-Kevin Shattenkirk
Petteri Lindbohm-Colton Parayko
Jake Allen will start in goal; Carter Hutton will be the backup.
Ryan Reaves is the healthy scratch. Robert Bortuzzo (lower body) and Joel Edmundson (upper body are on injured-reserve.
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The Blue Jackets' projected lineup:
Brandon Saad-Alexander Wennberg-Nick Foligno
Boone Jenner-Brandon Dubinsky-Cam Atkinson
Matt Calvert-William Karlsson-Josh Anderson
Scott Hartnell-Lukas Sedlak-Sam Gagner
Zach Werenski-David Savard
Ryan Murray-Jack Johnson
Markus Nutivaara -- Dalton Prout
Sergei Bobrovsky will start in goal; Curtis McElhinney will be the backup.
The heathy scratch is Scott Harrington. David Clarkson (back) and Seth Jones (foot) are on injured-reserve.