Thursday, November 17, 2016

(11-17-16) Sharks-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues will take their entire lineup, including forwards Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, into warmups on Thursday night before their rematch with the San Jose Sharks (7 p.m.; FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).

Steen, who took part in an optional skate Thursday morning, left a 4-1 victory against the Buffalo Sabres after taking a hard check to the offensive zone corner boards at the hands of Josh Gorges. Steen came back twice during the second period but did not play the third.

Tarasenko, who coach Ken Hitchcock said was dinged up in the game Tuesday but finished it, did not participate in the optional skate.

Neither player practiced on Wednesday.

"We're going to take the whole group into the warmup, including (Nail) Yakupov and (Ty) and Rattie and we'll let you know there," Hitchcock said. "We can't 100 percent tell you whether (Steen and Tarasenko) are going to play right now, so everybody's in the warmup, maybe even including Bortuzzo and we'll see from there." 

Bortuzzo (lower body) has missed the past nine games but has been skating daily since Sunday, including the optional on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Bortuzzo said he's getting closer.

If Steen is unavailable, Dmitrij Jaskin would likely slot into the top line with Paul Stastny and Jaden Schwartz and Yakupov, a healthy scratch in four of the past six games, would move into the lineup and play with Patrik Berglund and David Perron.

Rattie was skating in Tarasenko's spot with Jori Lehtera and Robby Fabbri in practice Wednesday just in case.

Tarasenko will carry a six-game point streak (two goals, seven assists) into the game if he plays, and Steen is still stuck on 199 career goals in search of No. 200.

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The Blues (8-6-3) and Sharks (9-7-0) are playing for the first time since their six-game series in the Western Conference Final, which the Sharks won. 

"You always have it in the back of your mind; you don't lean on it too heavily," goalie Jake Allen, who will start tonight, said of losing to San Jose. "We know what they did to us. We had an opportunity to go to the finals and they did. But we definitely know in the back of our mind. It's just a good test for us, they're a good team, veteran team, a lot of leadership, a lot of skill. It's going to see what we're made of. We haven't been playing as consistent as we want to of late, had a good game Tuesday but we need to build more than one game and tonight is a good opportunity."

Building consistent efforts from one game to the next has been a challenge for the Blues, who opened the season with three straight win but have only won two in a row once since.

"Consistency in this league, if you can be consistent, nine out of 10 times you're going to win," Allen said. "If we can find that group and find that niche, we'll be alright. Good test tonight. They've been playing really well, too. It's even better for us."

"I think it's hard to be consistent when you integrate so many younger players into the game," Hitchcock said. "I think that's the one thing. It's really hard to win on the road, so you've got to play on the road 41 times; it's hard to be a consistent team unless you're winning on the road all the time and there aren't a lot of young teams that know how or can understand how to compete on the road because you're having to play at 70 percent. You never have the puck, you're still having to win the games and I think it's really difficult to be a consistent team unless you can win road games. That's the challenge for anybody that's integrating younger players into the lineup. It's a lot easier to win at home. You're confident, you get the right matchups, but when you don't on the road, you still have to find ways to get points. 

"I think the teams that are really doing well have a great road record and they're the teams that look like they're jumping out of the box right now."

The Blues are 6-1-2 at home and have gotten points in the past six (4-0-2) as opposed to 2-5-1 on the road.

"At least since I've been here, we've had years where it's been flip-flopped," said Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who has a goal and three assists the past two games. "We've had good road records and bad home records and vice versa. This year, it's something ... I don't want to say we're uncomfortable playing on the road, but we have to find a way to manufacture a little more momentum on the road. Any team will tell you it's easier at home to sway momentum back in your way when you have your fans cheering for you." 

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The Blues' projected lineup

Jaden Schwartz-Paul Stastny-Alexander Steen

Robby Fabbri-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko

Dmitrij Jaskin-Patrik Berglund-David Perron

Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson-Kevin Shattenkirk

Petteri Lindbohm-Colton Parayko

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

Healthy scratches would include Nail Yakupov and Ty Rattie. Robert Bortuzzo (lower body) is likely out and Joel Edmundson (upper body) is out.

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The Sharks' projected lineup

Joel Ward-Joe Thornton-Joe Pavelski

Mikkel Boedker-Logan Couture-Joonas Donskoi

Patrick Marleau-Tomas Hertl-Kevin Labanc

Matt Nieto-Chris Tierney-Tommy Wingels

Paul Martin-Brent Burns

Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Justin Braun

Brenden Dillon-David Schlemko

Martin Jones will start in goal; Aaron Dell will be the backup. 

Healthy scratches will be Micheal Haley and Dylan DeMelo. Melker Karlsson (ankle) is out.

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