By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Robert Bortuzzo returns to the lineup Saturday, Alexander Steen will miss his second straight game and Ty Rattie will play for the second time this season when the Blues host the Nashville Predators today at 7 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).
Steen (undisclosed injury) will not play for the Blues (9-6-3) after not taking part in the the morning skate on Saturday; he was injured in the second period of a 4-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres last Tuesday.
"He's a lot better today and he's literally day-to-day," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Steen. "We'll see how he looks (Sunday) with us. Hopefully he joins us real quick here. He's a lot better today, good sign."
Bortuzzo, who was injured Oct. 27 in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings, has missed the past 10 games but has passed all tests in practice this week and will play alongside Colton Parayko.
"We've gone through all of our steps here, due-diligence, I feel good, I've worked hard and I'm ready to go," Bortuzzo said. "It's fun being in this locker room, especially during game time. I'll probably have to keep some emotions in check to start off, after missing so much. But that's part of the game and that's part of the fun as well."
Bortuzzo will step in for Petteri Lindbohm, who will be a healthy scratch.
"We think Parayko can play the left side," Hitchcock said. "He ends up there a lot, and hopefully they can do a good job. It's pretty comfortable when you've got three pairs of natural side defensemen, it's pretty comfortable to play (that way).
"But 'Borts' was a good player for us before he got hurt and I'm a real firm believer in allowing guys to come back and earn their spot if they got hurt. 'Borts' earned the right to play on a regular basis, he beat some people out and we've got to give him a chance to get back playing here."
Parayko played well with Bortuzzo before he got hurt but also played comfortably with Lindbohm as well.
"I'm excited; he's a big body out there," Parayko said of Bortuzzo. "He's tough to play against. Whenever you play with a guy like that, hopefully it opens up a lot of space out there on the ice. I'm really looking forward to playing with him. He's a great player.
"We started to kind of click (with Lindbohm) the last few games. ... He's a great player, smart player and he's real easy to play with. He's willing to learn, which is the biggest thing."
Rattie will play for the first time since Oct. 18 at Vancouver. He's been to Chicago of the American Hockey League recently to get in a conditioning assignment and played three games but will get a chance to play on the third line tonight with Patrik Berglund and Dmitrij Jaskin.
"Awesome feeling, I'm playing in an NHL game tonight," Rattie said. "I'm coming into a real hot lineup right now. The boys are playing well and I just want to fit in and do what I can. It feels good, now I need to help out the team and prove that they're making the right decision and do whatever I can to stay in the lineup."
Rattie will replace Nail Yakupov, who will be a healthy scratch for the fifth time in eight games.
"It's tryouts," Hitchcock said. "Who's going to grab these spots, who's going to emerge? Rattie has paid a price, gone down and played in the American Hockey League, got on the buses and we want to see what he does. So now is the time to look. Eventually, we're going to have to make a determination on who's in and who's out on a regular basis.
"We're still experimenting with those two guys. We're still trying to find chemistry in our third line and hopefully we can find some strong chemistry because there's a lot of deep teams in the West right now, very, very deep. We're going to have to have a better emerging third line if we expect to hold any type of service and get in the playoffs in this conference."
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The Blues, 7-1-2 on home ice and 5-0-2 in the past seven, will try to stop the goal-scoring streak of Predators right wing James Neal, who tied a franchise record Thursday with a goal in his sixth straight game (seven goals total).
Neal is tied with teammate Filip Forsberg, Patric Hornqvist, Alexander Radulov, and J.P. Dumont for the franchise record.
"I think being patient with your game, obviously getting in good areas is going to help you score goals," said Neal, who has seven goals during the streak. "Linemates as well. Playing with (Ryan Johansen) is great. He has a great mind for the game and he can find you in different places on the ice. (Viktor Arvidsson) as well. He's been playing great hockey."
"He was one of the top two or three guys in the League in shots in the first six games and he didn't have a goal," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said of Neal. "I think goal scorers at times, they just find the puck going in, but I liked the way he played the first five or six games."
The Blues have a solution.
"You hope he gets the flu," Hitchcock joked. "You just can't let him get wound-up. He's an awful good player, he's really feeling it. He's got tremendous determination to play in traffic right now. He's a very competitive player and when he's dialed in competitively, like he is right now, that's what they were hoping when they traded for him."
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The Blues, who lost at Nashville 3-1 on Nov. 10, are second in the NHL at 90.5 percent on the penalty kill; they're 42 of 44 on home ice.
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The Blues' projected lineup
Jaden Schwartz-Paul Stastny-David Perron
Robby Fabbri-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko
Dmitrij Jaskin-Patrik Berglund-Ty Rattie
Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Carl Gunnarsson-Kevin Shattenkirk
Colton Parayko-Robert Bortuzzo
Jake Allen will start in goal; Carter Hutton will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Nail Yakupov and Petteri Lindbohm. Joel Edmundson (upper body) skated this morning but is out.
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The Predators' projected lineup
Viktor Arvidsson-Ryan Johansen-James Neal
Filip Forsberg-Mike Ribeiro-Craig Smith
Calle Jarnkrok-Mike Fisher-Pontus Aberg
Cody Bass-Colton Sissons-Austin Watson
Roman Josi-Ryan Ellis
Mattias Ekholm-P.K. Subban
Matt Irwin-Yannick Weber
Pekka Rinne will start in goal; Marek Mazanec will be the backup.
The healthy scratch includes Matt Carle. Miikka Salomaki (upper body) is out and Colin Wilson (upper body) was a late scratch.