Sunday, December 11, 2016

(12-11-16) Blues-Wild Gameday Lineup

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Defenseman Brad Hunt's Blues debut was such a success on Friday, he'll get a second opportunity to play this afternoon when the Blues (16-8-4) resume their four-game trip against the Minnesota Wild (14-8-4) at 5 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).

The decision has been made easier because defenseman Carl Gunnarsson will miss a second straight game with a lower-body injury, but Hunt, who assisted on one of two Robby Fabbri goals in a 4-1 win against New Jersey, coach Ken Hitchcock is comfortable leaving him right where he's at.

"As advertised. He's smart, makes a great first pass," Hitchcock said of Hunt, who led the American Hockey League in scoring with 29 points in 23 games before being recalled last week. "I thought he got better and better as the game went on. And I think he's like a lot of smaller defensemen, they've learned how to play. His 1-on-1's and things like that, there's another guy (Jared) Spurgeon on the other side that's a good player, too. They learn how to play. I think Brad has learned how to play over time. He's a smart guy. From a hockey-sense standpoint, he's got everything that you like that can play in the National Hockey League. He can play and help."

Hunt will line up again alongside Kevin Shattenkirk in Gunnarsson's spot.

"Any chance you get to play in the NHL, you've got to take advantage of it because it's not going to be here forever," Hunt said. "I'm super excited and ready for whatever they want me to do."

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Blues associate coach Mike Yeo has been through the facing-your-former-team already when the Wild and Blues squared off twice already in St. Louis this season.

But this one today will be different.

This will be Yeo's first time back at Xcel Energy Center since being fired Feb. 13, 2015. 

Yeo's wife Tanya and son Kyler, who plays at Hill-Murray High School and is a senior, stayed behind for one year here so Kyler could finish school. 

Yeo was able to spend time with his family, including daughter Braeden, who came home from college from the Denver area and watched Kyler's hockey game here on Saturday.

"It is different in a lot of ways," Yeo said. "Different that I got to spend some time with my family. I got to go watch my son play his high school game and then we got to decorate the (Christmas) tree. 

"It was nice to catch up with them obviously and nice. That part has been difficult this year, not having my family with me. I'm looking forward to my wife moving to St. Louis once my son finishes high school."

And when Yeo came to the arena this morning, it really hit him.

"Walking into the arena this morning was bizarre -- used to taking a right but instead had to take a left," Yeo said. "Not used to this dressing room, not used to my surroundings over on this side of things."

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Playing for the third time in less than four days, the Blues are sticking with Jake Allen in goal as they encounter two divisional games to end this trip.

Allen, who is 9-1-0 with a 2.16 goals-against average and .922 save percentage in his past 10 starts, doesn't mind.

"Obviously it's a coach's decision, but I anticipated playing them all," Allen said. "It was a tough loss in the first game of that back-to-back trip (3-2 against the New York Islanders). It was a tough way to go out, but we rebounded well and fortunately I got to go again. I just wanted to get a solid win and we did that."

Said Hitchcock: "I think he played really well in New York, too. I think to me, (the New Jersey) game was just a continuation of the way he played against the Islanders. He played really well, he did a heck of a job, we just didn't get him the win. 

"He's playing at a very high level right now to be honest with you. The last two periods at home and then these last two road games, he's playing at a very high level, which is very good for us right now."

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The Blues' win against the Devils was only their second win on the road in the past eight games (2-6-0). 

Building momentum away from Scottrade Center, where the Blues are 12-1-3 as opposed to 4-7-1.

"Yeah, we've played five really good periods of hockey here on the road," Hitchcock said. "That's the trend, we want to continue to play as well as we have in the first two games, other than a little bit of the third period in New York. 

"This is two really equal teams. The standings are the same, most of the numbers are the same and both games have been one-goal games that we won. So I think it should be a heck of a hockey game. They're really playing well, they've got lots of depth up front. I think we've got four lines that can play, they've got four lines that can play and there's a lot of equality right across the board. Both goaltenders are playing really well. So it should make for a heck of a hockey game."

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Vladimir Tarasenko has four assists on the trip, including three in New Jersey and has 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists) the past 17 games. Tarasenko has three goals and nine assists during a six-game road point streak and is second only to Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby (1.55) in road points per game this season at 1.42.

Robby Fabbri has four goals and three assists the past six games, including three goals and an assist in the two games on the trip.
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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

Brad Hunt-Kevin Shattenkirk

Joel Edmundson-Colton Parayko

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

Healthy scratches include Nail Yakupov and Ty Rattie. Robert Bortuzzo (lower body) and Carl Gunnarsson (lower body) are out.

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The Wild's projected lineup:

Zach Parise-Eric Staal-Jason Pominville

Jason Zucker-Mikko Koivu-Mikael Granlund

Nino Niederreiter-Erik Haula-Charle Coyle

Chris Stewart-Tyler Graovac-Kurtis Gabriel

Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin-Matt Dumba

Marco Scandella-Nate Prosser

Devan Dubnyk will start in goal; Darcy Kuemper will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Christian FolinGustav Olofsson and Zack Mitchell. Zac Dalpe (knee) and Victor Bartley (arm) are out.

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