Thursday, January 5, 2017

(1-5-17) Hurricanes-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Ty Rattie will finally have the chance to play at Scottrade Center again. 

But it won't be as a member of the Blues; it'll be with his new team, the Carolina Hurricanes.

Rattie, who was claimed off waivers on Wednesday by the Hurricanes, will make his debut with Carolina (16-14-7) against the Blues (20-13-5) at 7 p.m. today (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).

Rattie, who last played Nov. 28 against the Dallas Stars, will play on Carolina's top line tonight with Victor Rask and Jeff Skinner.

The 2011 second-round pick of the Blues, Rattie was exposed to waivers so the Blues could either A) send him to to the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League to play games since he's missed the past 15 here, or B) move him along to give him the opportunity to resume his NHL career elsewhere.

The latter occurred and now Rattie, 23, who had no points in four games with the Blues this season, gets a fresh start elsewhere.

"The day after the Winter Classic, I woke up to a text from 'Army' (Blues general manager Doug Armstrong) just saying give him a call. (He said) it was just kind of tough situation for me, not playing a lot, and put me on waivers and we'll see what happens from there.

"Yeah, it sucks (to sit). It's not easy, I can't sit here and say that it was fun coming to the rink every day and not playing for (15) straight games, I think it was. But I was in the NHL, I had a bunch of good buddies around me, everyone supported me. No complaints, I'm not going to go in there and yell and say, 'Why not me?' I'm grateful for my time in St. Louis and I'm grateful for the opportunity I have now."

Carolina coach Bill Peters said throw Rattie into the fire and see what he has.

"We're going to give him a chance here obviously," Peters said. "Tonight, he's going to play with Skinner and Rask so he's going to get a good opportunity with us. We've got three weeks to go til the All-Star break so we're going to get a good read on him. He's a guy who's pedigree is as an offensive player and a goal scorer. He's played for good coaches and programs in Portland of the Western Hockey League and here in St. Louis. He's been well-coached so get him out there and see what he's all about.

"... You've got to play, right? You've got to play and you've got to play minutes. That's just the only way. It's hard on guys. Guys get put in tough situations. We've got a couple guys who are in tough situations with us right now too. You understand it as a coach, but that's the reality. We've got to make sure his opportunity is adequate, so when we're making a decision, we're making the right decision."

It's a strange coincidence that Rattie, going to an Eastern Conference team, will go against the team he came from, which resides in the Western Conference. But nonetheless, it is the Blues he gets his first crack at.

"Different, eh? Unique set of circumstances but it happens," Peters said. "I don't think it matters. I think it's funny. He'll know what they're doing. Maybe I should talk to him.

"When Ronnie (Hurricanes GM Ron Francis) called me and mentioned that he was on waivers, a lot of our reports on him were favorable. A lot of our pro scouts, amateur scouts liked him going back over the years. We're struggling to score right now. We've struggled to score a little bit. He's a guy who knows how to score. We'll see."

Rattie, who met the team when it arrived at the hotel at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, said it was different coming to the visiting locker room today.

"Weird," Rattie said. "I went to dinner with 'Fabs' (Robby Fabbri) and 'Eddy' (Joel Edmundson) last night. Kind of sad, kind of weird and then come to this rink and going out and watching the little morning skate there with the Blues, it was weird. I'm sure it will be even weirder tonight, but like I said, I'm happy to be here, happy to be playing and I'm looking forward to it.

"... That was kind of a weird situation. For a bit there, I thought maybe I wouldn't play, but I'm happy to be playing. It's tough to play your old friends right off the bat, but I've got a job to do, they've got a job to do and we're both trying to win a game here. It's friendships only off the ice, I guess."

Rattie's last experience with the Blues was being part of the Winter Classic, even though he obviously didn't play.

"Yeah, exactly, I was glad I was there for that," he said. "My family was there, my family got to skate there, my dad is a huge hockey nerd, so he was happy to be there."

Skinner, who leads the Hurricanes in points with 27, said just help Rattie fit in and hope he contributes.

"I think just lots of talk," Skinner said. "Obviously everything is going to be new for him today, it's going to be a lot for him to take in. I don't know if you really want to be playing the game thinking as much as me (will be) maybe, but if we talk to him, communicate on the bench, communicate in the room, hopefully we'll be able to work through some of the things he may have questions on before he gets out there. For him, just play his game. We picked him up for a reason. Hopefully, me and 'Rasker' can get on the same page as him and have a good game." 

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock recalled a time playing against former players the next time out, and hopes there isn't a repeat performance.

"The day before the season started, I traded seven players for Mark Recchi," Hitchcock said. "I think after the second period, the players we traded had five of the goals. I hope that doesn't happen."

- - -

The Blues, fresh off their 4-1 victory in the 2017 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic over the Chicago Blackhawks, will look to make it consecutive victories for the first time since Dec. 1. The Blues have not won consecutive games in regulation since Nov. 19-22.

And with it being Game No. 39, it's time to start putting some consistent winning streaks together and make a greater dent in the standings.

"I think this point of the season, it's kind of in the middle and it's an important part," Blues defenseman Colton Parayko said. "These are key points, especially division ones like last game. We've just got to take care of our home games also. We're here right now. You want to put points in the bank and give you a chance to get home ice advantage, get things like that going. Whenever you can get on a streak, it's a great thing for sure." 

"The outdoor game was a big win, but for us, I think it was more beating Chicago, beating a team that's ahead of us and trying to gain ground on them," Blues center Paul Stastny said. "I think we kind of want to distance ourselves from the teams behind us and get closer to the teams ahead of us. That Nashville game was kind of just a dud and hopefully you blame it on lack of focus because of that Winter Classic, but we had that day off and it was kind of nice to recharge the batteries and get back to the practice rink and get back to everyday habits."

Hitchcock said it's time to get back to the daily routine.

"It's just business as usual," Hitchcock said. "We've played two of our last three games really well. We want to build on that.

"It's a different opponent. It's a lot like Chicago, to be honest with you. They skate really well, they've got great chemistry as far as their little plays they make down low. It'll be a big challenge for us."

- - -

After saying he will be in the lineup tonight, Hitchcock said left wing Jaden Schwartz is a game-time decision.

Schwartz, who skated Thursday morning, has been dealing with some sickness the past few days, as have a number of players.

"He was about 60 percent (on Monday)," Hitchcock said of Schwartz, "and we'll see tonight. He's a game-time decision, he skated for 8-10 minutes today. We're hopeful we can play. We're going through the bug that probably some other teams are going through. We just need to get to 20 (players) and I'm not sure how it's going to fit in right now. Some guys we even left at home today. We'll see how we do tonight, but we'll get to 20." 

If Schwartz can't go, Nail Yakupov will step in.

- - -

Defenseman Brad Hunt will come back into the lineup after being a healthy scratch the past three.

Carl Gunnarsson is dealing with a lower-body injury and will not play tonight; he's listed as day-to-day, and Hunt will slide in and play alongside Kevin Shattenkirk.

"Whenever you get that chance to put that sweater over playing in an NHL game, it's an awesome experience," said Hunt, who has one goal and three assists in six games since being recalled from the Wolves. "I'm really pumped and just trying to get back to work where we left off and do what I can to help the team win."

Hitchcock said there's no easing Hunt back in.

"He deserves to play," Hitchcock said. "He's a good player. He deserves to play. He's smart. Him and Shatty have good chemistry. He moves the puck, he gets us out of trouble, his transition first pass is as good as anybody on our team. We play well when he's in the lineup, so it's not a dropoff at all for us to put Hunter in there and let him play." 

- - -

The United States and Canada will play for the World Junior gold medal tonight in Montreal, and Hitchcock has followed it closely. 

"What do you mean what's my take," Hitchcock said. "What do you think?"

Does Hitchcock have a prediction?

"Yeah, you know what it is," he said. "I can give you the politically correct answer, which is 'Gee, I hope it's a real good game,' but who you know who I'm cheering for.

"I can't believe how good the hockey is. I can't believe how mature the hockey is. The four teams that were left, quite frankly look like men on the ice. They play like men, there's great composure on the ice, great players. The one thing I'm impressed with is the St. Louis kids that are there are really, really impressive, to be honest with you."

- - -

Vladimir Tarasenko had five goals and eight assists the past 11 games. 

Fabbri has 13 points (six goals, seven assists) the past 12 games.

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Alexander Steen-Paul Stastny-David Perron

Jaden Schwartz-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko

Robby Fabbri-Patrik Berglund-Dmitrij Jaskin

Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves

Joel Edmundson-Alex Pietrangelo

Brad Hunt-Kevin Shattenkirk

Jay Bouwmeester-Colton Parayko

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

The healthy scratch is expected to be Nail Yakupov. Robert Bortuzzo (lower body) and Carl Gunnarsson (lower body) are out.

- - -

The Hurricanes' projected lineup:

Jeff Skinner-Victor Rask-Ty Rattie

Sebastian Aho-Teuvo Teravainen-Lee Stempniak

Brock McGinn-Jordan Staal-Derek Ryan

Joakim Nordstrom-Jay McClement-Viktor Stalberg

Jaccob Slavin-Brett Pesce

Ron Hainsey-Justin Faulk

Noah Hanifin-Ryan Murphy

Cam Ward will start in goal; Michael Leighton will be the backup. 

Healthy scratches will be Klas Dahlbeck, Andrej Nestrasil and Matt Tennyson. Elias Lindholm (upper body), Eddie Lack (concussion) and Bryan Bickell (illness) are out.

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