Saturday, January 7, 2017

(1-7-17) Stars-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said the plan all along was to start Carter Hutton in goal today against the Dallas Stars (7 p.m.; FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).

However, with Jake Allen focused on the birth of his daughter, Lennon Everly Allen on Friday, it might have served well to give the Blues' starting goalie a night off anyway considering the lack of sleep Allen got after the Blues' last game Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes.

"We made the decision two or three days ago on this," Hitchcock said. "(Allen's) still available but we didn't know the time frame of the baby being born, so we wanted to get Carter ready. We practiced hard with him yesterday, got him ready for today. The plan was to play him in this game all along to be honest with you."

It was Allen's and girlfriend Shannon Adams' first child.

"Yeah, it was pretty special," Allen said. "It was the best day of my life and I know Shannon's for sure, too. It was an amazing experience, like everyone has a child knows. Definitely a memory for a lifetime.

""I got a few hours (of sleep) last night. It was more the night before. There was no sleep after the game, we went right to the hospital. It was quite the process and a pretty amazing one at that."

The name is unique but bears no significance for Allen.

"No significance to that," he said. "A lot of people think it's John Lennon or something like that. Shannon found that name and we loved it right off the start, and we never told anyone until yesterday, so it was a nice surprise for everyone.

"All those small little details that you think are terrible, it throws them right away."

Allen, who is 17-10-3 with a 2.63 goals-against average and .904 save percentage, said a night off tonight might do him good.

"I'm not going to lie, I'm a little tired," Allen said. "I think after the game Thursday, I didn't get any sleep Thursday night at all. Last night I got a few hours. Definitely I'll recover the next couple of days."

Hutton's last start against the Philadelphia Flyers was a victorious one; he stopped 17 of 20 shots in the win and wants to keep things going.

"We're back in the Central Division and it's not going to get any easier here tonight," Hutton said. "They're a teal that's chasing us and they're trying to get into the top three in the division. For us, every game's important, but Dallas is a good team, and at the same time, I don't think they've played up to their standards just like we haven't. A big night for both teams trying to find themselves."

- - -

Win, loss, win, loss, win loss ... it's become quite the theme for the Blues, who can't seem to shake the up-and-down roller coaster ride they've been on lately.

"For me, it seems like we're having success one night and guys are feeling pretty confident and sometimes we try and do a little too much," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said. "One thing about this group that I love is that everybody sometimes tries to do too much and take everything on their own shoulders where I look at that as a compliment. Everybody wants to make a difference." 

The Blues are 11-5-2 this season after a loss, which is the good news, but it's something that has to be a bit of a concern near the midway point.

"I think the details of winning hockey," Hitchcock said. "I think that sometimes we put too much emphasis on the opponent and that gets our attention to play the right way. And then sometimes when we don't pay enough attention to the opponent, we lose the edge of our own game. I think our brand of hockey, when we play winning hockey, there's certain elements 5-on-5 and on special teams that are really consistent and when we play that way, you feel like you can win forever. I think for the last three weeks or so it's been inconsistent in that level. It's not what the opposition has done to us, it's mostly what we've done to ourselves, and I've got to tell you, most of it is with the puck. We've really fixed a lot of issues defensively. I think our d-zone coverage has really improved since we've changed a little bit of strategy that way. I think our checking in general has been good, but our management of the puck, to me, has been very inconsistent. When it's been on the mark, like it was against the Flyers and against Chicago, it's very, very effective, and when we get careless and reckless with it, we pay like we did against Carolina. We gave up four breakaways against Carolina and you can't win like that."

- - -

The Blues (20-14-5) will deal with plenty of offensive firepower from the Stars (16-15-8), but they won't have to face Stars captain Jamie Benn, who is dealing with a foot/ankle injury and is on injured-reserve and will not play tonight.

Benn has 12 goals and 17 assists in 30 games against the Blues in his career.

"Well obviously he's one of the best players in the world," Hitchcock said of Benn. "So it makes it different. But they have a lot of young guys that have stepped up. They have a lot of organizational depth. They're playing well right now, they're really playing hard and they're playing desperate trying to get back in the race and we've got to match that desperation." 

Stars coach Lindy Ruff said Benn's intangibles are irreplaceable.

"We miss his presence, from whether it's a threat to score a goal or whether a threat to play physical," Ruff said. "Jamie can play the game a lot of different ways."

- - -

The Blues ran Nail Yakupov on a line with Alexander Steen and Paul Stastny in the morning skate, but Dmitrij Jaskin came off the ice first, and Hitchcock was undecided on who would play.

"I'm going to carry this right through until game time," Hitchcock said. "We still have a couple of guys who are touch and go, so we'll see how they maintain their health through the day and then I'll make a decision after the warmup."

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Alexander Steen-Paul Stastny-Nail Yakupov

Robby Fabbri-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko

Jaden Schwartz-Patrik Berglund-David Perron

Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves

Joel Edmundson-Alex Pietrangelo

Brad Hunt-Kevin Shattenkirk

Jay Bouwmeester-Colton Parayko

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

The healthy scratch is projected to be Dmitrij Jaskin. Robert Bortuzzo (lower body) and Carl Gunnarsson (lower body) are out.

- - -

The Stars' projected lineup:

Antoine Roussel-Jason Spezza-Tyler Seguin 

Patrick Sharp-Radek Faksa-Brett Ritchie

Lauri Korpikoski-Cody Eakin-Patrick Eaves

Curtis McKenzie-Devin Shore-Adam Cracknell

Esa Lindell-John Klingberg

Johnny Oduya-Jordie Benn

Dan Hamhuis-Stephen Johns

Kari Lehtonen will start in goal; Antti Niemi will be the backup.

Healthy scratches are expected to be Jamie Oleksiak and Jiri Hudler. Jamie Benn (foot), Mattias Janmark (knee) and Ales Hemsky (hip) are out.

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