By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Next man up.
That's the mentality for the Blues, and has been any time someone goes down with an injury.
It's no different now that No. 1 center Paul Stastny is sidelined week to week with a lower-body injury, his right ankle/foot, after being struck with a Vladimir Tarasenko wrist shot in the first period of a 4-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.
After the game, the Blues felt the injury was not related to the blocked shot, but after having an x-ray Wednesday, found out there is something of substance there.
"Surprised yesterday for sure," coach Mike Yeo said. "It was interesting. He blocked a shot in the game obviously, left the game, and we assumed he left the game because of something else, so we didn't really think it would be a big deal. But obviously yesterday we get some news that he's going to be out and we'll just have to deal with it now.
"We'll deal with it the same way when we traded 'Shatty' and when we lost Robby (Fabbri) and 'Lehts' and 'Jask,' so we've gone down ... and part what's that done especially since we've lost some of these forwards is other guys have come in and have got an opportunity. They've got experience and they've shown that they can do the job. So as a group, we've had the mentality that it's just the next man up. We know that we still have a good enough group in here, we know that our goals will not change. We have to get out there and find a way to get it done and you do that by our top guys, they need to step up. They need to make sure that they bring their 'A' game night after night."
Again, it's next man up, and that will come today when the Blues (39-28-5) host the Vancouver Canucks (29-34-9) to begin a three-game homestand.
"That's been the thought process all year," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said. "You never want to see a guy like that, you don't want to see anybody get hurt, but Paul's such an important part in every aspect of our game. He plays in every situation, plays big minutes. Next man up is kind of the mindset you have to have at this time of the year."
What you do lose in Stastny, who has 18 goals and 22 assists in 66 games this season, is not only his playmaking abilities but you lose the top faceoff player on the lineup.
"It's obviously tough," said forward Alexander Steen, who will step in between Jaden Schwartz and Tarasenko on the top line. "Collectively again, we're going to have to dig deep and make up for the loss of 'Stas.' Obviously faceoffs is a huge part, his hockey sense, his presence in the room. It's a big loss for us."
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The loss of Stastny for the foreseeable future not only means moving Steen up, but it also means Zach Sanford will move up and play with Patrik Berglund and David Perron on the second line, a spot in which Sanford thrived in Tuesday with two assists.
"We had some good shifts last game and we ended up with a goal," said Sanford, who will make his home debut tonight. "They're both great players. They've been around for a long time and they know what they're doing. Hopefully I can just learn some more from them.
"The biggest thing is communication. ... Talking a lot and learning what they like and doing what I like. You eventually get that chemistry."
Baed on what Yeo saw Tuesday, he liked it.
"He deserves that and at different points, different guys have played well," Yeo said. "It doesn't mean that we're going to stay like that, but he certainly deserves the opportunity today. Magnus (Paajarvi) has also done a really good job for us at certain times, and especially if we go heavy with a matchup line and a defensive matchup line situation, Magnus has a lot of responsibility in his game as far as how he plays without the puck, but 'Sandy' definitely deserves this opportunity tonight. We want that line to go against top lines, the opposing teams' top lines, but we don't want to just saw off matchups, we'd like to win them and in order to do that, you have to create some offense.
"They're going to come into our lineup, or a guy like 'Yak,' or other guys are going to get more opportunity whether it's Sanford or 'Barby' and these guys need to recognize that opportunity and take advantage of it."
Nail Yakupov will play for just the fifth time in 21 games and gets the chance to make the most of another opportunity.
"There's not a lot of windows, but once the window comes, you've got to embrace it and take that challenge," said Paajarvi, who knows a thing or two about being patient and sticking with the process. "... We have to embrace everything we get and take that role. I've been there. Oh yeah, I've been there. If we play together tonight, I'll definitely talk to him a lot and try to not over-think anything with him and just try to keep him to think on a couple things. That's what I do and it's been working out pretty good."
And for Paajarvi, he will play on the power play, with Berglund taking Stastny's spot on the top PP unit.
"You always want to play power play," Paajarvi said. "So sure, it's nice. We've got a lot of injuries, so other guys gotta step up. ... That's how everybody's looking at it, I think. We have to. Guys get a bigger role now. We've got to embrace that."
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The Blues have won eight of nine and are tied with the Nashville Predators for third in the Central Division, but based on having 38 regulation/overtime wins to Nashville's 34, the Blues hold the top tie-breaker if both teams finish with the same number of points.
Most importantly, the Blues and Predators lead the Los Angeles Kings by eight points for the last remaining playoff spot in the Western Conference with 10 games to play.
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Jake Allen, who has a 1.72 goals-against average and .942 save percentage since Yeo took over on Feb. 1, will be the starting goaltender. Allen is 6-1-0 with two shutouts in his past seven starts.
Forward Dmitrij Jaskin (upper body) skated for a third time this week but is not ready to play. Yeo said he is getting closer but will miss a fourth straight game.
Center Jori Lehtera (upper body) has been riding the bike, according to Yeo, but there is no timetable for returning. He will miss a seventh consecutive game.
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The Blues' projected lineup:
Jaden Schwartz-Alexander Steen-Vladimir Tarasenko
Zach Sanford-Patrik Berglund-David Perron
Magnus Paajarvi-Ivan Barbashev-Nail Yakupov
Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Joel Edmundson-Colton Parayko
Carl Gunnarsson-Robert Bortuzzo
Jake Allen will start in goal; Carter Hutton will be the backup.
Jordan Schmaltz will be the healthy scratch. Paul Stastny (lower body), Robby Fabbri (knee), Jori Lehtera (upper body) and Dmitrij Jaskin (upper body) are out.
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The Canucks' projected lineup:
Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Michael Chaput
Sven Baertschi-Bo Horvat-Reid Boucher
Jack Skille-Brandon Sutter-Nokilay Goldobin
Joe Labate-Drew Shore-Alex Biega
Alexander Edler-Troy Stecher
Luca Sbisa-Christopher Tanev
Ben Hutton-Nikita Tryamkin
Ryan Miller will start in goal; Richard Bachman will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Philip Larsen and Joseph Cramarossa. The Canucks are without Markus Granlund (wrist), Jacob Markstrom (illness), Derek Dorsett (back), Erik Gudbranson (wrist), Anton Rodin (knee), Loui Eriksson (knee), Jayson Megna (upper body) and Brendan Gaunce (hand).