By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The Blues are going back to a system that worked for them ... once.
When the Blues (28-18-3) host the Ottawa Senators (15-21-9) at Scottrade Center today (7 p.m.; FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM), they'll go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen.
That means Carl Gunnarsson, a healthy scratch the past two games, returns to the lineup. Scottie Upshall, a healthy scratch the past three games, also returns meaning Magnus Paajarvi and Chris Thorburn will be healthy scratches along with Oskar Sundqvist, who will be a healthy scratch for the 10th time in 11 games.
"It's kind of hard to find someone to take out, want to get 'Gunny' back in, and just feel kind of one of the benefits of only dressing 11 forwards is that there's a little extra ice time to go around for a guy like 'Vladi' [Vladimir Tarasenko] or somebody that's going well in the game that we can get them some extra shifts," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "Especially with the schedule, we only played the one game in three days here. So there's an opportunity like that."
For Gunnarsson, it was a numbers game, according to Yeo.
"It was," Yeo said. "I felt that he was going good before that and then the game that 'Dunner' [Vince Dunn] gave us in Toronto didn't really allow an opportunity for anyone else to come out, so we wanted to get 'Bouw' [Jay Bouwmeester] back in in Ottawa and I thought the group played real well in Ottawa, the six guys that we had. We talked to 'Gunny' about that and that's part of why we wanted to get him back in here. He doesn't deserve to sit for a long period of time. He's a big part of our game and we want to keep him going."
The Blues implemented this strategy Dec. 30 against the Carolina Hurricanes, a 3-2 victory, ad something Yeo was pleased with.
"Yeah, we won," he said.
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Carter Hutton will start for the fourth straight game and eight time in 10 games tonight.
Hutton, who was pulled from Saturday's 5-2 loss to the Arizona Coyotes after allowing three goals on 12 shots, will get a shot at redemption after the team game in front of him Saturday was poor.
His getting pulled was not a reflection on his game whatsoever.
"I don't think we need to get in a great explanation about it," Yeo said. "We wanted to play him last game because we felt he deserved to play that game and obviously the way we came out we didn't feel we gave him a chance in that one. We pulled him, it wasn't his fault, give him a chance to respond today."
Hutton gets the rematch against the Senators, who the Blues beat 4-1 last Thursday in Ottawa; he stopped 20 of 21 shots.
"Those things are always part of your consideration," Yeo said.
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After three days of skating, including an optional skate Tuesday, the Blues will see if actions are applied to words.
Yeo said on Saturday that talk is talk and that the Blues must apply actions to their words. All the words the past three days have been positive and players understand they've on notice after Saturday's debacle.
Now it'll be interesting to see of those actions are applied tonight.
"I think we've got to stop beating ourselves," center Patrik Berglund said. "We're not executing plays. I think it's been pretty sloppy out there. If we can just go back, execute plays and go north, do the small things right, we'll be fine. But we've got to get to that point too. When that happens, we can start building momentum.
"A lot of things have been said here. We'll be ready to roll tonight."
As has been noted, the Blues were disastrous in the first period Saturday, falling behind 4-0 and outshot 23-7.
"Let's just get going now," Yeo said. "Last game, we've beaten it to death now, we all know we weren't happy with it. The only thing that matters now the response. The one thing you can control bounces, you can't control calls, you can't control some of the things that go on on the ice considering the other team has a say in it, you can always control y our work ethic and your attitude and bringing those two things out on the ice. We've got a group that cares and a group that's going to compete hard."
The Blues can start by having a better home outing. They're 15-10-0 on home ice but just 7-8-0 the past 15. They've been outscored 12-6 the past two on home ice.
"The execution in the way we play. We've got to be sharper out there," Berglund said. "That's why I feel we've been beating ourselves. If we execute the plays well, we'll get our chances and get our goals."
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Blues right wing Alexander Steen has a three-game goal streak; he has five goals and two assists the past seven games after four goals his first 36 games. Steen's next goal will put him into sole possession of seventh place in team history among Blues forwards with 173, moving him past Red Berenson (172)
Blues center Paul Stastny has nine points (three goals, six assists) the past eight games.
The Senators, who have lost four of five, have allowed three or more goals in 10 of the past 11 games.
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The Blues' projected lineup:
Ivan Barbashev-Paul Stastny-Vladimir Tarasenko
Vladimir Sobotka-Brayden Schenn-Alexander Steen
Dmitrij Jaskin-Patrik Berglund-Tage Thompson
Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak
Joel Edmundson-Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Bouwmeester-Colton Parayko
Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo
Carter Hutton will start in goal; Jake Allen will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Magnus Paajarvi, Chris Thorburn and Oskar Sundqvist. Jaden Schwartz (ankle) is close but out tonight. Zach Sanford (shoulder) and Robby Fabbri (knee) are out.
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The Senators' projected lineup:
Mike Hoffman-Matt Duchene-Bobby Ryan
Ryan Dzingel-Derick Brassard-Christopher DiDomenico
Zack Smith-Colin White-Tom Pyatt
Alexandre Burrows-Gabriel Dumont
Thomas Chabot-Erik Karlsson
Dion Phaneuf-Cody Ceci
Mark Borowiecki-Fredrik Claesson
Craig Anderson will start in goal; Mike Condon will be the backup.
The healthy scratch will be unless Ottawa goes with 11 forwards and seven defensemen. Filip Chlapik (undisclosed) was injured Monday and is out. Mark Stone (lower body), Nate Thompson (lower body), Jean-Gabriel Pageau (upper body), Chris Wideman (hamstring) and Johnny Oduya (undisclosed) are also out.