By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The Blues will insert three new players into the lineup when they host the San Jose Sharks today at 7 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM) at Scottrade Center.
Carter Hutton will be in goal, Oskar Sundqvist will play his first game in nearly two months, Chris Butler will play in just his second NHL game since the 2015-16 season and Sammy Blais, recalled from San Antonio of the American Hockey League on Monday, will be inserted into the lineup.
Butler will play for the injured Robert Bortuzzo, who has a lower-body injury that coach Mike Yeo calls day-to-day. He was checked near the end of the second period of a 2-1 loss to the Dallas Stars on Friday and hasn't practiced since.
"'Borts' is out tonight. I'd say lower body, a little dinged up," Yeo said. "A good opportunity for 'Butts' to come in. Obviously a veteran player we have a lot of confidence in and a guy that can move the puck, a guy that's familiar with our game."
Butler will slot in and play on the left side and slide rookie Vince Dunn to the right. He played in the regular-season finale last season against the Colorado Avalanche but has since been relegated to the Chicago Wolves last season and San Antonio this season.
"I think you have to manage it. There's a level of excitement," said the St. Louis native Butler, who played at Chaminade High School. "We've had conversations with family and friends and I probably would have been content had I never played another NHL game. It wasn't really something I thought of as a possibility growing up, so maybe it's probably a little more special now to be able to have family and my kid here now. It's got more meaning to it now.
"I'm treating it more like a playoff game. Points are hard to come by now if you look at how tight the Western Conference is and you look at how easily wildcard is interchanging right now with us dipping down the other day. It's a focused group, it's an excited group and I'm just looking to contribute any way I can."
Butler had 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) in 47 games with the Rampage this season.
"He's a top-notch teammate, character guy, really fits in well with our group and we've been very happy with his play," Yeo said of Butler. "He comes up and it's good to get him an opportunity to get in the game."
As for Sundqvist, who had six points in six games (two goals, four assists) with the Rampage when he was sent down on a conditioning assignment, will play just his second game since Dec. 27.
"It's been a while," Sundqvist said. "It's probably the beginning of January. It's going to be nice to get to play again. It was good to be down in San Antonio for two weeks and play some hockey again. That was the main thing I wanted to do.
"I got to play a ton of minutes (in San Antonio), a ton of offensive situations, it helped get my confidence back and stuff like that. It was nice to get some big minutes down there."
Yeo has always liked Sundqvist's game but would like to see him more involved at this level.
"It's good that he scored a couple goals, that was the big thing for me," Yeo said of Sundqvist's stint with the Rampage. "But that and in combination with he needed to play. He's been out for a while and to get the game conditioning, to get the timing back, I think that was very important. It's hard for a player like that, if you've been out of the lineup, you played one game in two, three weeks, it's going to be tough for you to come in and perform at a high level. Him getting back in the lineup and playing those games, I think it's going to be really good for his confidence. We talked about his lows, his bad games are never really bad games, he's responsible, he's always reliable defensively, we just have to get more good games from him and that comes from the defensive side of things."
Blais, who is tied for the team lead in points with the Rampage this season with 28 (11 goals, 17 assists), will slot in and play in a top-six role with Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz.
"Been hearing very good things about his play, the offensive side he's been very dynamic, very dangerous," Yeo said of Blais.
It's the fifth time Blais has been recalled, who was assigned to the Rampage on Jan. 5 following a lower-body injury.
"It's always fun to be back here and to see all the guys," Blais said. "I'm excited for tonight and I'm looking forward to be here and very happy.
"I got sent down after my injury and I played pretty good there. I got a lot of ice time and my confidence back. I didn't play for a month before that and I had a couple good games there and I feel very good on the ice. I'm looking forward to be here and hopefully to stay here. ... I think I'm an offensive player. In the American Hockey League, I'm an offensive player that can make plays. I just got to being that here and if I can do that, I'm going to be in good (shape) to stay here. I'm healthy and everything is fine. I'm just looking forward to being here and I'm just happy to be here. It's the best league in the world and every chance I get to play here, I've just got to enjoy it and make the most of it."
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Blais will replace Vladimir Sobotka, who is sick and out of the lineup tonight for the first time this season.
That would now leave Schenn, Paul Stastny, Colton Parayko and Vladimir Tarasenko as the only players to play in every game this season.
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Hutton is 4-0-1 with a 0.98 goals-against average, a .968 save percentage and two shutouts in five games against San Jose.
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The Blues' projected lineup:
Alexander Steen-Paul Stastny-Vladimir Tarasenko
Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Sammy Blais
Ivan Barbashev-Kyle Brodziak-Patrik Berglund
Scottie Upshall-Oskar Sundqvist-Dmitrij Jaskin
Carl Gunnarsson-Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Bouwmeester-Colton Parayko
Chris Butler-Vince Dunn
Carter Hutton will start in goal; Jake Allen will be the backup.
The healthy scratch is Chris Thorburn. Joel Edmundson (forearm), Robert Bortuzzo (lower body), Vladimir Sobotka (illness) and Robby Fabbri (knee) are all out.
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The Sharks' projected lineup:
Timo Meier-Joe Pavelski-Melker Karlsson
Kevin Labanc-Logan Couture-Joonas Donskoi
Mikkel Boedker-Chris Tierney-Jannik Hansen
Barclay Goodrow-Daniel O'Regan-Marcus Sorensen
Joakim Ryan-Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon-Dylan DeMelo
Martin Jones will start in goal; Aaron Dell will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Paul Martin, Tim Heed and Rudolfs Balcers. Joe Thornton (knee), Joel Ward (shoulder) and Tomas Hertl (upper body) are out.