Saturday, February 3, 2018

(2-3-18) Blues-Sabres Gameday Lineup

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Wrapping up their brief two-game dads trip stint today against the Buffalo Sabres, Blues coach Mike Yeo is moving some pieces around going back to a familiar potent offensive line and making a trio of switches.

The Blues are reuniting the Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko line that had been so lethal in the 16 games it played as a line. 

It's the first time since Dec. 1 against Los Angeles that it started a game (the trio were together for the third period Thursday against Boston) that ended a run of 16 of 17 games. The line formed on Oct. 25 against Calgary.

In the 16 games together, they combined for 55 points (Schenn had 21 points on eight goals, 13 assists; Schwartz had 17 points on six goals, 11 assists and Tarasenko had 17 points on five goals, 12 assists).

"That line for a good period of time was arguably the best line in hockey. Certainly it was in the conversation for the best line in hockey," Yeo said. "I think that getting them back together provides us with a real dangerous threat and we still have threats on lines two, three, four, whatever. We still believe we have groups that can go out there and create momentum, create energy and create offense for us. Some lines have a little bit different dynamic than others. Obviously (Paul Stastny's) line, we need that line to be a little bit more dangerous offensively or create a little bit more, have a more offensive mindset than say (Kyle Brodziak's) line, but that said, they're all responsible and they're all straight-forward lines. That top line can be pretty dynamic."

Vladimir Sobotka will move up to Stastny's line with Alexander Steen, Ivan Barbashev drops to Patrik Berglund's line with Tage Thompson and Chris Thorburn slots in with Brodziak and Dmitrij Jaskin, making Scottie Upshall a healthy scratch.

"Obviously not scoring a 5-on-5 goal last game, good opportunity to make some switches here," Yeo said of the 3-1 loss to the Bruins.

As for Thorburn, playing for the first time in five games?

"It's going to be a hard, physical game," Yeo said. "Their last game was physical and so I think it's going to have that kind of element. I think we were missing that a little bit last game in Boston. Once the physical play started to pick up a little, we started to drop off in pur physicality to we've got to maintain it for 60 minutes and obviously he brings that element."

On defense, Carl Gunnarsson will step in for the first time since Jan. 23 and he'll play alongside Alex Pietrangelo.

Gunnarsson has only played in one of the past six games and will move Robert Bortuzzo to the press box as a healthy scratch.

"He came out of the lineup and it was not like he was playing poorly," Yeo said of Gunnarsson. "A lot of guys have been playing well. We've got to make sure we keep everybody involved here.

"We've got seven guys that don't want to come out of the lineup, seven guys that are very capable. Doing our best to juggle that, but those guys have done a good job with that."

Gunnarsson, who has six points (four goals, two assists) in 42 games, wants to remain in.

"It feels good," he said. "A little confident. It's still a battle. I've been out a bit and I've still got to keep fighting and try to stay in the lineup.

"I've just got to try and have a good game here tonight and show them that I want to stay in. I think goes for everyone. When you've been out for a bit, you want to come back strong."

Jay Bouwmeester, who has not regularly taken part of the morning skates, will stay with Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson moves to partner with Vince Dunn, who moves over to the right.

- - -

The Blues (31-19-3) are going back with Carter Hutton in goal against the Sabres (14-28-9) today at 6 p.m. on FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM.

Hutton, who gave way for Jake Allen on Thursday in the loss to the Bruins, is 8-1-1 with a 1.72 goals-against average and .942 save percentage his past 10 starts. He's started 10 of the past 13 games and is 4-0-0 lifetime with a 1.23 GAA and .953 save percentage against Buffalo.

"It's not too many days off. I just played on Tuesday. It's good," Hutton said. "It's going to be a good challenge and just keep away at it. It's going to be a fun game and we've got to get in there and bring our game, have a presence right away. For me, just get out, compete and do my best."

Allen was the Blues' best player Thursday, making 43 of 45 saves in the loss to Boston which stopped a three-game winning streak, and it wouldn't have been a shock to see Yeo come back with Allen again, but Yeo said, "That was the plan all along. I think Jake knows the plan and we'll stick with it."

Hutton, who had a run of six straight starts, wasn't surprised by Allen's performance Thursday.

"It was great. I wasn't too surprised," he said. "He's a competitor and he's been working so hard and sometimes some time off is good. I knew he was going to go out there and compete. It was almost a great game. He got a ton of shots early. He competed and I could tell he was focused. I think he was the difference in that game and our best player on the ice from start to finish.

"You need two goalies to play. I knew I wasn't going to play every game, he knows he's not going to play every game. You need two elite goalies to compete in this league and to do well. ... You look at Pittsburgh, [Marc-AndreFleury gets them to the conference final and [Matt] Murray takes over. There's always those storylines when things happen. I look back at the one year where Scott Darling comes in and I was in Nashville and he pretty much steals the series against us and then Crawford comes and takes over. So you never know. You need two guys. It's such a competitive league and 82 games is a grind."

Hutton said it's important to come away with a victory tonight to cap off the dad's trip.

"They came to watch us play, but at the same time, these points are so valuable and we're pumped to have them here," said Hutton, whose father Jack is here. "We've got to show up tonight for them and have a big performance."

Jack Hutton has been one of the more vocal dads here, telling stories about his son, who hails from Thunder Bay Ontario along with Bortuzzo, and Jack will get some air time tonight on Fox Sports Midwest during the broadcast.

"You might run out of air time," Carter joked. "He'd have a good time with it for sure.

"I think everyone has (had a great time), but I think my dad doesn't hide it how much he's enjoying himself. He lets everyone know he's having a good time. Oscar Bortuzzo and him, they go back when me and Robert played junior together. Last night they were telling stories around the table. I think Robert and I were the only ones that knew because they talked about Thunder Bay so much."

Hutton is good with the quotes when he speaks with the media and was asked if there's some if him in Jack.

"The gift of gab maybe," Carter joked. "I just know when to shut up."

One fan that will -- or won't be watching on TV, depending on who you ask -- is Carter's mom Linda Hutton, who owns her own superstitions when her son mans the crease.

"He's a little more casual. I think he gets a little more worked up, but I think when I'm in, she's always cleaning the house when I'm playing," Carter said of his mom. "I guess when I play a little bit more, the house is always cleaner. She's always got her lucky charms and all that stuff and she thinks that's the thing. For Jake, she gets nervous, too. She builds relationships with the other goalies. I think she feels for us as goalies. She struggles watching for sure. 

"She'll watch it live, but if it's like a tight overtime game or something then, she gets a little nervous. Maybe a few more glasses of wine when it's a tight game."

- - -

Schwartz has a point in each of his six games against the Sabres (two goals, six assists).

Schenn has eight points (six goals, two assists) in his past eight games against the Sabres.

Tarasenko has 10 points (five goals, five assists) in eight games against the Sabres.

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko

Vladimir Sobotka-Paul Stastny-Alexander Steen

Ivan Barbashev-Patrik Berglund-Tage Thompson

Dmitrij Jaskin-Kyle Brodziak-Chris Thorburn

Carl Gunnarsson-Alex Pietrangelo

Jay Bouwmeester-Colton Parayko

Joel Edmundson-Vince Dunn

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

Healthy scratches include Robert Bortuzzo and Scottie Upshall. Zach Sanford (shoulder) is on the trip but is out. Robby Fabbri (knee) is out for the season.

- - -

The Sabres' projected lineup:

Evander Kane-Jack Eichel-Kyle Okposo

Scott Wilson-Ryan O'Reilly-Sam Reinhart

Zemgus Girgensons-Evan Rogrigues-Jason Pominville

Jordan Nolan-Jacob Josefson-Benoit Pouliot

Marco Scandella-Rasmus Ristolainen

Jake McCabe-Victor Antipin

Nathan Beaulieu-Casey Nelson

Robin Lehner will start in goal; Chad Johnson will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Josh Gorges, Justin Falk and Nicholas Baptiste. Johan Larsson serves the first of a two-game suspension tonight. Zach Bogosian (hip) is out.

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