By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The Blues are having a hard time choosing the right six defenseman to play in any game, so coach Mike Yeo will elect to play all seven for the third time this season, going with 11 forwards and seven defenseman when the Blues host the Minnesota Wild (7 p.m.; NBCSN, KMOX 1120-AM) in a key Central Division battle Tuesday night.
The Blues (32-19-3), who have won six of eight and limited the opposition to one or fewer goals in each of those victories and their last seven wins have come allowing one goal or less, will move Robert Bortuzzo back into the lineup after making him a healthy scratch in Saturday's 1-0 win at Buffalo.
But it goes beyond just getting all seven d-men into the lineup, according to Yeo, whose team is 2-0 implementing this formation.
"We haven't played a lot of games in a bit of a stretch, it allows us to give our forwards some extra ice time," Yeo said. "They have some depth up front and so I think it allows us to use some players a little bit more than if we had 12 forwards.
"I think you look at last game, we put 'Gunny' [Carl Gunnarsson] in, there's no chance he's coming out after the game he played last time, 'Dunner's [Vince Dunn] got a role in the power play and 'Borts' [Robert Bortuzzo], his physicality and penalty killing, this gives us a chance to get him back in."
So in putting seven defenseman in, the Blues will have to remove a forward from the lineup, and rookie Tage Thompson is the odd-man out tonight.
Thompson, who's played the past 19 games, saw limited action in the game against the Sabres (played only one minute in the third period) and finished with 7 minutes 54 seconds of ice time.
"Some of the little things, when he's top of his game, he's playing with more pace, he's getting to the offensive zone," Yeo said of Thompson. "It seems like he hasn't been able to get to that type of game. His hands show up in certain areas, his skill shows up in certain areas. A lot of times right now, it's with his feet planted. He beats a guy but if you're not moving your feet you're going to be forced to beat the guy again, so it will be a conversation that we'll have with him here. He's just a young player that's learning his ropes in the league.
"... Guys that have played in the league for 10 years still have ups and downs. But he's certainly a young player that's still developing. Given the magnitude of the game tonight and the opponent, this is the lineup we chose tonight."
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It's Carter Hutton again for the Blues in goal tonight.
Hutton is coming off a 27-save shutout win on Saturday; he's 4-0-0 with a 0.50 goals-against average and .984 save percentage his past four starts and the situation the Blues are in with two goalies they feel they can lead on, Hutton is the guy that's locked in right now.
"He had a shutout last game," Yeo said. "Hard to not play Jake [Allen] after the game he played in Boston (a 3-1 loss on 43 saves), but it's even harder to not throw 'Hutts' back in today. That's the decision we made.
"I think that's where we're at right now, game-by-game. We've got a busy week here and obviously we'll need both goalies, but I can tell you we don't have a plan outside of tonight."
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With the Central Division as tight as it is, the Blues are in a dire need to win as many games as possible.
Trailing the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets by four points for the top spot in the division, the Blues need to worry more now about who's behind them rather than ahead of them with the Dallas Stars nipping at their heels one point back for third place. Minnesota (28-19-5) is six points back with two games in hand.
After tonight, the Blues entertain Colorado Thursday before playing at Winnipeg Friday.
"I'm not looking at all of them. I'm looking at tonight's," Yeo said. "That's the only way you can do it or you'll drive yourself crazy. The Central Division, the West, if you start looking at the big picture, then you're going to go nuts. It seems like night after night, teams you want to lose, they're on the winning side of things. So for us, it's just a matter of us getting ready for tonight, pour everything we have into that and move on.
"You look at (scores). That's normal. You come into the rink and you're doing your work and the NHL Network or whatever is on in the background. It's easy to say, but we just can't get caught up in that stuff. We just have to make sure we stay focused on ourselves."
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The Blues' projected lineup:
Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko
Vladimir Sobotka-Paul Stastny-Alexander Steen
Ivan Barbashev-Patrik Berglund-Dmitrij Jaskin
Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak
Carl Gunnarsson-Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Bouwmeester-Colton Parayko
Joel Edmundson-Robert Bortuzzo
Carter Hutton will start in goal; Jake Allen will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Tage Thompson and Chris Thorburn. Zach Sanford (shoulder) is out and Robby Fabbri (knee) is out for the year.
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The Wild's projected lineup:
Jason Zucker-Mikko Koivu-Mikael Granlund
Tyler Ennis-Eric Staal-Nino Niederreiter
Zach Parise-Matt Cullen-Charlie Coyle
Daniel Winnik-Joel Eriksson Ek-Marcus Foligno
Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin-Matt Dumba
Gustav Olofsson-Nate Prosser
Devan Dubnyk will start in goal; Alex Stalock will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Mike Reilly and Chris Stewart. The Wild report no injuries.