Friday, March 23, 2018

(3-23-18) Canucks-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues will get right wing Vladimir Tarasenko back into the lineup against the Vancouver Canucks today (7 p.m.; FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM) after he missed two games with an upper-body injury.

Tarasenko missed his first regular-season games since Dec. 31, 2015.

"It was kind of hard and sometimes excited because guys do a really good job," Tarasenko said of the Blues winning all three games (including the one period he played) without him. "It's been a while since I missed the games so it was kind of weird feelings but now I feel good and ready to help the team.

"It's obviously doesn't matter who's playing and who's not right now. Everybody try to fight for win in every game Guys do a good job and I was really proud of this team and how they played last three games. I hope I can help them keep winning. ... It's been a couple years (missing games), but it's happened sometimes. It was hard but excited. It's good thing guys win and it was really fun games to watch."

Tarasenko practiced on Thursday and Blues coach Mike Yeo said after the skate he needed to see how Tarasenko, who was injured early in the first period against the New York Rangers last Saturday on an elbow to the face, responded to Friday's morning skate and got the answer he was looking for.

"We got the thumbs up, so 'Vladi's in," Yeo said, who indicated Tarasenko will play with Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz. "It was up to him. This time of year we're dying to get 'Vladi' back in the lineup, excited to have him back in the lineup, it was just a matter of him making sure he's good to go."

Tarasenko leads the Blues with 27 goals and is second in points with 58 behind Schenn's 62.

"We're going to need [Tarasenko] these last nine games," Schenn said. "We're going to need him to score some goals for us. That's what he does and that's what he does best. It's obviously a huge boost to our team heading down the stretch here and we're glad to have him back."

Tarasenko will go back on the top power-play unit with Vince Dunn moving back to the second unit. 

The Blues had gone a stretch of three power-play goals in four chances with Dunn up there, but after going 0-for-2 against the Boston Bruins Wednesday, Yeo wanted to change. 

"I didn't think it was very good the last game," Yeo said of the power play. "'Vladi's an incredibly dynamic player so we need him to come in and fit in and help us out, continue to where to do what that group was doing strongly and that's moving the puck around, shooting from all angles, and making high percentage plays. So we talked about him there. 

"The other factor is by taking 'Dunner' off there, it's going to strengthen our second unit. We're going to need goals from that unit. It's hard to just rely on one one unit all the time. Teams that are successful on the power play, they get both units scoring goals and I think with the set up we have right now, that group should be capable."

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Schenn was glad to be in the locker room Friday talking about a game instead of talking about a possible suspension after the NHL's Department of Player Safety decided that his hit on Boston's David Krejci did not require any additional discipline after Schenn was given a two-minute penalty for charging in the second period.

Schenn delivered a check to Krejci knocking him on his back, and despite the primary point of contact being the head area, the league decided that it was unavoidable since Krejci was lower to the ice, he was facing Schenn at the time of the hit instead of it being from behind and Schenn didn't lift off the ice until after contact was made.

"I'm not out there to hurt any players," Schenn said. "I just seen him turn, he was low to the ice, his head was down. I didn't get my elbows up, my elbows were tucked in and stuff like that. I'm happy to be playing tonight obviously and it's going to be a big game for our team.

"I've always tried to be physical. I bring every element to the game, offensive, defensive, to be physical. It's all part of my game, but at the same time, you've got to be careful how you're hitting guys. That one, I felt he was low to the ice, I didn't leave my feet until after point of contact."

Schenn, who has been suspended two previous times (three games and one game, respectively) in the past, had some anxious moments nevertheless.

"Until I see the replay after the game, you're always thinking about it," Schenn said. "Next morning, I wasn't sure what was going to happen. But happy to be playing. You just never know what they're thinking."

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The Blues have some injury updates as well, as both Carter Hutton (neck) and Scottie Upshall (sprained MCL) both participated in the morning skate Friday but will not be available for games tonight and Saturday in Columbus.

"He's getting there," Yeo said of Upshall. "He's out for this weekend, but we'll re-evaluate him after the weekend.

"[Hutton] be out for the weekend as well and similar to 'Uppy,' we'll re-evaluate him at the start of the week next week."

Nikita Soshnikov did not skate Friday and was ruled out for the game with an upper-body injury.

Yeo said he was not sure when Soshnikov was injured but he did take a big hit in the third period from Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid.

"Day to day," Yeo said. "I would say that we're not exactly sure when it happened."

That means Oskar Sundqvist will remain in the lineup.

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The Blues, three points behind both Colorado and Anaheim for the first and second wild cards, respectively, with a game in hand on both the Avalanche and Ducks, face another team far out of the playoff picture in the Canucks (26-39-9) but one coming off a 5-2 win at Chicago on Thursday to break a seven-game losing streak.

"I can't say I was surprised," Yeo said. "It's the NHL. There's a lot of pride in players. You look around the league night after night, there's teams that are out of the playoff picture that are winning hockey games and they play loose, they've got guys who are playing for jobs. Most of us have been part of a team at some point, either as a player or as a coach, where you're out of the playoffs and you know that feeling, you know the team's going to have to make decisions and you're going to have to do everything you can, play as hard as you can to prove you deserve to be there. They played real hard last night, they put a lot of pucks on net from dangerous spots, so we have to be ready for that."

The Blues will then jet off to Columbus to play the red-hot Blue Jackets, who have won 10 straight games.

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Jake Allen will make his eighth straight start tonight. He's 5-1-0 with a 2.49 goals-against average and .904 save percentage his past six starts.

Blues left wing Jaden Schwartz has four points (two goals, two assists) during a three-game point streak and 11 points (four goals, seven assists) the past 10 games. He's coming off a two-goal performance, including the OT game-winner Wednesday, against the Bruins.

Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) the past six games.

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The Blues' projected lineup:

Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko

Patrik Berglund-Kyle Brodziak-Alexander Steen

Dmitrij Jaskin-Vladimir Sobotka-Tage Thompson

Ivan Barbashev-Oskar Sundqvist-Chris Thorburn

Carl Gunnarsson-Alex Pietrangelo

Vince Dunn-Colton Parayko

Joel Edmundson-Robert Bortuzzo

Jake Allen will start in goal; Ville Husso will be the backup.

The healthy scratch is Jordan Schmaltz. Carter Hutton (neck), Scottie Upshall (knee) and Nikita Soshnikov (upper body) are day to day. Jay Bouwmeester (hip) and Robby Fabbri (knee) are out for the season.

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The Canucks' projected lineup:

Brendan Leipsic-Bo Horvat-Jake Virtanen

Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Sam Gagner

Darren Archibald-Brandon Sutter-Jussi Jokinen

Tyler Motte-Nic Dowd-Nikolay Goldobin

Alexander Edler-Christopher Tanev

Michael Del Zotto-Troy Stecher

Derrick Pouliot-Alex Biega

Anders Nilsson could start in goal Friday after Jacob Markstrom played against the Blackhawks on Thursday.

The healthy scratch could be Reid Boucher. Brock Boeser (back), Loui Eriksson (rib), Markus Granlund (ankle), Erik Gudbranson (shoulder), Ben Hutton (foot), Sven Baertschi (shoulder) and Brendan Gaunce (foot) are all out.

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