Monday, February 14, 2011

(2-14-11) Canucks-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- The players know the cliche: take it one game at a time and see where it leads us. That's what they want everyone to believe and understand.

But let's face the facts here for the Blues: they have to start looking down the road, whether it be selling off some assets with a playoff berth quickly slipping through their fingers. Or in their case, going on a long and extremely difficult run of nothing but victories.

Winning in this league is tough enough, and for the Blues, they haven't strung together two wins in a row since the turn of the calendar year when they won five straight (Dec. 21-31).

Realistically, the Blues (24-21-9), who host the Vancouver Canucks (36-11-9) at 7 p.m. today (KMOX 1120-AM) will need to duplicate that five-game streak to have any remote chance of talking postseason.

"We know we've got to win ... obviously as many as we can," forward T.J. Oshie said, pausing for a moment. "Hopefully, around 18-20 games, at least, to make the playoffs.

"It's a word (playoffs) that hasn't been really been thrown around because we know what we're in right now. This team can do it. If we play like we did at the beginning of the year, like we did at certain times this year when we had our good game ... we can do it. It just comes down to everyone looking across the room and telling the other guy next to him that we can."

The Blues really needed more than what they got this past weekend (one point) in two games against Minnesota. And if there is any desperation going on, there was no sign of it Saturday in a 3-1 loss in St. Paul, Minn.

"It has to be better than it was on Saturday night," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "Every battle has to have that second and third effort and it has to become ordinary for our group.

"We recognize where we are, we recognize how the numbers kind of add up and what is necessary. We talked about not putting ourselves in this situation over our experience from the last couple seasons. This season has got a little off-track in the month of January in dealing with different guys in and out of the lineup and that's reality. The bottom line is we've got to be better in each game we've got. When you're talking desperation level, that has to become commonplace and ordinary over our last next stretch here."

Added Oshie, "We know the hole we're in, and we know what it takes to get out of it. It just comes down to doing it."

Considering that the Blues have only 28 games remaining in the regular season, it should come as a surprise that they're not getting that desperation on a regular basis.

"Surprising would be one way to describe it," Payne said. "We're all going to take ownership in here for where we are, for what we have done and what we haven't done and make sure that Vancouver gets our game tonight."

Oshie said Saturday's performance came down to getting away from the team game.

"I think we got a little selfish," he said. "We tried to do a little too much, myself included. We didn't get enough shots through. When we get away from our game, Saturday night is what it looks like. We've just got to pick it up.

"I can really only speak for myself here when I thought that times were going bad, I thought maybe I could do a little bit more, a little bit extra and got away from the game plan. That doesn't work. We play a full team 60, nothing selfish, nothing individual. We got away from that."

- - -

The Blues are considering going with the same type of lineup that they used on Friday, which means the possibility of seven d-men and 11 forwards. If that's the case, here is what to look for with Cam Janssen being a healthy scratch:

Andy McDonald-David Backes-Brad Boyes

Alex Steen-Patrik Berglund-T.J. Oshie

Vladimir Sobotka-Jay McClement-B.J. Crombeen

Brad Winchester-Matt D'Agostini-xxxxxxxxxx

The d-pairings would insert Nikita Nikitin into the lineup:

Barret Jackman-Alex Pietrangelo

Eric Brewer-Erik Johnson

Carlo Colaiacovo/Nikita Nikitin-Roman Polak

If they go 12-6, this is what to look for:

Andy McDonald-David Backes-Brad Boyes

Alex Steen-Patrik Berglund-T.J. Oshie

Vladimir Sobotka-Jay McClement-B.J. Crombeen

Brad Winchester-Matt D'Agostini-Cam Janssen

With six d-men, Nikitin would be the healthy scratch:

Barret Jackman-Alex Pietrangelo

Eric Brewer-Erik Johnson

Carlo Colaiacovo-Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak
(3-2-0, 2.21 GAA, .935 save percentage in six career starts against the Canucks) will be back in goal after a sub par weekend against the Wild.

- - -

The Blues are 1-1-0 against the Canucks this season, with each team winning on the road. The Canucks took a 3-1 win here Dec. 20, but in order for the Blues to gain an edge tonight, they need to remember the execution that took place Dec. 5 at Rogers Place when they won 3-2.

"We had a real solid team commitment to our defensive posture, to our defensive return and to how we managed the puck," Payne recalled. "We just put our heads down and did it for 60 minutes. It's the same type of mentality we have to have here tonight. They're a very good hockey club and haven't lost much since then.

"We recognize some of the higher moments in our season, in particular the one in Vancouver. Our understanding of just what happened in that game is something we brought our attention to here this morning, and some of the things we didn't do against Minnesota were brought to our attention this morning. There's a parallel between the Vancouver game and a diversion we need to get away from our Minnesota game that's just simply not good enough."

The Canucks' lineup includes:

Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Alexandre Burrows

Mason Raymond-Ryan Kesler-Mikael Samuelsson

Jannik Hansen-Manny Malhotra-Jeff Tambellini

Raffi Torres-Tanner Glass-Victor Oreskovich

Burrows (foot) will be a game-time decision, as he was not on the ice for the morning skate. Burrows blocked a shot in Saturday's 4-2 win over Calgary. If he cannot play, Canucks will play a skater short.

The Canucks are still winning despite a rash of injuries to their blue line, including Keith Ballard (knee), Dan Hamhuis (concussion), Alexander Edler (back) and Lee Sweatt (foot).

Christian Ehrhoff-Sami Salo

Andrew Alberts-Kevin Bieksa

Aaron Rome-Chris Tanev

Roberto Luongo will get the start against the Blues. He has 13-9-0 career record with a 2.73 GAA and .915 save percentage against the Blues. Luongo remarkably has not lost in regulation since the Blues beat him on Dec. 5, going 16-0-5 in that stretch.

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