Friday, September 23, 2011

(9-23-11) Blues-Avalanche Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- The revolving goalie carousel takes a new turn tonight for the Blues.

Jake Allen, step up to the forefront. It will be the Fredericton, New Brunswick native's turn to take his shot in goal when the Blues play in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche at 8 p.m.

Allen was 25-19-3 with a 2.52 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in his first full season playing for the Blues' American Hockey League affiliate in Peoria. The Blues' second-round pick (34th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft has a good idea that he will be back with the Rivermen this season and is making the most of his time showcasing for the Blues.

"It's going to be a good opportunity," Allen said Friday morning. "I had a chance to do it last year. It was fun, it was a good experience. It's just something that I want to (continue to) learn towards, put it in the book and just keep getting better. It's just another experience.

"I feel like I've transitioned well. I feel like I've improved. Last summer, I didn't get to work out at all because I had mono. This summer, I feel I've improved a lot. I've come in here with a good attitude and ready to work to show them what I can do."

Following Brian Elliott, Ben Bishop and Jaroslav Halak (tonight's backup), Allen will hope to build off of back-to-back solid performances with the Blues' prospects at Travserse City recently.

"He's been finding himself as a goaltender that's a top-notch prospect," Blues coach Davis Payne said of Allen. "He played very well in his last couple games in Traverse City. Now it's a chance to go into a tough building with what we feel will be a pretty good lineup and get a chance to evaluate him there.

"We like his makeup, his approach. We feel he's on the right path."

Working with assistant coach/goalies Corey Hirsch, Allen said there's not much in the way of changing his familiar habits.

"He doesn't try and change a lot, just the little details that he notices that really make the difference from junior to AHL and then AHL to NHL," Allen said of Hirsch. "Little things in your game, close around the net, being square to the puck and trying to be consistent night in and night out."

- - -

Adam Cracknell seems to have the knack for getting big goals during his short stint in a Blues uniform.

Even though it was only a preseason game, Cracknell found himself picking up the game-winner late in the third period Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 4-3 win.

Cracknell, who resigned a one-year, two-way contract over the summer, is one of a number of forwards battling for up to two roster spots available.

"It's nice to get rewarded," said Cracknell, who scored three goals and added four assists in 24 games last season and will be in the lineup tonight. "It's about going to the net, but they seem to be going in.

"The confidence is better and a lot more comfortable here. Knowing my game and getting a taste last year as well really helps. This summer was a good summer of training. I'm a lot more comfortable out there speed-wise. Conditioning as well. I know I can play here. It's all about playing with confidence when I get the chance and hopefully make a statement."

Cracknell said the relaxed, laid-back approach seems to work for him best in this camp battle, and Payne feels like each guy needs to do what suits him best.

"You have to approach it in whatever way works best for you," Payne said. "These guys know what's on the line. Guys deal with it in different ways. You have to prepare yourself mentally to put forth your best performance. If that means playing with a relaxed intensity, not thinking about it and focusing on just your game ... whatever works effectively."

- - -

The Blues play their fourth game in as many nights and will roll out the following lineup tonight:

Evgeny Grachev-David Backes-Jamie Langenbrunner

Brett Sterling-Philip McRae-Jonathan Cheechoo

Vladimir Sobotka-Adam Cracknell-Ty Rattie

Stefan Della Rovere-Stephen MacAulay-Ryan Reaves

Kent Huskins-Alex Pietrangelo

Nikita Nikitin-Ian Cole

Brennan Evans-Jake Gannon

Jake Allen gets his first start in goal; Halak will make the trip as the backup.

- - -

The Avalanche played its first preseason game Thursday and fell 5-2 in Dallas.

Here is the Avs' roster for tonight:

Goalies: Semyon Varlamov, Trevor Cann; defensemen: Joel Chouinard, David Liffiton, Erik Johnson, Cameron Gaunce, Duncan Siemens, Tyson Barrie, Stefan Elliott; Forwards: David Van Der Gulik, Matt Duchene, Jay McClement, Brandon Yip, Greg Mauldin, Milan Hejduk, Paul Stastny, Joakim Lindstrom, Luke Walker, David Jones, Cody McLeod, Peter Mueller.

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