Saturday, March 31, 2012

Blues clinch Central Division despite 5-2 thud against Jackets

First division title since 2000 came after Chicago tops Nashville

ST. LOUIS -- It's not the way one would envision a locker room after clinching a division championship.

But despite one of their worst performances of the season, the St. Louis Blues were able to back into a Central Division title thanks to a little help.

The Blues fell to the Columbus Blue Jackets, 5-2, Saturday night to claim their first division title since their Presidents' Trophy-winning season in 1999-2000. But in a game that the Blues (48-21-10) could have made a moot point what was going on in Nashville turned out to matter most. The 19,150 sellout crowd at Scottrade Center was waiting to erupt to something boisterous. What they got was a big thud by the home team.
(Getty Images)
Blues defenseman Roman Polak (46) reacts after a contingency of
Jackets celebrate a goal Saturday night during Columbus' 5-2 win.

"We got outworked and out-competed," Blues winger Alex Steen said. "I think the frustration kind of showed in the third period.

"We were careless with the puck, careless decisions. It wasn't a very good performance."

R.J. Umberger scored twice, Derek Dorsett, Jared Boll and Vinny Prospal scored and Allen York won his third straight start for the Jackets.

The Jackets (27-45-7), who had lost seven of their last eight meetings with the Blues, had only two wins in 15 matchups in St. Louis. Rick Nash and Cam Atkinson added a pair of assists each for the Jackets, who have won three in a row. They did so with a makeshift lineup that was missing nine veteran players because of injury and one (defenseman Cody Goloubef) who jumped into his first NHL game only minutes after arriving at the arena with no pre-game warmup.

"Anybody that knows hockey wasn't expecting this tonight," Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "Back-to-back, six games in nine days, playing in a tough environment in tough circumstances, as far as who is injured and who is playing ... there are proud moments as a coach and tonight was one of those games."

Added Umberger, who scored goal Nos. 18 and 19: "You don’t want it to end when there is such a good vibe around our ream right now, the way we’re playing. There are a lot of young guys around our team right now who are working their tails off. We’ve had some success. That’s fun. That’s why you play the game."

David Backes and David Perron scored for the Blues, who won the Central Division thanks to Chicago's 5-4 win at Nashville. It was only the Blues' fifth loss in regulation this season at home (30-5-4) and only Columbus' 11th road win of the season, last in the NHL. The Blues were 13-1-1 in their last 15 home games.

"Lack of discipline when the game was on the line," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We were a reactionary team all night. We had half in, half out (players). And when the temperature got turned up, we were the team reacting. Not going to win hockey games like that.

"Bottom line, we ended up reacting to everything they were doing. ... Good teams have got emotion, but we had some people who didn't show up from a compete standpoint and then we had others who showed up who competed, but there was poor composure."
(Getty Images)
Jackets' Derek Dorsett, who scored twice Saturday, is being pursued by
the Blues' Vladimir Sobotka Saturday night.

What Hitchcock referred to specifically was when the game was on the line in the third period and the Jackets holding a 3-2 lead, the Blues were issued four penalties in a 39-second span and spent at entire two minutes killing off a five-on-three sequence. Dorsett got a goal out of it in front of Jaroslav Halak that made the game 4-2 and for all intents and purposes, ended the Blues chances.

"When the game was 3-2, to play the way we did in the third period was not good," Hitchcock said. "We probably showed a little lack of respect for the opposition."

The Blues or the fans were not happy with the officials, namely veteran Dan O'Halloran. In particular was a slashing call on Alex Pietrangelo and ensuing unsportsmanlike conduct minor that prolonged Columbus' power play.

"We got really worked up about the officiating and the way things were going," Blues winger Andy McDonald said. "We weren't able to reign it in and it spun out of control and it cost us the game.

"Between the second and third, it kind of snowballed. Whether it was the referee we were getting upset at or just the way things were going on the ice. Their team looked a lot more composed than we did. We have to learn from that and act like we're the first place team overall and act like we've been here before."

Hitchcock would have none of it, though.

"The officials were not the issue. Not one bit the issue. We were the issue," Hitchcock said. "The officials had nothing to do ... they called what they saw. What they saw was us taking stupid penalties. I would have made the same calls. This is not on the officials. This is all on us.

"This is something that has to be addressed. I think we addressed it tonight. We'll see how we do the next game."

The Jackets took advantage of the Blues' poor decisions, and when the Blues were peppering York at the other end, he was able to make the necessary stops, finishing with 34.

"The team is playing unreal," York said. "Yes, I’m doing well, but [man] is the team playing well.

"Mentally it was the toughest (of York's three wins). I let in that weak second one [to Perron]. And it was St. Louis. They’re so good."

The Blues put a serious hit on their chances of winning a Presidents' Trophy. They trail the New York Rangers by a point (107-106) and slipped into the second seed in the Western Conference after Vancouver's 3-2 overtime win over Calgary Saturday night that gives the Canucks 107 points.

"It's disappointing," Blues captain David Backes said. "The overall way we played ... it's frustrating and we need to have a couple good days of practice here to get things back on track to really ramp things up."

* NOTES -- With a full lineup, the Blues scratched six players, including forwards Jaden Schwartz, B.J. Crombeen, Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves as well as defensemen Carlo Colaiacovo and Ian Cole. ... Defenseman Barret Jackman played in his 595th career game, all with the Blues. It tied him with Jamal Mayers for 10th on the franchise list. ... Halak lost for the first time in regulation at home since Nov. 22. He had been 10-0-0 with a 0.99 goals-against average and .960 save percentage in the last 10 and 13-0-1 in the 14 games since losing to Los Angeles in November. 

(3-31-12) Blue Jackets-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Not only are the Blues healthy, but coach Ken Hitchcock has a plethora of options.

It's not often that at the end of the season, a coach has a bevy of players to choose from. But when the Blues (48-20-10) host the Columbus Blue Jackets (26-45-7) with a chance to wrap up their first Central Division title since 2000, they will do so with the most dangerous lineup they can offer up in the last 160 games dating back to March 3, 2010.

"I don't know about looking forward, but I'm sure curious," Hitchcock said. "I don't think any of us have seen this lineup play, so I'm curious to see how it looks. I think I'm more interested in the line combinations to see how they turn out. When you're approaching the playoffs, you want your most skilled lineup in to see if they act like workers. That's the opportunity that some guys have got here right now.

"This is the most skilled lineup that we've been able to serve up. We're hoping that over the course of the next few games that they act and behave like workers so that we can trust them. I think that's the big challenge."

Andy McDonald (shoulder), Matt D'Agostini (concussion) and Roman Polak (knee) are all deemed fit to play and all three will return tonight.

D'Agostini has missed 26 games dating back to Feb. 7, McDonald six games and Polak five games. It gives the Blues a healthy look and a lineup they hope to boast for the playoffs.

"It's a great feeling we're going to have a full team right now, especially those important guys like Steener and Andy Mac being back," Polak said. "I think it's going to help us all the way around if it's PK, PP, 5-on-5, it doesn't matter. It's exciting everybody's healthy.

"(The knee) feels way better than it was before. I just couldn't go (before). That's why I just took a couple games off because I couldn't go. It was painful. I don't think it would be good for me or the team if I'm not 100 percent. ... It feels better now. Right now, it's playable. I'll go and play tonight. Hopefully, it's going to be alright. The pain's going to be there maybe for the rest of the season. Maybe after the season I'll take a little more time off. It is what it is. I'll just have to battle through it."

D'Agostini sure served up the quip of the morning, a good indication he's giddy upon his return:

"I think they were waiting for me to get back to clinch (the division)," D'Agostini joked, referring to his teammates. "(I'm) ready to go for sure. I'm trying to get the legs underneath me as much as I can. You never know how you're going to feel out there after missing some time, but I'm excited to get out there and contribute with the guys again.

"I did two months of pretty much doing nothing, so that's like another off-season almost. I've been skating the last couple weeks pretty good with the guys. You always think you're in game shape until you're out there in the game. Hopefully I get my legs underneath me as soon as I can. My head feels fine. I'm not too worried about that part of it. Just more or less feeling comfortable out there and getting back into my game mode."

Hitchcock will do as much observation and storing what he sees in the memory bank along with coaching. He wants to see how these guys perform, especially since it's a more seasoned and polished lineup.

"D'Agostini hasn't played for a long time, so we've got to be realistic and nurture it along," Hitchcock said. "I don't think it's a big change getting Andy back in there because he only took seven days off before he started practicing full-out with us. So he's been going full bore with us.

"For us, the biggest adjustment is looking at the (Patrik) Berglund-(David) Perron-McDonald line. They looked very good at practice yesterday, they've scrimmaged together but we have not played them as a line together. I want to see how that looks moving forward."

With Polak returning, Carlo Colaiacovo will be a healthy scratch tonight, leaving Kent Huskins in to play with Alex Pietrangelo. Polak will play with Kris Russell.

"He's a dangerous guy to play against," Hitchcock said of Polak. "He's reckless, he's physical and I think we need that in our lineup right now. We got a little bit away from it and I think he brings that edge to us. He gives us a real stable third pair, which is back to what we need.

"I like the looks of (the defenseive corps). I think right now we're a group of eight, (Ian) Cole included. We'll just see how things work out. It's the players that are in, it's the 20 players' chance to shine and if someone doesn't shine, they're out and someone else is in. That's just the way it is this time of year."

- - -

Tonight's probable Blues lineup:

Alex Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

Andy McDonald-Patrik Berglund-David Perron

Vladimir Sobotka-Jason Arnott-Jamie Langenbrunner

Matt D'Agostini-Scott Nichol-Chris Stewart

Kent Huskins-Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk

Kris Russell-Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak gets his second straight start tonight in goal; Brian Elliott will be the backup.

Halak gets his second straight start tonight in goal. He is 10-0-0 in his last 10 home starts with a .099 goals-against average and .960 save percentage (according to FSN's Darren Pang), 13-0-1 at home dating back to Nov. 22.

The Blues will have their lineup healthy and in tact for the first time since March 3, 2010 (160 games). Their scratches tonight will include forwards Jaden Schwartz, B.J. Crombeen, Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves as well as defensemen Colaiacovo and Ian Cole.

Jackman will play in his 595th career game (all with the Blues), which will tie him for 10th place on the all-time franchise list with Jamal Mayers. ... The Blues are 13-1-1 against the Jackets at home dating back to 2007-08. ... The Blues are 13-1-1 in the last 15 home games overall this season, outscoring their opponents 43-16.

- - -

The Blue Jackets didn't skate Saturday after winning 4-1 at home Friday over Florida. This is their projected lineup:

R.J. Umberger-Derick Brassard-Cam Atkinson

Vinny Prospal-Mark Letestu-Rick Nash

Ryan Russell-Ryan Johansen-Derek Dorsett

Colton Gillies-Darryl Boyce-Jared Boll

Jack Johnson-Dalton Prout

Brett Lebda-Nikita Nikitin

Aaron Johnson-Cody Goloubef

Allen York, who started in Friday's 4-1 win over Florida, could go again or it's possible Shawn Hunwick could make his NHL debut.

The Blue Jackets' injury report includes G Curtis Sanford (leg), G Steve Mason (head), D Fedor Tyutin (hand), D James Wisniewski (concussion), D Marc Methot (jaw), D Radek Martinek (concussion), C Derek MacKenzie (concussion) and LW Kristian Huselius (groin). All are out indefinitely except for Mason, who's day-to-day. It was reported D John Moore limped off the ice Friday in the first period but returned to finish the game. Moore will not play tonight and the team did recall Goloubef from Springfield (Mass.).

Friday, March 30, 2012

Blues go back to refresher course after dismal loss in Chicago

Team hopes to implement Friday's brisk workout against
Columbus with full, healthy roster for first time this season

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Ken Hitchcock warned after Thursday's 4-3 shootout loss at Chicago that maybe the Blues needed a good, hard practice on Friday.

True to his word, that's exactly what they got.

But instead of fretting over what was to come at St. Louis Mills' Ice Zone Friday afternoon, the Blues embraced a good old-fashioned refresher course on what has made them successful and why they have been able to maintain that edge.

"We deserved what we got last night and I think we deserved what we got this morning," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "It was good for everyone to get out there and get whipped around a little bit. Personally, I know I needed a little bit of it, especially with a big game tomorrow and getting a couple days off in between games. I think it's going to be good for us."
(Getty Images)
Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (left) defends against Chicago's Brandon
Bollig Thursday night in Chicago.

And what was it that the team needed to be reminded of?

"I think just the sharpness and crispness of everything," winger Alex Steen said. "Yesterday was a slower, mediocre team performance by us. Today was just getting back to that quicker step, a little quicker decisions and crisper passes and all that good stuff.

"We play 82 games, we practice, what, 170 times a year? It's good to just get a little reminder. Last night we got away from what had made us successful. Today we got a little quick reminder and we're back on track."

Added defenseman Kris Russell: "It's human nature to kind of get a little soft in some cases. That's where as a team, we've got to be better and recognize that sooner in games.

"It was a good day today. I thought we did a lot of good things. We worked hard as a team, we were competing hard against each other. If we bring that speed and work ethic in the games, we're going to be successful."

Hitchcock, who conducted a 48-minute practice, hopes so, because what he saw from his 48-20-10 team was out of the ordinary.

"We were rotten. There's no other way to describe it. We were flat-rotten," Hitchcock said of the game against the Blackhawks. "We played the whole game with our eyes. It was just an absolute shock for us. For a coaching staff, it was like, 'Whoa!' To go as well as we played and skated against Nashville (a 3-0 win Tuesday) to come in and play like that (against Chicago), it was like we were playing the friendly games and they didn't want anything to do with it. They hit us, they knocked us around, they were tough on us. We tried everything we could, but we couldn't seem to get a response from our own group. Our own group couldn't get a response from each other. I don't know what it was.

"It's a young team and when you don't practice, you don't play well, and that's where we're at. When we don't practice, it just comes back and bites us every time and it has all year. I think veteran teams can do it and get away with it. You can talk things through, but when we don't get tempo at practice or we don't get everybody on the ice or we get to this playing every second day ... the only time we were good in a pregame skate was when we gassed it and had a hockey practice before the Nashville game. But that's hard to do every time. Today was good. Today hopefully gets our tempo back where it was before."

And when the Blues implement that familiar tempo again against the Columbus Blue Jackets Saturday in hopes of clinching the Central Division title for the first time since 2000, they will do it with a full and healthy lineup for the first time in 160 games.

Hitchcock said on Thursday Andy McDonald (shoulder) would play against the Blue Jackets. Matt D'Agostini (concussion) was activated from injured reserve Thursday and Roman Polak, out the last five games with a bruised knee, is fit and available to play as well.

So in practice today, there were 16 forwards, eight defensemen and two goalies.

"It's a team we put together in the off-season, the team that's been practicing and working all year as a group," Steen said. "To finally have everybody healthy is a great feeling. Just knowing that guys have their health is the big thing. Everybody in here is friends. We're like family together. You never want to see a teammate get hurt.

"The coaches have a lot of decisions to make for the lineups and stuff like that. It's a good thing to have. There will be a lot of competitiveness. Guys want to play and play a lot."

It means that six players will sit the remaining games as long as the lineup's in tact the way it is. That will make competition for the 20 roster spots tough to sift through.
(Getty Images)
Kris Russell and the Blues got a refresher course Friday at practice after a
bad loss Thursday at Chicago. Russell had two assists in the 4-3 shootout

"It's always good when you have a healthy team, but shows how deep our team is," Russell said. "We were having success when guys were out, but it's been key guys that have been out. Romy's a big part of our defense. He's a shutdown guy, plays heavy minutes, five-on-five and four-on-four. You get guys like Steener and Mac back, they help run the ship with the forwards. It's good to have those guys back and the leadership they bring.

"No matter how much money you're making, you've got to be competing, you've got to be earning a spot on that ice. That's the good thing about our team. There's competition. You've got to be at your best and if you're not, there's going to be someone breathing down your neck looking for that chance to get in. We work hard as a team and we help each other out. I think that's why we've been so strong."

The Blues usually bounce back strong after these types of competitive skates, and they typically bounce back strong off a loss.

Nothing less is expected once again.

"We're a team that feels uneasy when we don't play our best and we haven't really poured it all in," Shattenkirk said. "I think once that happens, you almost feel guilty and play harder.

"We owe it to ourselves to put the best product out there every night. Some guys won't have it some nights, but if the effort's there, usually we end up on the right side of things."

* NOTES -- Hitchcock said Friday that the Blues will go back to Jaroslav Halak in goal against the Blue Jackets Saturday despite the loss in Chicago. Halak stopped 37 shots, including several key stops to keep the Blues afloat and give them a chance to at least earn a point, a point they didn't feel like they deserved.

It will be Halak's second straight start on the heels of three straight shutouts by Brian Elliott.

"I thought about it," Hitchcock said. "I want both guys to play here before the end of the year and keep the rotation going, but I feel like ... this (loss Thursday's) on the players. He played really good. Sure, he wants the first goal back, but the two saves he made to get us a point in the third period there were unbelievable. When you give up 40 shots on the road, that's too many shots and too many scoring chances. We were doubled on the scoring chances and he held us in. I'm going to give him another go."

... Based on Friday's line combinations at practice, D'Agostini will be slotted onto the fourth line with Scott Nichol and Chris Stewart, while McDonald will be placed once again with Patrik Berglund and David Perron. Alex Steen will move up to David Backes' line and T.J. Oshie, while Vladimir Sobotka, Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner account for the third line.

"You're going to see some of what you saw today, but you're going to predominantly see pairs stay together," Hitchcock said. "... You're going to see some switching. Depending on the opposition in the next four games, depending on the opposition in the playoffs, we are gonna be moving guys around."

Polak would likely replace Kent Huskins in the lineup and play with Russell, which would keep the Carlo Colaiacovo-Alex Pietrangelo and Barret Jackman-Shattenkirk pairings together.

Blues rally to earn point, fall in shootout to Blackhawks

Central Division title hopes put on hold
after loss; team battles back from 3-1 deficit

CHICAGO -- The bubbly will have to hold for one more day.

Not that there would be any champagne suds flowing like they do with baseball, but with a chance to clinch the Central Division title for the first time since 2000, the Chicago Blackhawks would have none of it in their building.

In a deja vu game, one that happened 16 days ago here and again on Thursday night -- just replace the names -- the Blues dropped a 4-3 shootout loss to the Blackhawks at United Center on Dave Bolland's shoot out goal in the fourth round.

The Blues (48-20-10) jumped back into first overall in the NHL, one point ahead of the New York Rangers (106-105) but the Rangers have one game in hand. They had a chance to wrap the Central Division up for the first time since their Presidents' Trophy-clinching team with a victory in regulation or overtime here tonight. It will be put off for one more game.
(Getty Images)
Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (left) races past St. Charles, Mo.
native and Blackhawks enforcer Brandon Bollig Thursday night.

The Blues rallied from a two-goal deficit in the third period on goals by Jason Arnott and David Perron, whose deflection with 1 minute 32 seconds remaining helped the Blues gain a point. But that was furthest from their minds.

"That would be the whole game except for seven minutes," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said when asked about his team's willingness to go into the hard areas. "We were outplayed badly. I don't even know how we got a point to be honest with you. We didn't compete at a high level and looked like we wanted the game to be easier. We jacked it up for about 10 minutes in the third period and got two goals because of it but not going to win many games playing against that team playing like we were playing. This is two games in a row in this building where we haven't really competed for 60 minutes. It's disappointing.

"I'm surprised because it was everybody. We weren't good right throughout the lineup. We weren't very competitive. ... We got a point, but it's disappointing. It's one of those games where you get a point but you're disappointed in the effort. We looked like a team that needs some good hard practices right now."

The Blues were outshot 40-20 and aside for stellar netminding from Jaroslav Halak, the Blues were lucky to get out of town with their 106th point.

"It's good that we tied it, but we didn't play well," said defenseman Kris Russell, who assisted on two goals, including Perron's tying goal. "We played well for a little bit and we got a huge point out of it, but for a team that pushed us around in this building, they played hard, they came at us and we didn't respond the way we should have. We've got to fix that. We've got to do better.

"It was us. It was puck touches. Sloppy plays, sloppy passes. It starts with the D's. Jaro was huge for us. The only reason we got a point was because of him. He put us in a position in the shootout to win. He stopped (the first) three. That's his job. Hats off to him. He competed."

Winger Alex Steen, who scored a goal but missed a chance to win it in the third round of the shootout, agreed: "I thought it was a very mediocre game on our part. Second to loose pucks, just felt like a step behind. Chicago played very hard and we just didn't match their work ethic tonight.

"It was one of those games tonight where we were slow. We tried talking on the bench, in the room and getting everybody going and it seemed slow for us. Jaro stood on his head, gave us a chance to win anyway. We came up short in the end."

Bryan Bickell, Andrew Brunette and Patrick Sharp scored for the Blackhawks (43-26-9), the ladder two giving Chicago a 3-1 lead in the third period.

After Sharp gave the Blackhawks a 3-1 lead 8:40 into the third period after Carlo Colaiacovo lost a puck in his skates and fell down, creating a two-on-none with Viktor Stalberg. It seemed like the deal-clincher for Chicago.

But Arnott got the Blues back within one 55 seconds later, converting after Patrick Kane's turnover, using a wraparound and sliding a second chance between the pads of Corey Crawford at 9:35. That gave the Blues some hope.

They got the equalizer when Russell's shot from the blue line was tipped in front by Perron.

"I just wanted to get there and get a tip," Perron said of his 18th goal of the season. "In this league, you've got to screen the goalies. They're too good. I was able to get one and it went in. I was real happy at the moment to tie the game like that, but the way we played the first two periods wasn't very good."

Added Russell, who credited Chris Stewart with creating a lane for him: "I kind of had a give-and-go with Stewy. Stewy did a really good job sucking that high forward in and creating that lane for me. I knew there were guys going to the net and I just wanted to get a hard shot there and trying to get some havoc. Perry obviously touched it and it went in."
(Getty Images)
Jaroslav Halak stopped 37 shots Thursday night but lost in a shootout
against the Chicago Blackhawks Thursday night.

Halak, who is 3-0-2 in his last five starts against Chicago, made several key stops, including one on Patrick Kane with 32 seconds left in overtime. The Blues had a chance of their own, but Steen's tip with 14 seconds left in the extra frame was blocked off by Crawford, who made 17 saves.

"We were way too sloppy with the puck," center David Backes said. "Our puck touches were abysmal at best. Tape to tape, just executing on a lateral pass to moving the puck forward, we were having troubles executing that. They were pressuring us to create some of that lack of execution. We just need to be better for the whole 60 minutes. We ended up getting one point out of it, but it's really the consolation prize and it's not satisfying at all.

"You can take maybe some sort of victory from that, but it's far from what we're desiring. It's something where we need that desperation and sense of urgency for 60 minutes. We've shown that at times, but the quicker we get to that, the better we're going to feel about our chances going forward. We've got four games to really establish our game.

"It's the willingness to go into the hard areas, the willingness to take an extra hit so your teammate's got an extra second, willingness to concentrate and bear down, put it on the tape to receive a pass and shoot it into an empty net. We had enough puck possession where we should have gotten more, but we fed their offense way too much."

Halak and Crawford were up to the task in the shootout, with each making a trio of stops. But the right-handed Bolland went wide to his right and slid a shot past Halak's outstretched pad in the fourth round. And Patrik Berglund's attempt rung off the post to end the game.

It was the Blues' ninth shootout this season, six of them by a 1-0 score. Halak was the losing netminder in all of them, and if they fall short in their quest for a conference title and Presidents' Trophy, the Blues can look back on those 1-0 decisions.

"It's a long schedule," Perron said. "You can look at the first few games of the year, you can look at the middle point or right now. I still think it's a big point for us at this time of the year. We'll take it the way we played. At one point when it was 3-1, I'm not sure we thought we would get one, but we battled back and found a way to get one."

"If we want to be a team there in June, these kinds of games can't happen," Russell said.

* NOTES -- Bickell's goal snapped the Blues' shutout streak of consecutive minutes at 201:32. ... The Blues activated Matt D'Agostini (concussion) off injured reserve but he did not play. D'Agostini missed 25 games, last playing Feb. 7 at Ottawa. Also, Andy McDonald (shoulder) did not play, missing his sixth game, but Hitchcock said McDonald will play Saturday against the Blue Jackets. ... Defenseman Roman Polak (bruised knee) did not make the trip but could be ready to play Saturday.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

(3-29-12) Blues-Blackhawks Gameday Lineup

CHICAGO -- Step by step, the Blues have been given goals, and each time, they knock the door down and reach uncharted territory.

First, it was clinching a playoff berth for the first time since the 2008-09 season and only the second time since the lockout.

Next up is the Central Division title and it's up for grabs when the Blues (48-20-9) play against a division-foe, the Chicago Blackhawks (42-26-9) at United Center.

Coupled with Detroit's surprising loss at Columbus Wednesday night, the Blues have the chance to wrap up their first division title since 1999-2000 with a regulation or overtime win over the Blackhawks.

"It'll definitely be a good accomplishment for us," winger T.J. Oshie said. "You look at the points that are in our division and the teams that are in our division ... even Columbus coming up with a big win (Wednesday). It's a tough division and to be at the top of that would be a good steppingstone for this team. It would be a steppingstone because we want to get up to that big goal at the end, but it's definitely something we'd like to have on the resume."

The Blues have a chance to knock the Red Wings off the perch for a change, as Detroit, which has clinched a playoff berth for the 21st straight season, has owned the Central, winning it in nine of the last 10 seasons.

"This would be a good feeling for someone else to be able to do this other than those big two (Detroit and Nashville) and maybe sometime down the road give them something to think about," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We've got lots of goals in front of us now between the Jennings (Trophy), the division, the conference, the Presidents' (Trophy) ... they're all obtainable. They're in our control.

"We spent seven months getting to this stage. We want to just keep going. We don't want to give up something that we've earned and kept for a little while. We've got teams pushing us in every aspect. The loss for Detroit to Columbus opens up a door for us tonight, so hopefully we jump all over it."

For a team with so many younger players who haven't experienced what's been presented to them, the Blues have been even-keeled and not looked too far ahead and lost sight of what's in front of them.

"There's been a lot of patience with this team from the fans and management and players," defenseman Barret Jackman said. "To be in the position we are and contending for first place in the division and the conference and potentially overall, it's pretty gratifying and it shows the hard work we've put in this year.

"Everybody's smart enough in this room to know that the Presidents' Trophy isn't going to get you anything in the playoffs. It doesn't give you any freebies, any first-round byes or guarantees you're going to go to the Stanley Cup Finals. We all know the toughest part is still to come. We're excited about the potential, but you look at our game in Tampa Bay to be the first to clinch a playoff spot, we didn't bring out any champagne. It was business as usual and moved on."

Said winger David Perron: "It would be a great step for us. We want to start clinching whatever we can clinch."

- - -

Perron and Oshie were named as the Blues' representatives to compete for the cover of ES Sports' NHL13, which will come down to fan voting.

Fans can go to and vote for their favorite player to represent the next cover, but Perron didn't waste any time spicing up the offer for fans if they choose to pick him.

If the Sherbrooke, Quebec native is selected, Perron will randomly pick one fan to receive a 60-minute private skating session as well as a jersey, stick, gloves and helmet that Perron uses, courtesy of Reebok.

"It's only an hour of my time and a few pieces of equipment," Perron said. "The point is to give back to the fans, who are going to vote on you to maybe be on there. It's having fun with it more than anything. I talked with my agent (Allan Walsh) about it and we thought it was a good way to be maybe a little different from the other guys.

"I was surprised by (the selection). I think it's a cool way for the fans to vote for whoever's going to be the next guy on there. ... Hopefully the fans enjoy it and it's something I thought about for a while to do it and it's important to do it."

When told of Perron's giveaways, Oshie thought he'd chime in with an idea of his own:

"Hopefully they can just watch my play and hopefully that's enough to win the fans over," Oshie quipped. "I'll be like Wal-Mart, who says they'll match it. You bring in the better offer and they'll match it, so I'll match Perry. Whatever he wants to do, I'll do.

"I might just stay old-fashioned and let the play decide."

Oshie even went as far to say he helped Perron with his idea.

"In the morning, I saw him at breakfast and I made sure he knew what to stay," Oshie joked. "I told him to look at my tweet if he needed any ideas and I guess he wanted to one-up me and go above and beyond and start offering skating lessons ... I don't know what he threw out there."

Teammate Chris Stewart was within earshot of Oshie's interview with reporters and took the joking a step further: "Win a date with T.J. Oshie!"

Both players grew up and are quite familiar with the EA Sports collection of games and both are grateful to be part of the voting process.

"It's going to be fun for me and Perry to go back and forth even though in the end, if one of us doesn't win, we want the other one to win," Oshie said. "... It's a fun thing, fun thing to be a part of for the fans. EA Sports is a good game. I grew up playing their games all the way up, NHL, NFL, NBA ... you name it. It's a fun thing for the fans, fun thing for the players."

Perron said it was the only game he requested growing up for Christmas from his parents.

"I bought every single game ever since it started that I can remember," Perron said. "That was the only Christmas present I would ask for and I would get pretty pretty much when I was growing up.

"I was really excited every year because as much as my parents were saying that they weren't going to get that, I just kind of knew that I would get it for every Christmas. My brother and I would play until we tried to win the Cup."

- - -

Two games since his return have produced better than expected results for Alex Steen, who missed 39 games with a concussion.

And with each passing game, the question that's posed is will Steen move up into a top six role because of his invaluable play at both ends of the ice? Steen has been paired with Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner on the third line, a line that's played together earlier this season. But Hitchcock likes what he's getting there.

"I don't know. If David Perron and Schwartzy (Jaden Schwartz) play like they do, I'm not sure. I think (Steen) can elevate our third line for us. I think eventually we're going to want to see that, but right now, he's done a good job where he's at.

"That line has had a lot more impact in the game than it had before. I think right now, we're just going to leave it. I think in-game, we might make some adjustments if we think that we're going to have to make some changes, but for right now, we'll just stick with that."

The trio produced a pinpoint goal, with Langenbrunner picking it up, in Tuesday's 3-0 win over Nashville.

"They're in the offensive zone more," Hitchcock said of the trio. "They're creating scoring chances. When they were playing before, there was a negative balance on scoring chances. Now there's a positive balance on scoring chances. They were giving up more than they were getting before and now it's the exact opposite. That's a good sign for us."

- - -

Tonight's probable Blues Lineup:

David Perron-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

Jaden Schwartz-Patrik Berglund-Chris Stewart

Alex Steen-Jason Arnott-Jamie Langenbrunner

Vladimir Sobotka-Scott Nichol-Ryan Reaves

Carlo Colaiacovo-Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk

Kent Huskins-Kris Russell

Jaroslav Halak gets his first start since March 21 at Anaheim; Brian Elliott, who's started the last three games -- all shutouts to tie Greg Millen's franchise record -- will back up tonight.

The Blues activated winger Matt D'Agostini, who missed the last 25 games with a concussion but he will not play tonight. Also, Andy McDonald (shoulder) will not play but Hitchcock said he would play Saturday vs. Columbus.

"He's up and ready and now he's available for selction and another piece in the puzzle," Hitchcock said of D'Agostini. "We'll wait. We're certainly going to play him in some games here before the end of the regular season to get him ready. It will be good to have him back in, but not tonight. We don't want to change the lineup that had success.

"Andy is going to play on Saturday. He needs two more days of getting beat on a little bit, but he's ready to go. He'll be ready to go by Saturday for sure."

Also scratched are Chris Porter, B.J. Crombeen and Ian Cole. D Roman Polak (bruised knee) did not make the trip but could return to the lineup Saturday.

- - -

The Blackhawks' probable lineup:

Andrew Brunette-Patrick Kane-Marian Hossa

Patrick Sharp-Marcus Kruger-Viktor Stalberg

Bryan Bickell-Dave Bolland-Andrew Shaw

Brandon Bollig-Jamal Mayers-Michael Frolik

Niklas Hjalmarsson-Brent Seabrook

Johnny Oduya-Nick Leddy

Sean O'Donnell-Dylan Olsen

Corey Crawford gets the nod in goal; Ray Emery, who missed Tuesday's game at New Jersey, returns and will be the backup.

Center Jonathan Toews (concussion) skated for the 10th consecutive day and told reporters he's "very close" to being cleared for contact, meaning any day now. But he will miss tonight's game. D Steve Montador re-injured himself Tuesday at New Jersey and is out with an upper-body injury. D Duncan Keith is serving the third of a five-game suspension for hit elbow against Vancouver's Daniel Sedin last week. D Sami Lepisto (lower-body) is skating but out of action. Healthy scratches include C Brendan Morrison and RW Jimmy Hayes.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Division title, Presidents' Trophy immediate goals for Blues

With five games remaining, team in position to seal Central, top spot in NHL

ST. LOUIS -- A lot of franchise records were broken Tuesday night following the Blues' 3-0 win over the Nashville Predators.

But in light of all the accolades the Blues and their players were able to bask in after an impressive victory, including a number of marks set by goalie Brian Elliott, the immediate goals are still clear: win a division title and claim the overall top spot in the NHL. They can aid a long playoff run gaining home ice advantage, which the Blues have shown this season by winning a franchise-best 30 games (30-4-4).

The talk became something of a reality for the Blues (48-20-9) a few weeks back. But with so many games left on the schedule and a handful of teams right in the mix with them, the team didn't want to look too far ahead. But with only five games left and the Blues holding a two-point lead over the New York Rangers (105-103) overall and a four-point lead on Vancouver in the Western Conference, it's a serious reality now and one they would not want to relinquish.
(Getty Images)
Jason Arnott and the Blues have positioned themselves to win their first
division title and Presidents' Trophy since 1999-2000.

"The players are focused on it now because we've been here for a little while, we've earned it and we want to keep it," said coach Ken Hitchcock, who is 42-13-9 since taking the job on Nov. 6 and who's seen his club pitch 190:42 consecutive shutout minutes, eclipsing the previous record stretch of 184:47 in 1988-89. "From our coaches standpoint, home ice might be the littlest edge that you can get that you might need. I just think it's so competitive. ... Any time you can get home ice for one or two series or whatever is advantageous, I think."

The Blues put some separation between themselves and the Detroit Red Wings (97 points) and Predators (96). They need four points to clinch their first Central Division title since their last Presidents' Trophy-winning team in 1999-2000, when they won 51 games and collected 114 points.

"It's big, but for some reason, we haven't really looked ahead too much to say we are going to be first," said winger T.J. Oshie, who had a goal and an assist Tuesday night. "Let's just go play. We're getting better every night and that's where we want to be at the end. But we're still focused on the next-game mentality."

And that motivation comes from veterans like Jamie Langenbrunner, who scored his 58th career game-winning goal Tuesday night (third with the Blues) in his 1,100th career game.

"Our first motivation is to be playing well," Langenbrunner said. "We feel if we do that, we'll end up in the top spot.

"Obviously Vancouver's right there on our heels, Detroit and these guys (Nashville) are nipping too, but we can control it and we just want to keep playing good hockey and keep getting better. Hopefully we'll continue to get healthy and the lineup will get better and better and we'll keep moving forward."

Elliott had quite a night in goal Tuesday. Elliott, who leads the NHL in goals-against average (1.43) and save percentage (.943), also set a personal-best shutout mark, breaking his old mark of 174:35 set March 20-26, 2010 with Ottawa. He's currently at 186:33 and set a Blues franchise record for consecutive shutout minutes, which was 186:15 held by Manny Legace (set from Dec. 28-Jan. 28, 2007-08). Elliott's ninth shutout this season also broke Glenn Hall's 1968-69 franchise record with most shutouts (8).

But in the end, it's all about the team goals, and the personal accolades are put aside by these players. It's what's made them the success story they are. And winning a division and No. 1 overall seed is next on the list.

"That has to be the goal," Elliott said. "If it wasn't, we wouldn't be doing our jobs. When it comes down to it, I think it's huge positioning yourself going into the playoffs.

"We're no different, but we'll take it day by day and not look too far in the future."

And there will always be the watchful 60-year-old wily veteran coach in Hitchcock, who will continue to crack the whip and keep the focus narrow-minded should the players stray too far away.

"We're not there yet," said Hitchcock, whose team will play in Chicago Thursday night. "We're getting closer, but there's a whole other level out there. We saw a little bit of it (Tuesday), but you're going to see a lot of it when push comes to shove.

"We're going to have to be really good for a long period of time if we expect to win a playoff series."

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Elliott throws blanks again, Blues shut down Preds 3-0

Goaltender earns third straight shutout, sets
franchise record for consecutive shutout minutes 

Brian Elliott is living well these days. The St. Louis Blues goaltender can actually think of another time when he was in such a zone as the one he's in now.

"I think maybe in college, but not at this level," said Elliott, a University of Wisconsin product.

Elliott was signed last summer to be Jaroslav Halak's backup, but the Blues have no problem having two starting-type goalies.

Elliott earned his third consecutive shutout, tying Greg Millen's franchise mark (from Dec. 1-6, 1988) and earned his NHL-leading ninth shutout of the season, stopping 24 pucks in the Blues' 3-0 win over the Nashville Predators Tuesday night, keeping the Predators from clinching a playoff spot.
(Getty Images)
Brian Elliott (1) gets congratulations from teammate Chris
Stewart after posting his third straight shutout in a 3-0 win
over Nashville Tuesday.

Elliott, who leads the NHL in goals-against average (1.43) and save percentage (.943), also set a personal-best shutout mark, breaking his old mark of 174:35 set March 20-26, 2010 with Ottawa. He's currently at 186:33 and set a Blues franchise record for consecutive shutout minutes, which was 186:15 held by Manny Legace (set from Dec. 28-Jan. 28, 2007-08). Elliott's ninth shutout this season also broke Glenn Hall's 1968-69 franchise record with most shutouts in one season (8).


"It's obviously cool to have it, but you're not even thinking about that going into a game," said Elliott, who improved to 23-9-3 on the season. "You just try to get the two points for the guys no matter how you do it.

"Grant Fuhr said it doesn't matter if you let in seven or one, as long as your team scores eight. Obviously it's pretty cool to be a part of that record."

Dating back to the third period of Wednesday's game at Anaheim, the Blues have played a franchise record 190:42 of consecutive shutout minutes, eclipsing the previous record stretch of 184:47 in 1988-89. 

Elliott's teammates continue to answer questions regarding their goalies. They don't mind but are running out of positive adjectives.

"We definitely don't expect them to be playing this good, but they are and it's great," said winger T.J. Oshie, whose goal with four minutes left in the game sealed the victory. "It gives us a sense of confidence to go out and to make plays and to know they're going to be behind us. You look at their numbers this year, it's been unbelievable."

Added winger David Perron, whose goal 4:47 into the third gave the Blues a 2-0 lead: "Three (shutouts) in a row is pretty unbelievable when you think about it. I think two in a row is pretty good. Three is just unbelievable."

Elliott even earned accolades from his counterpart tonight, Pekka Rinne, who allowed three goals on 24 shots: "It's an amazing run. (Elliott's) had an unbelievable year. They keep playing great and 15 shutouts this year, that's unbelievable."

Jamie Langenbrunner, playing in his 1,100th career game, became the 21st American-born player to reach that feat. His 58th career game-winner set the tone as the Blues (48-20-9) also got goals from Perron and Oshie. Oshie had a goal and an assist, while David Backes picked up a couple helpers for the Blues, who tied the Chicago Blackhawks' 1969-70 team for shutouts in a season (15) during the post-expansion era.

"For me, the game was well-played," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who's 42-13-9 since taking over the Blues on Nov. 6. "From a precision standpoint, an execution standpoint, we came out with a lot of focus and hats off to (Nashville), they grabbed a little bit in the second. And then we took it back in the third.

"We were forced to play a complete game today and we had to compete at a high level every shift to stay with it."

Langenbrunner scored when he and linemates Jason Arnott and Alex Steen worked some tic-tac-toe magic. Steen slid a backhand feed to Arnott in the slot, where his touch pass found Langenbrunner. Langenbrunner was able to wrist a shot into the top shelf past Pekka Rinne at 6:35 of the second for a 1-0 lead.

Perron's power move to the net in the third produced the all-important second goal 4:47 into the period. A give-and-go sequence between Perron and David Backes saw Perron beat Preds defenseman Kevin Klein around the right edge and Rinne in front. Perron slid a backhand in for a 2-0 lead.

Perron's bid for a second goal was waved off after review. He was able to poke a puck between the pads of Rinne after a T.J. Oshie shot with 7:08 remaining but the play was somehow ruled no goal.
(Getty Images)
The Blues' David Perron  scores in the third period past Pekka Rinne in the
Blues' 3-0 win over Nashville.

Oshie made it a 3-0 Blues lead with a backhand wrap around the net with four minutes left.

The Blues improved to 30-4-4 at home, tying Detroit for most home wins in the NHL this season and setting a franchise record for most home wins in a season. The previous mark of 29 was set in 1980-81. They're 13-1-1 in their last 15 at home, outscoring the opponents 43-16. They've also kept their top overall billing in the League, improving to 105 points, two ahead of the New York Rangers.

Nashville, which stayed a point behind fourth-place Detroit in the Western Conference race, fell to 44-25-8, good for 96 points. They are likely to clinch a playoff spot Thursday, but this was a night that the Predators had very few scoring opportunities.

"You don't get many odd-man rushes," Predators center Mike Fisher said. "They're very smart defensively and patient and clog everything up."

The Blues are on the verge of breaking the modern NHL record for fewest goals allowed in a season, a record held by the 2003-04 New Jersey Devils at 164. The Blues have allowed 139 non-shootout goals and 147 altogether.

"We just want to keep playing good hockey and keep getting better," Langenbrunner said. "Hopefully we'll continue to get healthy and the lineup will get better and better and we'll keep moving forward."

(3-27-12) Predators-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- It's not often one can be mentioned in the same breath as former Blues greats Al MacInnis and Chris Pronger.

But after picking up three assists Sunday night to go with fellow d-man Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk and Pietrangelo both have eclipsed the 40-point plateau, becoming the team's first d-pairing to do so since MacInnis (46) and Pronger (47) did so in 2001-02.

Pietrangelo is third among defensemen with 48 points and now Shattenkirk is 16th with 41 points.

With Shattenkirk (23 years old) and Pietrangelo (22), it seems the Blues will have quite the duo for years to come.

"That's insane. For us, it's a huge honor," said Shattenkirk, who has 32 assists of his 41 points. "Whenever you're talked about with those two guys, it's special. You don't really believe it, but we still have some work to do obviously. Both of us have stuck to our game. The coaches have just allowed us to play our game and I think it paves the way for all the rest of the stuff."

Since both have been paired together on the power play, both players have accumulated a plethora of points.

"To have two guys where we are, it's pretty awesome," said Pietrangelo, who has 12 goals and 36 assists. "Whether it's him where I am or I am where he is, it's pretty good for both of us moving forward here, especially if we're going to be here for awhile. It's good to have that in the back-end.

"A lot of it's come together lately, especially since we were put together on the power play. A lot of our points have been generated from that. We had two points each last game coming from each other on point shots, and my goal, he passed it over to me. That's been the biggest thing for us is we find each other on the power play. It's been the key."

- - -

Milestones are meant to be cherished when one's career is done. That's how Blues veteran winger Jamie Langenbrunner is looking at career game No. 1,100 tonight when the Blues (47-20-9) host the Nashville Predators (44-24-8) tonight.

"Any time you hit round numbers, you kind of take a look back a little bit," said Langenbrunner, who has 660 points. "It's not something that's big on my radar, no.

"It's definitely something you do when you're done ... at least that's what I'm told. You look back at those sort of things. Right now, I'm in the now and the battle for what this game is and I'm excited for it."

Coincidentally, Langenbrunner's first game in the NHL came with the Dallas Stars ... right here at Scottrade Center in 1995.

"Yeah, it was in St. Louis ... in this building. Long time ago," Langenbrunner joked. "... I was playing junior with the (Peterborough) Petes (of the Ontario Hockey League) and we just got knocked out, got called up by Dallas to come here.

"I remember walking in the locker room and (the) junior hockey (mentality), dying your hair and stupid stuff like that. My hair was all bleached-blonde or streaked. I remembered trying to find a barber shop to try to shave out as much of it as I could for that first game."

- - -

Allowing only 139 non-shootout goals through their first 76 games, the Blues broke an NHL record for goals allowed in a 76-game season. That mark was set by the 1968-69 Blues, who allowed 157. But the Blues have loftier goals in mind -- like the 82-game record set by the 2003-04 New Jersey Devils, who allowed 164 goals.

"I wasn't really aware of it actually until this past road trip," Shattenkirk said. "It's something that comes from the way we play, it comes from our team defense, our goaltending especially.

"Any time you have a special season like this in terms of goals-against, you have to look at the goaltending. They've probably been the reason why we've let in so few. It's just been a collective effort from everyone. If we were to achieve that, it would be great, but I think we just focus on what we've been doing well all year."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock agreed. Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott have been and are the story.

"The story of our season, no matter what anyone talks about, are our two goalies," Hitchcock said. "They're the story. They've been good all year and at times taking turns being great. The biggest part of our success ... their save percentages are extraordinarily high. ... Not very often do you say, 'Man, the Blues dominated us, or they outplayed us.' There's stretches during the hockey game where your goalie has to come up big and between the two guys, they've come up big every time. We've benefited from two guys having, I don't want to say career years, but played to their potential every night. At times, Halak's been unbelievable and then Elliott's been unbelievable. It's been the small difference for us."

Elliott and Halak are 1-2 in the NHL in goals-against average (1.52, 1.90) and first and sixth, respectively in save percentage (.941 and .927) as well as first and fourth respectively in shutouts (eight and six).

- - -

With a point tonight, the Predators could become the next team in the league to clinch a playoff berth. Nashville is coming off a 6-1 rout at Chicago Sunday night and are now 2-1 since getting Alexander Radulov back from the KHL.

But it's pretty telling that the Predators are going into Game No. 77 looking to gain the postseason.

"That shows the parity throughout the league," defenseman Shea Weber said. "Ever since the salary cap, it's been tight every year. We know right from the beginning of the year that games at the start of the year might end up costing you when you get to that 70th-75th game, that might be the one that could have had you up a spot or two."

- - -

With a victory tonight, it will also mark a milestone for Predators coach Barry Trotz.

Trotz is looking for career victory No. 500, quite a feat for a man who has only known one franchise as his employer.

Winning 500 games is quite a milestone, but Trotz will become the fifth coach in NHL history, joining Al Arbour (New York Islanders), Lindy Ruff (Buffalo Sabres), Billy Reay (Chicago Blackhawks) and Toe Blake (Montreal Canadiens) as the others.

And that certainly means something.

"There is, and trust me, you can't do it without leadership like (general manager) David (Poile). The next win that we have, David will be the only general manager in the history of the game that won 500 games with two franchises (Nashville and Washington). That's pretty elite. You look at things like that, those are things I'm proud of. There's times when I was younger, he could have said, 'Hey, I've got to go in a different direction.' And he hasn't. Through thick and thin, David's stood by me and believed in what we do."

But Trotz, who's coached in 1,060 games, was not one for reflection for 500 wins in general.

"The only thing I've reflected on is the last game, or last two games really. Zero reflection," he said. "Whether you bring it up or someone else brings it up, it's the only time I reflect.

"It's gone fast. I'm more proud of the fact that we've been consistent as a franchise. I think we're only one of two teams to have 40-plus wins in the last seven years. I'm more proud about that than actually the number of wins because that shows that we've been consistent, a team that is in the mix. Organizationally, as a hockey community we've grown to be a fantastic hockey community. We've grown to we expect to make the playoffs, we expect to be there every year, and we expect to challenge for the Cup. It's the hardest trophy in the world to win. You just want to be in that position to have that opportunity to compete for it."

Added Weber, who's played for Trotz since 2006: "Obviously he's been here for a long time for a reason. He's done a lot of good things. When we're able to get that 500th win, it's going to be something special for him and I'm sure he'll remember it forever."

- - -

Tonight's Blues probable lineup:

David Perron-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

Jaden Schwartz-Patrik Berglund-Chris Stewart

Alex Steen-Jason Arnott-Jamie Langenbrunner

Vladimir Sobotka-Scott Nichol-Ryan Reaves

Carlo Colaiacovo-Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk

Kris Russell-Kent Huskins

Brian Elliott will start in goal after back-to-back shutouts, as he will take a 126:45 shutout streak into tonight's encounter; Jaroslav Halak is the backup and will get the start Thursday in Chicago.

The Blues' scratches include Andy McDonald (shoulder), Matt D'Agostini (concussion), Roman Polak (knee), Chris Porter, B.J. Crombeen and Ian Cole. D'Agostini will be available to return to the lineup Thursday in Chicago.

- - -

Tonight's Predators probable lineup:

Andrei Kostitsyn-Mike Fisher-Sergei Kostitsyn

Alexander Radulov-David Legwand-Patric Hornqvist

Gabriel Bourque-Nick Spaling-Colin Wilson

Brandon Yip-Paul Gaustad-Matt Halischuk

Ryan Suter-Shea Weber

Kevin Klein-Hal Gill

Francis Bouillon-Ryan Ellis

Pekka Rinne gets the start in goal; Anders Lindback is the backup.

The Predators' scratches include Martin Erat (upper-body), Jordin Tootoo (upper-body), Craig Smith, Brian McGrattan, Jack Hillen, and Jack Maclellan.