Tuesday, January 22, 2013

(1-22-13) Blues-Blackhawks Gameday Lineup

CHICAGO -- There was always a sense that the Andy McDonald, Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko line had special potential.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock had been eager to see the line in action.

It's only two games, but judging by the collective performance by the trio, it's a move the Blues felt like they could get results from.

Tarasenko, the rookie mixed in with two savvy veterans, leads the Blues with five points (three goals and two assists) and is among the league leaders. McDonald has a goal and two assists in two games and Steen has a pair of assists plus a shootout goal that helped the Blues cinch a 4-3 win at Nashville Monday night.

"Our line's played well," said Steen, who will play in his 500th NHL game tonight, one night after teammate Barret Jackman played in his 600th game. "We've communicated well. We've read off each other very well. We just need to pick up the defensive side of it a little more, but the two of them are going to score a lot of goals this year."

Hitchcock is really pleased with the results of Tarasenko, who is still getting his feet wet in a new country, new surroundings and a different game from the one he's been used to playing in the KHL.

"He's a good kid," Hitchcock said of Tarasenko. "I keep saying that ... he's going to have his ups and downs here. Getting on a charter's a new thing for him. Staying in hotels, knowing where to go ... all those things are new for him. But he's a good kid.

"He asks questions, he wants to learn. He wants to please the veteran players. He's got a real healthy respect for the veteran guys in the league, which to me, is so important. He's almost a throwback to be honest with you. It's very impressive."

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Brian Elliott, who relieved Jaroslav Halak in Monday's win, will get his first start of the season tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks (7:30 p.m. on FSN, KMOX 1120-AM).

Elliott, who led the NHL in goals-against average (1.56) and save percentage (.940), did not leave North America to play in a European league during the lockout, instead opting to remain in St. Louis to train with fellow Blues teammates.

His summer work and lockout efforts were put to the test Monday night without warning. A goalie's never prepared to enter mid-game, but Hitchcock made the change after the Predators took a 3-2 lead midway through the game.

"Right now, you're trying to get that feeling back," Elliott said. "The way I've done it in the past is just work hard and in practice, it translates into your game. Once you start making those saves in practice, they make their way into the game."

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Center Patrik Berglund is one player looking to get off to a quick start.

At least in the statistic category.

Berglund, who spent the lockout playing for his hometown Vasteras VIK squad in his native Sweden, has a goal through two games, but his play leads to believe that Berglund, who's playing with Chris Stewart and Jaden Schwartz, could see increased point production.

"I like the fact you could tell he's played a lot," Hitchcock said of Berglund. "He doesn't get winded, he's in tremendous playing shape, which to me is why he looks so much at ease on the ice.

"He's a man now, and he's a big man. I don't care what league you played at, when you play 25-26 minutes a night ... he's played over 30 games now, is pretty significant. He's going to be in good shape."

Berglund, 24, whose rookie season produced 21 goals and 47 points in 2008-09, but has dipped to 26, 52 and 38 points the last three seasons.

"I think the last two years I've been playing the way I want to play," Berglund said. "I just haven't gotten the points that I've wanted. The chances haven't been there all the time, but I just want to get better and better. I don't want to change too much.

"I want to be the guy that goes in there and does his job every night, and that's what I'm going after. That's my goal every game, every season. That's what I'm looking for, to contribute and be the guy that the team will rely on."

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The Blues’ 4-3 shootout victory over the Predators Monday registered as the highest-rated regular season Blues telecast ever on FOX Sports Midwest. The game generated a 7.4 household rating in the St. Louis DMA, according to Nielsen Media Research. That easily tops the previous regular season high of 6.3 set March 13, 2012 at Chicago. Monday's telecast peaked at a 9.1 (113,000 households) during the shootout.

Saturday's season opener against Detroit was the highest-rated Blues season or home opener on FSN. It averaged a 6.0 household rating, making it the highest-rated program in prime time in St. Louis on Saturday.

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The Blues' home game Sunday with the Minnesota Wild, originally scheduled for 5 p.m., has been moved to 7 p.m. for national television coverage from NBC Sports Network. The home game on Monday, Feb. 11 which was originally scheduled for an 8 p.m. start, has been moved up to 7 p.m.

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The Blues held an optional skate this morning at United Center after getting in from Nashville Monday night. Their lineup could have a tweak but isn't expected to see any, and Hitchcock didn't offer up any changes:

David Perron-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

Andy McDonald-Alex Steen-Vladimir Tarasenko

Jaden Schwartz-Patrik Berglund-Chris Stewart

Matt D'Agostini-Vladimir Sobotka-Jamie Langenbrunner

Ian Cole-Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk

Kris Russell-Roman Polak

Elliott, who stopped all 13 shots and then both shootout attempts in relief of Halak Monday, will start in goal. Halak, who allowed three goals on eight shots at Nashville, is the backup.

McDonald took a puck to the face Monday night in the waning seconds of overtime but Hitchcock said he received "a couple stitches" and is expected to play tonight. Healthy scratches C Scott Nichol and RW Ryan Reaves as well as D Jeff Woywitka. Defenseman Wade Redden is skating and is expected to make his Blues debut at some point soon.

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The Blackhawks, 2-0 just like the Blues, will host their home opener tonight. Their probable lineup:

Brandon Saad-Jonathan Toews-Marian Hossa

Patrick Sharp-Dave Bolland-Patrick Kane

Bryan Bickell-Andrew Shaw-Viktor Stalberg

Brandon Bollig-Marcus Kruger-Michael Frolik

Duncan Keith-Brent Seabrook

Johnny Oduya-Niklas Hjalmarsson

Nick Leddy-Michal Roszival

Corey Crawford, who is 1-0 after beating the defensing Cup champs Los Angeles Kings Saturday, will make his second start of the season; Ray Emery will be the backup.

The Blackhawks are without defenseman Steve Montador (concussion symptoms), winger Daniel Carcillo (lower-body) and defenseman Sheldon Brookbank and forward Jamal Mayers (healthy scratches).

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