Saturday, November 16, 2013

(11-16-13) Hurricanes-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Chris Stewart saw the remarks that Colorado Avalanche had for their former player, particularly one from goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who said Stewart was a "little gutless" after pumping his arms to the crowd following a fight with the Avalanche's Cory Sarich.

The Avalanche felt Stewart attacked the veteran Sarich in what turned out to be one of three fights between the teams in the second period of a 7-3 Blues win Thursday night. Vladimir Sobotka and Matt Duchene also fought, as did Ryan Reaves and Cody McLeod.

All three fights were one-sided in the Blues' favor.

Stewart saw the comments, and reacted for the first time Saturday morning prior to the Blues' game against the Carolina Hurricanes.

"He said it's gutless. He's the same guy who ratted on his team about a Vegas trip," Stewart said of Giguere. "I don't really care about his opinion, to be honest.

"I read a few things on Twitter that I'm this new WWE wrestler and stuff like that and this big goon and they had some choice words for me. I didn't lose any sleep over it, that's for sure. ... When you see the fans and they're all fired up and that happens, you can't really explain that feeling inside. It's not something I'm going to do every time but it just happened."

There were a series of events that led to Stewart and Sarich's fight, and what Stewart claims was Sarich attempting a big hit but looked to go knee-on-knee was the final straw.

"I think he went for the big hit and just missed my knee there," Stewart said. "I'm not going to let guys take liberties on me. We handled it and that's the end of it. I'm not too worried about it, to be honest.

"Any time you get traded, you're obviously going to be fired up to play that team. I try to show them what they missed out on. I've been here three years and it's probably the best move of my career. I'm here, we're winning."

The Blues were in the middle of one of their best periods of the season in outscoring Colorado 4-0 in the middle 20 minutes and led 5-1 when the extracirricular activies started.

"It was a 5-1 game, too, and I definitely didn't force him to fight," Stewart said of Sarich. "I asked him and it was probably a good time between us at the time and he accepted the challenge. He's a veteran in this league and I've got the utmost respect for him by far. There's nothing personal against him or the aftermath. The emotions got the better of me and that was it.

"You know it's going to get ugly. I think we were up 5-1. There's still a period and five minutes left in the second so you know for sure you're going to be playing a team that's new to your division and there's definitely going to be some high emotions out there and it was just a matter of time."

Could there be a carryover to the next matchup on Nov. 27? Stewart isn't particularly concerned.

"I'm not really too worried about it.," said Stewart, who scored a goal in the game. "Can't look that far ahead.

"They had some choice words for me at the end of the game. So be it. That's the way it goes sometimes."

- - -

When Blues coach Ken Hitchcock looks across at the opposing bench today -- the 11-2-3 Blues face the 8-7-4 Hurricanes at 7 p.m. on FSN, KMOX 1120-AM -- he'll see a familiar face.

Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller -- who played for Hitchcock at the tail end of his 19-year career -- will be opposing his former coach. It will be the third time the two have faced each other (each owns one victory), but with the Hurricanes in the midst of their best stretch of the season (4-0-1 in the last five games), Hitchcock was asked if the Hurricanes are reflective of their coach when he was a player.

"Depends which one you get," Hitchcock said. "The one in New Jersey? No. The one in Dallas? Probably a lot.

"Kirk was a really smart player. He changed his game later in his career where he played very similar to the way Brendan (Shanahan) had and (Jeremy) Roenick had where they played closer to the net, less rush attack, more down low offensive opportunities, and I think it's the same way. He's got this team really committed to 200 feet. They use their skating legs both offensively and more important, defensively. They create a number of turnovers, frustrate you if you're not prepared to work through it. That's the way he learned and that's, I think, the proper play to play. You don't need to score a bunch of goals to win games. I think he's found a formula that really works and his team is buying in right now. To me, you can always tell a team that's playing well when the other team's got the puck and every player looks exactly the same. That's what he's got going there right now."

Muller played for Hitchcock from 1999-2002 and was in on the Dallas Stars roster when Hitchcock was fired. Muller's Hurricanes have only scored nine goals in their last five games but have only allowed six. The style in which they're winning is certainly a reflection of their coach and how he was as a player. Muller had 959 points over a 1,349-game career with six teams.

"Kirk's done a heck of a job," Hitchcock said. "When you're not scoring, you still have to get points and that's what they're doing. They're getting points, waiting for some of the big guns to load up and in the meantime, they're finding ways to win the close games, they're finding ways to negate other teams' scoring chances.

"I think they're a perfect example of you can either commiserate that you're not scoring or you can just get to winning hockey games. I think they've really turned it around here in the last six games, seven games because they're competing at a very high level. Their transition game is obviously one of the best in the East because of the backend there. They're a hard team to play against now."

The Hurricanes did not have a morning skate Saturday after a 3-2 shootout victory Friday against Anaheim but are expected to keep playing with seven defensemen.

The Blues, who defeated the Colorado Avalanche 7-3 Thursday, are 3-0-1 on their current five-game homestand and will begin a stretch of facing four straight Eastern Conference opponents. They are 5-1-0 against the East this season and 29-8-5 since 2010-11, which is the best record in interconference play.

The Blues will also wrap up a five-game homestand tonight, and Hitchcock in the past has talked about "getting comfortable" in these prolonged homestands.
Being 3-0-1 currently hasn't altered Hitchcock's stance, even in this current strong run.

"No. I think it's how we react after a big win," Hitchcock said. "We haven't had our best games after big wins. Now we had a big win against Colorado, let's see how we play tonight. That's been an adjustment for us.

"Every time we've seemed to have a big win, we've had kind of a letdown the next night. This is another challenge for us. We'll see tonight after we play."

- - -

The Blues' probable lineup:

Alexander Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

Brenden Morrow-Vladimir Sobotka-Chris Stewart

Jaden Schwartz-Patrik Berglund-Vladimir Tarasenko

Derek Roy-Maxim Lapierre-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk

Ian Cole-Roman Polak

Brian Elliott will get the start in goal. Jaroslav Halak will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Carlo Colaiacovo and Adam Cracknell. Jordan Leopold (hand) and Magnus Paajarvi (upper-body) are on injured-reserve. Leopold was at the rink Saturday after having successful surgery to repair ligament damage to his right index finger. He's still projected to miss at least two months.

- - -

The Hurricanes' projected lineup, which includes seven defensemen:

Jiri Tlusty-Eric Staal-Alexander Semin

Nathan Gerbe-Jordan Staal-Patrick Dwyer

Chris Terry-Riley Nash-Tuomo Ruutu

Drayson Bowman-Manny Malhotra

Justin Faulk-Andrej Sekera

Brett Bellemore-Ron Hainsey

Ryan Murphy-Jay Harrison

Mike Komisarek

Justin Peters is expected to start in goal. Mike Murphy is expected to be the backup.

Injured players include G Cam Ward (lower-body), F Jeff Skinner (upper-body), D Tim Gleason (upper body), G Anton Khudobin (lower-body), F Radek Dvorak (lower-body) and F Kevin Westgarth (upper-body).

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