Thursday, December 19, 2013

(12-19-13) Canadiens-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues got some good news on the injury front.

Left winger Jaden Schwartz, who missed the previous two games with an upper-body injury, will return to the lineup when the Blues (22-7-4) host the Montreal Canadiens (21-12-3) Thursday night at Scottrade Center.

Schwartz, who is fifth on the team with 22 points, including 12 points in his previous 12 games, skated for the first time Wednesday and deemed himself ready to return to the lineup after the Blues have gone 0-1-1 with him out of the lineup.

"Yeah, I feel better so I'm going to go tonight," Schwartz said. "No excuses now. I've just got to go play like I would any other night.

"I just tweaked something a little bit ago and it just got worse. I needed to rest it. It's a long year so I didn't want to keep making it worse. A few days of rest has definitely helped. I got a lot of work on it. I definitely feel better for tonight."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock will throw Schwartz right onto the Blues' top line with Alexander Steen and T.J. Oshie.

"I'm not only comfortable. I know how him and Steen play together," Hitchcock said of Schwartz. "This is the first time we've played them together since the playoffs. I'm really curious and excited to see if they've got that chemistry they had in the playoffs against L.A. It'll be fun. They're going to have a big task playing against the line we hope we get to match them up against. I think they're excited to play together. If we keep this together, and we'd like to keep those two guys playing together, I think we're going to see great tempo from those guys."

David Backes (upper-body injury) and Vladimir Sobotka (upper-body injury) both remain sidelined. Backes skated prior to the rest of the team with injured players Jordan Leopold (hand) and Ryan Reaves (hand). General manager Doug Armstrong said Backes is still day-to-day and the team will consult with the training staff to see where they go next.

"It's always a good sign," Armstrong said. "I think this was how we saw it moving forward because we didn't put him on (injured reserve)."

Sobotka took part in the morning skate Thursday but Hitchcock said he's not ready to return.

"He's not ready to play through it. He's not ready to go," Hitchcock said of Sobotka. "He hasn't had a full hockey practice. 'Sobe's' not ready to go. He's probably at about 50 percent where he needs to be."

One significant lineup change for the Canadiens has Ryan White, who has not played in five of the team's past 10 games, in the lineup and veteran Daniel Briere will be a healthy scratch.

"We want more intensity," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "With better intensity, we think we could upgrade the speed, and it starts with intensity. We believe we could be better."

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Reaves has been skating on a daily basis now with Leopold and they were joined by Backes Thursday. Reaves injured his hand and had surgery following a fight against the Dallas Stars' Brenden Dillon.

"Right now it's still working on the conditioning," said Reaves, who will miss his 12th straight game Thursday night. "I'm just trying to not lose my legs. I started touching pucks a couple days ago, so I'll slowly get the hands back.

"I've got a doctor's appointment right after Christmas, so hopefully I get cleared to shoot and then I'll start kind of getting back with the team and hopefully getting closer."

The Blues are 6-4-1 with Reaves out of the lineup, 16-3-3 with him in it. His presence is certainly missed.

"I guess it's always nice to be missed, but we've got a lot of guys that can do that," Reaves said. "I'm not worried about the team stepping up and filling that void, but I guess that's going to be missed once in a while."

Reaves is still targeting the original prognosis of six weeks.

"I'm always shooting for that six weeks, which is the first week of January, end of the first week. It all depends on what happens with my next doctor's appointment.

"Today was the best day. They've been a little heavy until today. I hate (sitting out), especially that Ottawa game. I was getting a little frustrated with everything that was going on. I'm kind of thinking I should be doing something. It happens what you're sitting at home.

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The Blues' probable lineup:

Jaden Schwartz-Alexander Steen-T.J. Oshie

Chris Porter-Derek Roy-Chris Stewart

Magnus Paajarvi-Patrik Berglund-Vladimir Tarasenko

Brenden Morrow-Maxim Lapierre-Adam Cracknell

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk

Ian Cole-Roman Polak

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

Carlo Colaiacovo is the lone healthy scratch. David Backes (upper body) and Vladimir Sobotka (upper body) are day to day. Ryan Reaves (hand) and Jordan Leopold (hand) remain on injured reserve.

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The Canadiens' probable lineup:

Alex Galchenyuk-Tomas Plekanec-Brian Gionta

Max Pacioretty-David Desharnais-Brendan Gallagher

Rene Bourque-Lars Eller-Brandon Prust

Travis Moen-Michael Bournival-Ryan White

Josh Gorges-P.K. Subban

Andrei Markov-Alexei Emelin

Douglas Murray-Raphael Diaz

Carey Price will start in goal; Peter Budaj is the backup.

Healthy scratches include Francis Bouillon and Daniel Briere. George Parros (concussion) is on injured reserve.

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