Tuesday, December 31, 2013

(12-31-13) Blues-Wild Gameday Lineup

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Blues will play their third game in four days -- less than four actually with the 5 p.m. start time today at Xcel Energy Center against the Minnesota Wild -- and they'll do so with a similar lineup as the one that played Sunday against the Dallas Stars.

The Blues (26-7-5) are still dealing with injured players and sickness going around the team, and they'll go with a lineup that must manage its minutes much like it did in a 3-2 overtime win against the Stars. 

Especially against a desperate Minnesota Wild (20-16-5), a team in an 0-5-0 slide that has been outscored 24-12 in that stretch and one that is in a 5-11-1 slide dating to Nov. 25, when the Wild lost 3-0 to the Blues in St. Louis.

"You're going to have to win games like that," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said as his team takes a 4-0-1 streak into today's game (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM). "You're going to win games where you're either down on players or down on energy. Nobody really feels sorry for you. You're just going to have to find a way to win games.

"The roster that we're icing right now, we've got to keep it simple. ... We can't talk in terms of matching certain elements of what they've got. We've got to keep our own game in perspective. For us right now, simple is better. When we complicate it or we force offense, then that's when we get ourselves in trouble. We are at our best with the lineup that we're playing right now when we just keep it in kind of a ... I don't want to call it dumb-it-down but make sure that we manage the puck properly and don't put ourselves in situations where we're giving up odd-man rushes."

The Blues will once again be without captain David Backes (undisclosed injury), who participated in a morning skate today but coach  

"He's not going to play," Hitchcock said of Backes, who will miss his fourth game this season and second straight after coming back from an upper-body injury. "He's not ready to go. He's feeling better and better but he's not able to play. We're not prepared to risk it right now.

"We've got to take it into the game. We'll give you 12 forwards tonight. I can't tell you they're going to be right now. When you've got the flu bug going through you, you've got it going through you and you're just going to have to deal with it."

Also, goalie Jaroslav Halak, who Hitchcock said Monday is one of those players dealing with sickness, is well enough to back up Brian Elliott today.

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Count forward Chris Porter among a host of Blues who will have family in attendance for today's game.

Porter will have his parents, two sisters, two cousins, an aunt and one niece in attendance. They all made the 5-hour, 45-minute trek from Thunder Bay, Ontario.

"You always want to play well in front of your family," the 29-year-old Porter said. "... The pressure's on tonight. It's fun to have them around."

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Former Blues winger Jamie Langenbrunner was in attendance for the morning skate Tuesday and was able to visit with former teammates.

The 38-year-old Langenbrunner, who hasn't played since hip surgery in February that ended his 2012-13 lockout-shortened season just four games in, is still an unrestricted free agent without a team who has not officially retired from the NHL.

Langenbrunner is from nearly Cloquet, Minn., which is roughly a two-hour drive north from St. Paul, Minn. He is involved in coaching his two sons, Landon and Mason, who were both in attendance with him today. 

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The Blues are riding a six-game winning streak against the Wild going back to Nov. 19, 2011, outscoring them 20-7. They are also riding a 153:01 shutout streak against the Wild, including back-to-back shutouts in the previous two meetings. ... The Blues are 4-0-2 in their past six road games. ... Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk has ended the past two victories for the Blues with a shootout winner Saturday and overtime winner Sunday. ... Forward Jaden Schwartz has a goal in five straight games and 18 points (10 goals, eight assists) in the past 17 games. ... The Blues are 12-0-1 against Central Division teams, the best intra-conference record in the NHL.

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The Blues' projected lineup:

Jaden Schwartz-Vladimir Sobotka-T.J. Oshie

Magnus Paajarvi-Patrik Berglund-Vladimir Tarasenko

Dmitrij Jaskin-Derek Roy-Chris Stewart

Brenden Morrow-Maxim Lapierre-Chris Porter

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk

Ian Cole-Carlo Colaiacovo

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

The healthy scratch is expected to be Adam Cracknell. Players not dressed for the Blues because of injury include David Backes (undisclosed upper body), Alexander Steen (concussion), Roman Polak (ankle/foot), Jordan Leopold (hand) and Ryan Reaves (hand).

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The Wild's probable lineup:

Nino Niederreiter-Mikko Koivu-Charlie Coyle

Dany Heatley-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville

Matt Cooke-Kyle Brodziak-Mike Rupp 

Stephane Veilleux-Torrey Mitchell-Justin Fontaine

Ryan Suter-Jonas Brodin

Marco Scandella-Jared Spurgeon

Nate Prosser-Keith Ballard

Josh Harding will start in goal. Niklas Backstrom will be the backup.

Zenon Konopka and Jonathon Blum are expected to be the healthy scratches; Zach Parise (foot), Clayton Stoner (lower body) are on injured reserve.

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