Thursday, December 5, 2013

(12-5-13) Islanders-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Jaden Schwartz knows a thing or two about Rod Brind'Amour, especially since the two went to the same high school in Wilcox, Saskatchewan, but the two have never crossed paths.

"I know of him," Schwartz said of Brind'Amour, a former Blue, after the morning skate Thursday as the Blues (18-5-3) prepare to face the New York Islanders (8-15-5) at 7 p.m. "I haven't met him personally, but I watched a little bit of him growing up. I know he's a good leader and a good player. I watched him."

Schwartz may have never met his fellow Athol Murray College of Notre Dame high school alum, but they do share one common bond pertaining to the Blues. Former Blues goalie Curtis Joseph is also a Notre Dame high alum.

Schwartz, currently on a seven-game points streak with three goals and five assists, is the youngest player (21 years old) to have such a streak since the 20-year-old Brind'Amour posted an eight-game points streak from Nov. 13-29, 1990.

Only Pittsbirgh's Evgeni Malkin and Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf (nine games) as well as Chicago's Duncan Keith (eight games) hold longer streaks currently in the NHL.

Despite having different physical figures, both Schwartz and Brind'Amour play a similar game: tough, gritty, rugged.

"If I could model anything after him, I'd be pretty happy with it, whether it was his work ethic or his leadership qualities," Schwartz said.

Playing with the two Vladimirs (Sobotka and Tarasenko) has certainly enhanced not only Schwartz's play but his linemates as well.

"They've really earned it," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "That line has been terrific, was a great line all three games on the road. It's like anything else, they've earned a right to be thought of as a good line and kept together. I was really, really impressed with the way they played, especially the way they played in Los Angeles. They played great.

"I think they're feeding off each other's effort and determination. They're not big guys, but they play a big game and I think that's where they deserve all kinds of credit. They're on top of the puck, they hound the puck, they get it back, they're determined to stay with it. I've been really impressed."

Look for the Blues to continue to keep that group together, as long as they can continue to make strives forward.

"We're starting to find more chemistry," Schwartz said. "We haven't played with each other too long, but Sobe's such a good centerman. He's good in all three zones. He works extremely hard, but he's skilled, too. He can make those plays after putting the work in. Vladi's a really smart player. We all know that. He can score goals.

"I'm having fun playing with them so far. We want to keep it going. We don't want to be satisfied with anything. We want to be hungry for more, but I don't know if I can explain the streak or anything else. A couple bounces here or there. It's definitely nice to see some goals go in."

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The Blues will make some changes to their fourth line, feeling like it can make a difference in the way they utilize all four forward groups.

Derek Roy will move into the middle and Maxim Lapierre moves to right wing and Magnus Paajarvi gets back into the lineup after missing Monday's loss in Los Angeles with the flu.

With the absence of Ryan Reaves (broken hand), Hitchcock feels like the team is missing an element, particularly along the walls while forechecking in both zones.

"We've missed Reaves," Hitchcock said. "He's been a big factor at the energy level. But we're kind of restructuring that by moving Lapierre onto the wing now, to try and get that tenacity back on the boards that we had before. So we're rebuilding the fourth line today to see if we can get some speed and tenacity back on that line.

"... We didn't have any punchback from the line and we've got to get that punchback. The scoring is a bonus, but getting it in the offensive zone and occupying and building some good minutes is important. I think we didn't build good minutes on our third and fourth lines on the road trip. We did in Colorado, we did a great job in Colorado, but when we played against the other two teams (San Jose and Los Angeles), we just gave up too many scoring chances when we were on the ice."

Moving Roy, who has six goals and 17 points in 26 games, back to center gives Hitchcock and the coaches the comfort level to move Lapierre out wide.

"Well he's a smart player," Hitchcock said of Roy. "At the start of the year, he had to get his level up, and he's got his level up. He's playing very well for us right now. He's tenacious on the puck, he's playing with a real edge to his game. He's obviously helped us on the power play. So I can put him pretty much anywhere now and feel comfortable.

"I think his natural position is center, he can use his speed a little bit more, he can use his smarts a little bit more. But what we need to do, a guy like Lappy, or whether it's (Adam Cracknell) or tonight it's Paajarvi, they've got to get back and put that deep game back in where we can really take advantage."

Lapierre, with two goals and three points in 21 games, is looking forward to the challenge.

"Obviously the first game, you're going to think about everything you have to do," he said. "It's the first time in a while, but I like it on the wing. I can use my size and use my speed well.

"You've got to think a little more at center. I like both. I like playing both. I have been playing center all my life, but when I have the call to play on the wing, I've actually had success. You have a little less to think about and you just think about being a hunter."
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The Blues' probable lineup:

Alexander Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

Jaden Schwartz-Vladimir Sobotka-Vladimir Tarasenko

Brenden Morrow-Patrik Berglund-Chris Stewart

Magnus Paajarvi-Derek Roy-Maxim Lapierre

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk

Ian Cole-Roman Polak

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

Carlo Colaiacovo and Adam Cracknell are the healthy scratches. Jordan Leopold (hand) and Ryan Reaves (hand) are on injured reserve.

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The Islanders' probable lineup:

Thomas Vanek-John Tavares-Kyle Okposo

Michael Grabner-Frans Nielsen-Josh Bailey

Pierre-Marc Bouchard-Peter Regin-Cal Clutterbuck

Matt Martin-Casey Cizikas-Colin McDonald

Andrew MacDonald-Travis Hamonic

Thomas Hickey-Calvin de Haan

Aaron Ness-Matt Carkner

Anders Nilsson starts in goal. Kevin Poulin is the backup.

Healthy scratches include Brock Nelson, Radek Martinek and Eric Boulton. Evgeni Nabokov (groin strain), Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion) and Brian Strait (upper body) are out with injuries.

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