Monday, December 29, 2014

(12-29-14) Avalanche-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- If it winds up being the last game for Martin Brodeur in a St. Louis Blues uniform, or any uniform in the NHL, the future Hall of Fame goalie doesn't have any regrets.

With Brian Elliott's return imminent from a knee sprain sustained Nov. 25, the Blues, who host the Colorado Avalanche on Monday, will be in the position of having to carry three goalies.

General manager Doug Armstrong has maintained recently that the Blues will keep three goalies until they're absolutely certain Elliott is healthy and doesn't have any setbacks. And the first indication of that came when the Blues placed left wing Magnus Paajarvi on waivers Monday.

But for the 42-year-old Brodeur, who will get the start Monday, it's been a unique situation for him after spending 21 seasons with the New Jersey Devils. But he's living moment-to-moment and having fun with it.

"I'm trying to enjoy every single time I'm out here," said Brodeur, who is 2-2-0 with a 3.29 goals-against average and .892 save percentage in five games with St. Louis. "The future, at the end of the day, it's not going to be in my hands. Somebody else will decide. I'll try to make the best out of the situation that we're in right now. I'm glad that [Elliott] is coming back. I think as a team, put the best product out there is what's the most important thing. Him coming back will be a big lift."

"It's been great. When I went home for Christmas, that was the question -- and they're not even reporters -- my family was asking. I've really enjoyed myself. This is a great opportunity for me to get back and hopefully it's going to last a lot longer, but if it doesn't, this has been a great month and hopefully it continues."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who has a long history with Brodeur on the international level with Canada, said keeping three goalies for the time being makes sense.

"I don't believe Doug is prepared to go down to two goalies until he's assured that Brian is coming back and then when he does play, he comes out of the game healthy," Hitchcock said. "I think it would be prudent for us to stay with three knowing that Brian is not going to go from playing a hockey game to awful sore and not be able to participant for another few days. So I think he wants to really guard on that sense and I don't blame him a bit for doing that."

Brodeur's teammates are also living in the moment, knowing that this time with arguably the greatest goalie in the game is a teammate and interacting with them on a regular basis.

"It's so cool," right wing T.J. Oshie said. "That's one of the coolest things about our sport. The greats, they play for a long time. A lot of guys get to be their teammate and that's something you can always say. When (Oshie's daughter) Lyla grows up and she sees Brodeur in the Hall of Fame and she sees his jersey hanging up, I can tell her I played with that guy. He's a great guy who I got the best of on the golf course once. It's pretty cool.

"He's been great to have around from a leadership standpoint, from a winning presence that he has. It's been great for us younger guys to see him go about his day and see how much fun he has on the ice, even in practice. I rarely score on him, but when I do I've got to celebrate because he's doing it when he stops me." 

Brodeur, who signed a pro-rated one-year contract worth $700,000, knew the situation when he came in, and understands that anything can happen, including the potential of perhaps changing jerseys again.

"It would be another big change," Brodeur said laughing. "One big change a year could be enough. We'll see. We'll cross that bridge if it happens. Right now, I'm concentrating on being here and enjoying myself and try to help the team any way I can.

"I'm open to any kind of a situation. I'm just happy I'm on the roster of an NHL team and a great team this is. It's a fun atmosphere. Regardless of what it takes, we need to help the team one way or the other. I'm ready for it."

One unique instance for Brodeur tonight would be if the Avalanche coach, Patrick Roy, would suddenly suit up in the other end.

The two have a storied history as the greatest goalies to play the game with a combined 1,241 NHL victories.

"If he would play, that would be fun," Brodeur said with a grin.

"I feel good," Brodeur added. "It's fun in practices and to get some of the games in. I'm just kind of moving along just like I thought it was going to be. I feel real comfortable when I get out there. Definitely a different situation now than I'm used to, but it's been fun.

"I wanted this opportunity to get back, have fun a little bit and that's what I'm having. When you have fun, you don't want it to stop. If it happens, it happens. I know what my situation is, and I'm trying to make the best out of the situation as I can."

The enthusiasm has rubbed off.

"Just the amount of fun that he has when he's on the ice. It's amazing," Oshie said. "I like to bring that same kind of enthusiasm and it's definitely contagious."

- - -

Paajarvi being put on waivers likely ends a weird stint with the Blues since he was acquired -- along with a 2014 second round pick (which the Blues used to draft forward Ivan Barbashev) -- from the Edmonton Oilers in 2013 for David Perron and a 2015 third-round pick.

The 23-year-old Paajarvi, Edmonton's first round pick (10th overall) in 2009, has played 65 games with the Blues and has six goals and 13 points but he has never seemed to make the grade when it comes to consistently cracking the Blues' lineup.

Dmitrij Jaskin and Joakim Lindstrom have moved ahead of Paajarvi in the depth chart and the Blues will look to save $1.2 million in cap space.

"We've gotten more energy from other people," Hitchcock said.

- - -

Sunday's practice lines will resemble something that the Blues will go with tonight, including Ryan Reaves with Paul Stastny and Jaskin.

Reaves, a regular on the fourth line with Steve Ott and Maxim Lapierre, will get the chance to skate with scoring linemates

"Obviously I love playing with Otter and Lappy, but getting a chance with Stas and Jas, maybe they can throw one off my back, maybe my face," Reaves joked. "It doesn't even matter how it goes in the net. I'll try and create some space for them to do their thing."

Does Reaves dangle the puck tonight.

"I will not be,"  he said jokingly. "I will put it in the corner, and you come get the puck and do your thing.

"I don't know if I really have another game. Maybe I've got to be a little more patient with the puck and try and find them when I can. But for the most part, I've got to play physical and open some space for them."

Hitchcock wants to take a look at it.

"I want to see how they look and I wouldn't call anybody a third line right now or a fourth line," Hitchcock said. "I really feel like for us to win, we need two third lines. I think when we divy up the special teams ice time, we need a few more participants in our team game. This gives a chance for both Lappy and Revo and even Otter to participate more in the 5-on-5 part of our game because we use so many people to play both ends of special teams. We've got a situation right now without Schwartz that we are using the same people to kill, the same people on the power play and we haven't moved that along. I think as the games have gone on, we've gotten a little bit of tired play from overuse of some people."

- - -

With defenseman Carl Gunnarsson on the cusp of returning to the lineup, defenseman Petteri Lindbohm was assigned to the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League. 

Gunnarsson, out since Dec. 6 with a concussion, will not play tonight or tomorrow night in Nashville but is likely to return to the lineup this weekend against either Anaheim on Friday or San Jose on Saturday.

- - -

The Blues' probable lineup:

Alexander Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

Chris Porter-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko

Dmitrij Jaskin-Paul Stastny-Ryan Reaves

Steve Ott-Patrik Berglund-Maxim Lapierre

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Chris Butler-Kevin Shattenkirk

Barret Jackman-Ian Cole

Martin Brodeur will get the start in goal. Jake Allen will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Joakim Lindstrom and Magnus Paajarvi. Brian Elliott (knee) is close to returning to the lineup. Carl Gunnarsson (concussion) continues to practice but will not play. Jaden Schwartz (foot) is also out.

- - -

The Avalanche's probable lineup:

Maxime Talbot-Matt Duchene-Nathan MacKinnon

Gabriel Landeskog-Ryan O'Reilly-Daniel Briere

Alex Tanguay-John Mitchell-Jarome Iginla

Cody McLeod-Marc-Andre Cliche

Jan Hejda-Erik Johnson

Nate Guenin-Tyson Barrie

Brad Stuart-Zach Redmond

Nick Holden

Semyon Varlamov will start in goal. Reto Berra will be the backup.

Ryan Wilson (shoulder), Jamie McGinn (back), Patrick Bordeleau (kneecap), Ben Street (hand) and Jesse Winchester (concussion) are all out with injuries.

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