Tuesday, February 10, 2015

(2-10-15) Coyotes-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues will get "a big add" according to coach Ken Hitchcock back into their lineup when they play host to the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday.

Center Jori Lehtera will make his return after missing the past six games with concussion symptoms.

Lehtera, who has nine goals and 30 points in 46 games, was concussed on Jan. 29 against the Nashville Predators.

"There were a couple really bad days and then it became a little better," Lehtera said. "It went better every day. That was good for my mind.

"Probably like three (good days). Yeah, I feel I'm ready to go. I can't lay in bed anymore. So excited to play today."

With Lehtera back, he slides between Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko and Paul Stastny will center a line with Dmitrij Jaskin and Patrik Berglund.

"It's a big add," Hitchcock said of Lehtera. "It gives us three lines that can do a lot of damage, three lines built three different ways. One's a rush-attack line, one's a cycle line and one's kind of a funnel line. One's a line that just fires it off the net and finds it and then hunts it down again and does a great job keeping possession, and then we've got Stastny's line that's great on the cycle, great at puck protection. Three different dynamics, but three lines that can score regardless."

This is Lehtera's first concussion in the NHL but second of his career. He sustained one while playing in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League for Sibir Novosibirsk.

"What I had in Russian was a pretty good one," Lehtera said. "I felt like there's a chance (this one) can be better than the one in Russia."

It marks the third player this season to miss games because of concussion issues. Lehtera joined T.J. Oshie (seven games), Carl Gunnarsson (10 games) and David Backes (one game).

The Blues are an example of teams that have gotten away recently with players not being out for a prolonged period of time.

"I think quite frankly they err on caution with everything, and I think there's a lot of concussions now that were maybe diagnosed as dings or dingers before and guys played through it," Hitchcock said. "You don't do that anymore; you're so careful with it. I don't see them coming back sooner. I see some of the long-term, those are really significant, but I think in a lot of cases, what players played through because of the lack of knowledge, we now know what it is and nobody's playing through that stuff. We're on the far end of caution on it because the player is an important asset for all of us and we need him to feel good about himself. I think there's way more of them now, but there's a way more conservative approach to it."

There was some speculation that Lehtera was ready to rejoin the lineup Sunday against Chicago, but the Blues erred on that side of caution.

"Yeah, I wanted to play," Lehtera said. "Tough week at home. So boring, so I'm ready to play again. 

"That was a big one. I think the doctors know better than I do."

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Ryan Reaves is a big boy. That was pretty evident two days after the Blues' enforcer lost a tooth after an errant skate from Blackhawks winger Teuvo Teravainen hit him in the mouth and a day after he had a root canal performed.

Reaves will not miss any time after the procedure was done. There is just evidence -- from the outside -- of a fat lip, but he will be in the lineup tonight.

"I'm fine. Got a little root canal last night," Reaves said. "Took the rest of the bone out, face a little swollen but feeling good.

"It honestly didn't hurt that much. The tooth came out and it was gone. The surgery last night and the freezing after it was probably the worst of it. The actual incident wasn't bad."

When pressed if he was good to play, Reaves joked, "What's a root canal going to do?

"... Everybody has bumps and bruises, it just happens to be on my face this time. Everybody's going through it. Everybody's sore and banged up and got issues. Just play through it; that's hockey."

Hitchcock added, "We just play. Everybody's expected from the day you lace it up and you start playing where people are watching you, especially in junior, college hockey, you're just expected to play. If you can lace your skates on, that's just the way it is. Guys learn to do that stuff and it's just expected of them. ... There's a little bit of discomfort, but if it's not gonna affect your health, then whatever minutes you can give us, you've got to give us."

- - -

The Blues will get a different look at the outset with their defensive pairs tonight.

Chris Butler will be paired with Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester will move off the top line and play the right side alongside Gunnarsson. 

The Blues had some issues with their middle pairing after losing 4-2 to the Blackhawks on Sunday and Hitchcock wants to see something different.

"We're going to look at it," Hitchcock said. "Other teams have done it. Chicago did it (splitting up Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook). Mostly just spreading out 'Bouw' and 'Petro,' see if we can get some better play back there."

- - -

The Blues (34-15-4) have outscored the Coyotes (20-27-7) 12-1 in two meetings this season, but the main benefactor is a power play that has gone 7-for-9 in those two games, including 4-for-4 in the first meeting, a 6-1 victory on Oct. 18.

"I think we've been able to take advantage on special teams," Hitchcock said. "I think we've not got beat by their power play and our power play's really stepped up and made great account of itself. I think that's been the difference, and we've extended gaps in the game. 

"For whatever reason, our power play seemed to have success in the two games in Phoenix. Both games were hard-fought early and then we pulled away with special teams goals and then we didn't allow their power play, which has been very good lately, to take control lately."

Backes (five goals, including four in the last meeting on Jan. 6) and Schwartz (four goals) have combined for nine of the 12 the Blues have scored this season against the Coyotes.

- - -

The Coyotes did not hold a morning skate after a 3-2 shootout victory against the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday, but coach Dave Tippett told reporters Sunday that goalie Mike Smith, who made 36 saves Monday, was expected to play both ends of the back-to-back. That means St. Louis native Mike McKenna will be the backup instead of getting the nod tonight.

- - -

The Blues' probable lineup:

Alexander Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

Jaden Schwartz-Paul Stastny-Vladimir Tarasenko

Dmitrij Jaskin-Jori Lehtera-Patrik Berglund

Steve Ott-Marcel Goc-Ryan Reaves

Chris Butler-Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson-Jay Bouwmeester

Barret Jackman-Ian Cole

Jake Allen will start in goal. Brian Elliott will be the backup.

Healthy scratch includes Joakim Lindstrom. Kevin Shattenkirk (abdomen) and Chris Porter (ankle) remain out with injuries.

- - -

The Coyotes' projected lineup:

Tobias Rieder-Antoine Vermette-Shane Doan

Martin Erat-Alexandre Bolduc-Sam Gagner

Lauri Korpikoski-Kyle Chipchura-David Moss

Lucas Lessio-Brendan Shinnimin-Brandon McMillan

Oliver Ekman-Larsson-Zbynek Michalek

Keith Yandle-Michael Stone

Andrew Campbell-Connor Murphy

Mike Smith is expected to start in goal. St. Louis native Mike McKenna would be the backup.

Healthy scratches include former Blue B.J. Crombeen and Chris Summers. Mikkel Boedker (spleen), Martin Hanzal (upper body) and St. Louis native Joe Vitale (upper body) are out with injuries.

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