Tuesday, February 24, 2015

(2-24-15) Canadiens-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Blues coach Ken Hitchcock is a believer that eventually, what goes good tends to at times run its course. 

So when the Blues (38-17-4) host the Montreal Canadiens (38-16-5) on Tuesday (7 p.m. FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM), the Blues will sport a different look when the puck drops. But it's a look that has some familiarity.

Hitchcock will move around his top three left wings in hopes of refreshing the Blues' top nine group.

That means Patrik Berglund, who's been playing with Paul Stastny and Dmitrij Jaskin, will move up to the top line with David Backes and T.J. Oshie. Alexander Steen, who's been playing with Backes and Oshie and putting up lots of points, will slide on the left side and play with Jori Lehtera and Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz will move into Berglund's spot alongside Stastny and Jaskin.

"It's a different challenge for us today, though," Hitchcock said. "I'm more curious ... this is three new lines. Some of these lines have had ancient history together, some of them, this is brand new, so I'm more curious to see how we look energy-wise with these line combinations coming out to see if there's any change that we can create little bit of additional energy from what we've been playing here in the last couple games.

"... I don't think it's a gamble right now. We need to find additional energy. There's probably six, seven, eight teams right now that's talking about the same stuff we are. I know two teams right now in the West that the conversations are exactly the same ones we're having. Let's see what we've got. Let's see if this adds to it. If it doesn't, we can always go back."

How long can Hitchcock expect to see results?

"I don't know to be honest with you," he said. "I don't know if this is going ... I can tell if it's not good, it's going to look not good right away. If it looks like it has potential, we're hoping it shows that. But there was a renewed energy at practice yesterday with different combinations, guys having to speak to each other, talk about stuff. It created conversation, created some more chemistry. That's the good stuff. Now we've got to put it into action."

The Blues will conclude a four-game homestand against one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. They want to gain a split after losing two of the first three.

"I consider Montreal to be a good measuring stick for us to see where we're at and I'm sure they consider that from our standpoint," Hitchcock said. "I think more than anything, we need to get playing a little bit better early in the games and not chasing the games. We've had a lot of chasing going on the last three games. We caught Boston once, but you're not going to catch good teams. For us, the first period and in particular the first 10 minutes, we want to have a better start in the game."

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Goalie Jake Allen will start against the Canadiens. Allen, who is 6-0-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average and .937 save percentage his past six decisions, played junior hockey in Montreal.

"I've just tried to go back to my basics, trust myself, just play the game, don't think too much," Allen said. "Just be myself, enjoy it. I got away from that the last few games of 2014. I'm back to my old self again."

Allen, who played his first game at Bell Centre when the Blues lost 4-1 to the Canadiens earlier this season, relishes going against the team he grew up following.

"Everyone at home's a Canadiens fan," said Allen, a Fredericton, New Brunswick native. "We had their American (Hockey) League team for numerous 15-20 years in Fredericton. I would say a good 95 percent of my city are Canadiens fans. It's pretty fun to play against them.

"It was great to be able to play in the Bell Centre the first time. Even though it didn't go my way, it was just a pretty cool experience. We get a second crack at them tonight and the best team in the East so it's going to be a challenge."

"In fairness to Jake, he's played really well," Hitchcock said. "The last couple games he's played really well so let's give him an opportunity. This is a big game for both teams. It's an important kind of comparison game. Let's give him a chance and see what he can do."

Allen will oppose Carey Price, who has won eight consecutive road games and can set a franchise record with a victory Tuesday for most consecutive road wins. He shares that honor with Rogie Vachon, who established his mark during the 1968-69 season. 

"I think he's probably the best in the world," Allen said of Price, who is 33-11-3 with a 1.91 GAA and .935 save percentage. "A second chance to face him. It's a pretty cool opportunity. I played junior in Montreal and watched him, watched him quite a bit. He's a guy that I've watched and learned from too so it will be fun to face him.

"I (grew up and) liked (Jose) Theodore. That was sort of my prime, my era. I watched Price when he first started and I was still in junior. They practiced at our game rink. I watched them all the time. (Tomas) Plekanec is still there. It's going to be a fun test. The Canadiens are probably the most famous team in NHL history. It's always fun."

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The Blues' probable lineup:

Patrik Berglund-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

Alexander Steen-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko

Jaden Schwartz-Paul Stastny-Dmitrij Jaskin

Steve Ott-Marcel Goc-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson-Petteri Lindbohm

Barret Jackman-Ian Cole

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

Healthy scratches include Chris Porter, Joakim Lindstrom and Chris Butler. Kevin Shattenkirk (abdomen) is on injured reserve.

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The Canadiens' probable lineup:

Max Pacioretty-David Desharnais-Brendan Gallagher

Lars Eller-Tomas Plekanec-Alex Galchenyuk

Brandon Prust-Jacob De La Rose-Dale Weise

Michael Bournival-Manny Malhotra-Christian Thomas

Andrei Markov-P.K. Subban

Nathan Beaulieu-Tom Gilbert

Jarred Tinordi-Greg Pateryn

Carey Price will start in goal. Dustin Tokarski will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include former Blues defenseman Mike Weaver and Devante Smith-Pelly, who was acquired Tuesday morning from the Anaheim Ducks for Jiri Sekac. PA Parenteau (concussion), Alexei Emelin (upper body) and Sergei Gonchar (upper body).

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