Thursday, December 10, 2015

(12-10-15) Flyers-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Brian Elliott will get the start in goal for the Blues (16-8-4), who host the Philadelphia Flyers (11-11-6) Thursday (7 p.m. on FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).

Elliott will make just his fifth start in the past 17 games. But in his past five appearances, including relieving Jake Allen twice, he's allowed only five goals and has a 1.60 goals-against average and a .942 save-percentage. However, he is 0-2-1.

"He battles his butt off every time he's in that net for us," Blues captain David Backes said of Elliott, who is 6-3-0 with a 2.12 GAA and .930 save percentage with three shutouts against the Flyers. "Jake does the same, but 'Moose' deserves a great performance in front of him, give him a chance, some goal support to get a big 'W' tonight and pick him up and have him be a big part of this thing.  He's done all the right things, he's been a great professional while Jake's played most of the games. Now he gets a chance to play in a big game for us that's in a critical time in our season.

"He's a consummate pro that does all the right things. That's a team guy, when you're not getting what you want, per say, but you're doing the right things and not being a distraction. He's done everything of a guy in that situation. Now he's having an opportunity to play. We expect him to be great and we're going to be good in front of him. That's going to be a good team game."

Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko agreed.

"I know every game is important and we need to win every game, but in some games, we need to help some guys," Tarasenko said. "It's a tough couple starts for 'Ells' but we need to play (for him) 100 percent tonight.

"Our goalies have been incredible during the first part of the season, and they've helped us a lot to be where we are right now. We need to fight for 'Ells' tonight."

Particularly, Blues defensemen want to play stout in front of Elliott tonight, and appreciates Elliott's professionalism.

"Everybody wants to play. I'm sure that's the scenario, but if you ask me if he's shown it, not at all," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "He's upbeat every day and smiles. Him and Jake have a great thing going. They obviously help each other a lot and support each other. I know when he comes in, he’s going to give his best. He’s done that night in, night out he's played.

"He's played well; we haven't found a way to win for him. Defensively, you want to play your best for him."

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The Blues enter tonight's play second in the NHL in penalty killing at 86.9 percent, only trailing the Anaheim Ducks at 87.8 percent.

The Blues have killed off 12 straight penalty kills the past five games and have allowed only seven power play goals the past 22 games.

The Blues haven't allowed more than one power play goal in a game the past 22 games and have done so only once (Oct. 18 at Winnipeg) this season.

"Competitive communication details," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said describing the penalty killing unit. "We are communicating and talking through coverage issues, we are talking through exit issues, we are talking through clears issues, and when you're in sync and you're communicating, you make all the little plays to get it down the ice. When you're in tune that way, you can go through extended time killing penalties. There's no confusion on clears, there's no confusion on exits, there's no confusion on coverage; you're able to talk things through. 

"I think we've adopted a strategy where we've used our best players over a very short burst to play there. We've got all our top players killing penalties, but they're smart, they're competitive and they're very good at communication and it shows up. We use everybody. We go through four sets on the PK, which is very uncommon in the league. I think there's only two other teams in the league that do that, but it's very effective for us, so you're only out there for 15 or 18 seconds and you're off."

On the flip side, the Blues are 0-for-12 on the power play and are 25th in the league at 16.5 percent.

"We're working on it," Tarasenko. "We have a great power play coach (assistant coach Kirk Muller) but sometimes it doesn't work. Now we're working on being on the same page. It's coming."

Some feel the Blues are passing too much and not shooting enough.

"When we get in the zone and we move it quick and we make an effort to get it to the net as quickly as possible, we're pretty dangerous," Pietrangelo said. "Maybe last game we tried making a few too many plays. We didn't get in as clean as we wanted to. Once we do get in, we're fine."

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The Blues have defeated the Flyers, who will play at Dallas tomorrow night, the past four times the teams have played at Scottrade Center and have shut them out three times.

But when the Blues look across the ice tonight, they'll see a mirror image of themselves.

"Physicality's part of their game, part of our game," Backes said of Philadelphia. "It'll be a physical endeavor. We've got to make sure we're playing within our structure, within our confines of what we do and play a physical game for sure."

The Blues will want to build on Tuesday's 4-1 home win against Arizona.

"We take the lessons from the things that gave is success and move forward with those and realize what was missing when we weren't having success," Backes said. "When you have those lessons along the way, you become better for it. We'll string a few wins here together and we'll talk about what's contributing to our winning ways."

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Flyers coach Dave Hakstol, who will insert Radko Gudas back into the lineup after the defenseman missed three games because of suspension for an illegal hit to Ottawa's Mika Zibanejad, wants his team to be aware of the Blues' skill players.

When asked about Tarasenko, Hakstol joked, "He's one guy that comes to mind. He's a helluva player. We need to do a good job taking away time and space and doing a good job on him. He's a dynamic guy. He's one of the guys in the league that can create something out of nothing.

"It's a very balanced, good group of forwards, obviously led by a couple guys with high skill level. I think they look like they've been together for a while, they're pretty mature in the way they play together and they bring a pretty consistent game."

- - -

The Blues' probable lineup:

Magnus Paajarvi-Paul Stastny-Vladimir Tarasenko

Alexander Steen-David Backes-Troy Brouwer

Dmitrij Jaskin-Jori Lehtera-Robby Fabbri

Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Petteri Lindbohm-Kevin Shattenkirk

Carl Gunnarsson-Colton Parayko

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

Healthy scratches include Scott Gomez and Robert Bortuzzo. Jaden Schwartz (ankle), Patrik Berglund (shoulder) and Steve Ott (hamstring) are on injured-reserve.

- - - 

The Flyers' probable lineup:

Michael Raffl-Claude Giroux-Brayden Schenn

Matt Read-Sean Couturier-Wayne Simmonds

Chris VandeVelde-Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-Jakub Voracek

R.J. Umberger-Scott Laughton-Ryan White

Michael Del Zotto-Radko Gudas

Nick Schultz-Evgeny Medvedev

Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere

Michal Neuvirth will start in goal. Steve Mason will be the backup.

Vincent Lecavalier and Andrew MacDonald will be healthy scratches. Sam Gagner (upper body), Mark Streit (groin) and Luke Schenn (foot/ankle) are out with injuries.

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