Sunday, December 27, 2015

(12-27-15) Blues-Stars Gameday Lineup

DALLAS -- Nobody wants to deal with such a scenario, but there are times when it's unavoidable.

One can look at the Blues' lost lead of 3-0 last Monday at Philadelphia as a choked opportunity; some will say the Flyers turned up the heat and simply beat the Blues.

But since that lost lead, the Blues (22-11-4), who will play the second of back-to-back games (and days) against the Dallas Stars (26-7-3) today at 5 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM), have had the necessary response. They have won five of six, with the lone loss coming to the Flyers.

Two wins against two quality teams, including Saturday's 3-2 shootout victory against the Stars, have the Blues feeling good and they've put the lost opportunity in Philadelphia in the rear view mirror.

"It's one of those things where you hate to go through something like that," said captain David Backes, who scored the game-winner in the ninth round of the shootout Saturday. "You've got a 3-0 lead and you squander it to learn a lesson like that. The response has been good. We've been all-in, we've been sacrificing, different guys have been making sacrifices to help the team. Penalty kill's continued to be really good. ... It woke us up I think to, 'Hey, we've got to shake our heads and commit to this or else we're in for more of these.' It was a terrible feeling after that game."

The Blues responded 24 hours later with a well-played 2-0 win at Boston, then headed off for the Christmas break before playing the Stars on Saturday, a game in which the Blues deserved the two points they got.

They feel like they put together the proper 60 minutes, or in this case, 65.

"I think so, especially coming off three days off," said left wing Alexander Steen, who scored a power play goal Saturday. "Both teams were a little rusty to start. Other than that, I thought we played 60 pretty good minutes." 

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The shootout win Saturday matched the longest in franchise history for the Blues.

"It was long," said Steen, who scored in the first round. "That's the longest one I've been a part of, I think. It was a long one.

"It's difficult when you give up 2-0 like that and then it goes back and forth. I looked at 'Snakey' (Jake Allen) when it was over and he just gave me one of these (relieved looks)."

Backes said he had to re-tie his skates to go back over the boards. He's not one that tends to stick around at practice to work on those and for good reason. He's not about to begin putting more practice time into them.

"I don't think so. I still think I'm solid in that eight or nine, 10 spot," Backes joked. "That's just fine with me. We've got a lot of guys who are real capable in front of me and they do a good job of that.

"... Go figure on a back-to-back with the same team, we've got to go overtime and a shootout, nine rounds and we get to see who can race to Dallas quicker and get some rest and do it all again (today)."

Allen, who will give way to Brian Elliott in goal today, likens shootouts to gambling.

"Shootouts, like I've always said, are crap-shoots," Allen said. " You're going to win some, you're going to lose some. Some, you can't stop a beach ball, some you can stop them all. I don't know if the left side of my body went numb in the shootout. But guys did a great job helping me out. It wasn't the best shootout in the world from my perspective, but our guys did a great job.

"... It was a good way to get back from the break. It was a fun game, guys played great. Carried a lot of momentum the whole way, congrats to them. They did a helluva job, great goal by 'Fabs' at the end."

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Robby Fabbri, who scored the game-tying goal with 1 minute, 50 seconds remaining, has scored in three straight games, a career-high.

His goal in Philadelphia put the Blues ahead, his goal in the third period in Boston gave the Blues the cushion needed to bag the two points and his goal Saturday gave the Blues the chance to get two points. Oh, his first NHL goal was a game-winner on opening night against Edmonton.

"Big goals," Steen said. "He's been playing great. A lot of guys are. Guys are really battling, working hard for each other from a lot of guys in here."

Fabbri has eight goals, and he's putting himself in those prime scoring positions to give him dangerous looks.

"Scorers know how to do that," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "He’s a scorer. You don’t shoot the puck like that, snap it like that, get it away like that. He’s a scorer. He’s going to be a big-time scorer in the National Hockey League because he gets open, he finds those pockets and the puck’s gone."

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A Blues win against the Stars Saturday matched the longest win streak against that franchise in history, previously set Dec. 26, 2011-Jan. 26, 2013. A win today would set the record.

The Blues now have points in seven of 17 games (4-10-3) when trailing after two periods. The Stars lost for only the second time this season when leading after two periods (17-0-2).

Vladimir Tarasenko, who had an assist and shootout goal Saturday, will carry a career-high eight-game point streak into the game today (six goals, six assists).

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The Blues' projected lineup (will be updated later):

Magnus Paajarvi-Paul Stastny-Vladimir Tarasenko

Alexander Steen-David Backes-Troy Brouwer

Robby Fabbri-Jori Lehtera-Dmitrij Jaskin

Scottie Upshall-Scott Gomez-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Colton Parayko-Kevin Shattenkirk

Carl Gunnarsson-Robert Bortuzzo

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

Healthy scratches expected to include Jordan Caron and Joel Edmundson. Jaden Schwartz (ankle), Patrik Berglund (shoulder) and Steve Ott (hamstring) are on injured-reserve.

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The Stars' projected lineup:

Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin-Patrick Sharp

Valeri Nichushkin-Jason Spezza-Ales Hemsky

Antoine Roussel-Cody Eakin-Colton Sceviour

Mattias Janmark-Vernon Fiddler-Patrick Eaves

Alex Goligoski-John Klingberg

Johnny Oduya-Jason Demers

Jyrki Jokipakka-Jordie Benn

Kari Lehtonen is expected to start in goal. Antti Niemi would be the backup.

Healthy scratches would include Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth and Travis Moen. The Stars report no injuries.

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