Saturday, December 5, 2015

(12-5-15) Maple Leafs-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- 'Gumby' will not miss any time.

For those that are unaware of why 'Gumby' is, it's the newly anointed nickname for Blues defenseman Colton Parayko, who went down with what looked like was a significant right ankle/leg/knee injury in the third period of a 2-1 shootout loss against the New York Islanders, only to return minutes later and finish the game.

Parayko, who was at the rink Saturday morning with no restrictions in walking, woke up Saturday apparently feeling no ill effects.

And to the Blues (15-7-4), who host the Toronto Maple Leafs (8-13-5) at 6 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM), they were more than amazed.

"We were shocked. Guy's built like 'Gumby,'" Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Saturday afternoon. "We can't figure it out. That's the third time it's happened and he's come back from what looked like significant injury, he gets back and plays the next shift, next period, whatever. It's shocking to us. He's back in again tonight."

The Blues, who will play their third straight sets of back-to-back games in which the first included a physical affair, combined for more than 100 hits against the Islanders on Friday. And with that in mind, they'll dress all 23 players for the pregame warmups.

"We're full 23 into warmup today. We'll see where it goes," Hitchcock said. "We had some guys skate this morning that felt just OK. We'll see. Yesterday was a very physical, hard-played, emotional game. We've got some sore bodies. We'll just see. We're taking the whole group into warmup and then we'll figure it out from there."

The Blues experimented with Jori Lehtera on the left wing with Paul Stastny and Vladimir Tarasenko and hoping it might last, it didn't get through an entire game. Hitchcock went back with Alexander Steen with Stastny and Tarasenko and moved Lehtera to the line with David Backes and Troy Brouwer on Friday.

"I thought it was too perimeter," Hitchcock said. "I really liked Backes, Lehtera and Brouwer in the second half of the game. We've had so much good history with Steen, Stastny and Tarasenko line. I thought both lines were too much structure over support. Once our support started to come back in, I thought we started really taking advantage of some situations down low. We're too structured, so we're too much on the outside. Islanders were picking up on that and they were not letting us stay in the zone very long."

The Blues played the Los Angeles Kings on Nov. 3 before playing at Chicago on Nov. 4 in the game that christened the 'Roar Bacon' slogan during a 6-5 overtime win. The Kings were physical and took a lot of bite out of the Blues the next night.

It happened again when the Blues hosted Winnipeg on Nov. 16 and won 3-2, then traveled to face the Columbus Blue Jackets the next night and had nothing in a 3-1 loss.

Toronto, which will be playing its third game in four nights, will pose another challenge. They were in St. Louis waiting for the Blues to arrive late.

"I watched that game last night. It was really nice actually," Leafs coach Mike Babcock, a friend of Hitchcock half-joked. "I was laying in bed for the third and overtime knowing they were having overtime and long flight in, I thought it was perfect. Get 'Hitch' a little wound up, which will be great and let's get ready to play."

The Blues tried to implement the same lineup the previous two times on backto-backs but sound like they'll make changes tonight.

"We'll find out today. There's having back-to-back and then there's having physical back-to-backs," Hitchcock said. "This is our third go at trying to play off a very physical game. Yesterday was close to 100 hits and it was a hard game. It was real hockey. We've done this twice and games were difficult. 

"We're bringing a bunch of new people in today and we'll see if we can get some new energy. We tried to do it with the existing lineups the last two times we did it and we didn't fare very well, so we're going to try and change something up and see if we can get some new energy."

Healthy scratches Friday included forwards Magnus Paajarvi and Scottie Upshall and defenseman Joel Edmundson. It's a safe assumption that they'll re-enter the lineup in a game which will have eyes from Canada watching.

"This is different. This is Hockey Night in Canada," Hitchcock said. "Everybody knows this is a game going back to where a lot of the kids played and stuff like that. This is a bigger deal. This is a way bigger deal than just playing somebody on a Monday or a Tuesday night. Just even the time slot at 6 p.m., everybody knows it's a pretty big deal. We'll be ready."

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The Blues' projected lineup (updated through pregame warmups):

Alexander Steen-Paul Stastny-Vladimir Tarasenko

Jori Lehtera-David Backes-Troy Brouwer

Magnus Paajarvi-Scott Gomez-Robby Fabbri

Steve Ott-Kyle Brodziak-Scottie Upshall

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson-Kevin Shattenkirk

Joel Edmundson-Colton Parayko

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

Jaden Schwartz (ankle) and Patrik Berglund (shoulder) are on injured-reserve. Dmitrij Jaskin, Ryan Reaves and Robert Bortuzzo are the healthy scratches, although Hitchcock said some of these guys are banged up.

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The Maple Leafs' probable lineup:

James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak -PA Parenteau

Peter Holland - Nazem Kadri - Leo Komarov

Michael Grabner - Nick Spaling - Daniel Winnik

Shawn Matthias - Byron Froese - Brad Boyes

Jake Gardiner-Dion Phaneuf

Matt Hunwick-Morgan Rielly

Martin Marincin-Roman Polak

Garret Sparks will start in goal. Antoine Bibeau, recalled from the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League on Friday night, will be the backup.

Joffrey Lupul (lower body), Stephane Robidas (groin) and James Reimer (lower body) are out with injuries. Frank Corrado is the healthy scratch.

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