Saturday, October 29, 2016

(10-29-16) Kings-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues aren't making massive a overhaul to their forward combinations, but coach Ken Hitchcock stuck to his word and tweaked them a little bit.

When the Blues (4-2-2) square off against the Los Angeles Kings (4-3-0) at 7 p.m. today (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM), they will do so with David Perron playing on the top line with Paul Stastny and Alexander Steen and Robby Fabbri moving down to a line with Patrik Berglund and Nail Yakupov.

"I just threw them in the mixer yesterday and they jumped out at me," Hitchcock said after the morning skate. "It gives me some flexibility based on each opponent. Rather than changing out wingers, I'm able to change out centers if I want to see how it matches up during the competition. 

"I just feel right now we need to take a short-term approach and see what works and hopefully by putting people more on their natural sides, we have even more tempo that we need to play with. I've one back to mostly twosomes and I kept the twosomes together and changed out some of the singles. I liked this last night and hopefully I like it at the end of tonight."

Fabbri is one that is looking for the benefit most. Last season, his rookie season, Fabbri got his first NHL goal out of the way in the first game of the season. He has yet to score in eight games -- although scoring among forwards lately has been challenging -- but has three assists.

"It's tough," Fabbri said. "You want to put the puck in to help the team. The thing the coaching staff and myself have been stressing is just to help the team in other ways and letting that stuff come and staying positive and still having fun with it.

"We seem to read off each other pretty well and using (Berglund's) size and my speed will complement each other. With 'Yak' there on the other side with his speed and skill, it should be a good line."

Perron, who has three goals and one assist, all against the Calgary Flames on Oct. 22 in a 6-4 win, won't change much in terms of style of play.

"I think personally, I try and play the same game every night," Perron said. "That's creating offense and being smart, making sure that I do the right things all over the ice with the right work ethic. From there, only good things can happen."

And Perron certainly likes the idea of playing with those players.

"How can you not," he said. "That's two really smart players. 

"It's actually funny. With 'Steener,' I played one of my better games at Vancouver (Oct. 18) in a long time and he was really cheering me up and that was great to play with him. Even when I was back here before, we were always two left wingers. We never really played with each other, so it's great to be on the same line as him."

Hitchcock said Fabbri's game hasn't slipped. But playing on the top line, it's been an adjustment of playing against some of the opposition's top players.

"This is a big challenge for him because he's going up two levels," Hitchcock said. "He's now working against people that he never saw any ice against last year, now he's seeing a lot of ice against them. This is a significant challenge for a 20-year-old player. We've got to make sure we don't overwhelm with expectations. He's expected to work hard and compete which is his great asset. He's tenacious, he's a dogged player on the puck, sometimes the numbers are there at the start and sometime they're not and our feeling is at the end of the day, they're going to end up at the same place as long as he doesn't get discouraged."

The Blues will enter tonight's game losing four of the past five games (1-2-2), scoring one goal on each of the four losses. They enter the game with a 138:10 streak of forwards not scoring with a goalie in net (Perron's hat trick goal against the Flames in the third period last week), and 125:39 since Steen's empty-netter in the same game the last time a forward scored.

"We need more (scoring opportunities)," Perron said. "That's the result. If we don't score, we're definitely not getting enough. That's the sample the last five games; it's not just one or two games. I think we need to get more and that's getting the net more and creating those second and third chances."

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One change that won't happen is Scottie Upshall, who will be a healthy scratch for a second straight game. 

That means Dmitrij Jaskin will remain in the lineup tonight on the fourth line.

"He's played great," Hitchcock said of Jaskin. "This is the best he's played since I've been here. We've just got to get him more ice, we've got to get him playing more times when the game is on the line. I would say he's the one player who's going to bounce up right away if we see it's not going our way."

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Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, who was injured early in the third period Thursday against the Detroit Red Wings, has a lower-body injury (believed to be a knee ailment) and will not be available tonight. 

Bortuzzo, in fact, will not be available for the next several nights.

"He's out, and we're going to reevaluate him in 10 days," Hitchcock said of Bortuzzo. "It's lower-body injury and we'll reevaluate him in 10 days." 

Hitchcock said that nobody will be recalled from the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League for the game tonight but it's a likely possibility someone will be recalled for the upcoming two-game trip to New York on Tuesday and Dallas on Thursday.

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

David Perron-Paul Stastny-Alexander Steen

Jori Lehtera-Jaden Schwartz-Vladimir Tarasenko

Robby Fabbri-Patrik Berglund-Nail Yakupov

Dmitrij Jaskin-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson-Kevin Shattenkirk

Joel Edmundson-Colton Parayko

Jake Allen will start in goal. Carter Hutton will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Scottie Upshall and Ty Rattie. Robert Bortuzzo (lower body) is out.

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The Kings' projected lineup:

Dwight King-Anze Kopitar-Tyler Toffoli

Tanner Pearson-Jeff Carter-Devin Setoguchi

Andy Andreoff-Nic Dowd-Dustin Brown

Kyle Clifford-Nick Shore-Trevor Lewis

Brayden McNabb-Drew Doughty

Jake Muzzin-Alec Martinez

Derek Forbort-Tom Gilbert

Peter Budaj will start in goal. Jack Campbell will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Teddy Purcell, Jordan Nolan and Matt Greene. Jonathan Quick (groin), Jeff Zatkoff (groin) and Marian Gaborik (foot) are on injured-reserve.

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