Tuesday, December 20, 2016

(12-20-16) Blues-Stars Gameday Lineup

DALLAS -- The praise couldn't have been more enough from Blues coach Ken Hitchcock Monday night after the Blues' 3-2 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers.

The Blues (17-11-5), who turn back around and play the Dallas Stars (13-14-6) today at 7:30 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM), got another terrific performance from ... its fourth line.

Kyle Brodziak, who scored Monday for the third time in seven games, Ryan Reaves and Scottie Upshall are giving the Blues all they could ask for, and then some.

"The physical part's fine, but man, they are on the same page and have been on the same page for a month," Hitchcock said. "It almost makes them a third line the way they're playing. I can put them out against anybody. There's one power play Edmonton got. They're playing 15 shifts on average, 16 shifts 5-on-5, that's third-line time. It's because I trust them. They're doing everything and more. They're scoring, they're creating zone time, they're winning battles, they're making plays. They're really helping our team right now. 

"I don't know where we'd be without that line and the way they contribute. They're really doing a number for us."

Brodziak finished with 11 minutes, 12 seconds of ice time in 16 shifts, Upshall was at 10:12 in 14 shifts and Reaves was at 9:13 in 14 shifts.

Perhaps the coach would be wise to give them more time, if not a few more shifts with the way they're playing.

Another line Hitchcock likes is the one with Patrik Berglund, Alexander Steen and David Perron, who handled the task of containing Connor McDavid's line Monday and Chicago's Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin on Saturday.

"I liked the way Bergy's line played," Hitchcock said. "They've got an identity. They didn't spend much time in our own zone. I just like the job they're doing. 

"They're playing hard, determined and it's very demanding hockey. They're playing against top players. I just like the way they're playing right now. I like the way they're competing, I like the way they're hard on the puck, I like the way they're buying into what we need to do. The Berglund line and the Brodziak line, those are really good lines to follow right now."

- - - 

The Blues, who started the season 10-0-1 when leading after two periods, have now lost three in a row (0-2-1) in the same scenario in their past three losses.

The Blues led Nashville 3-2 and lost 6-3; they led the Blackhawks 4-3 and lost 6-4 and on Monday, led 2-1 against the Oilers before falling 3-2 in overtime.

Perhaps a lack of killer instinct has slowly crept in, plus other teams are ratcheting up their play that the Blues just haven't matched.

"We've had that at home all year," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "It just seemed like we were lacking it tonight. They obviously generate a lot of offense on their rushes. We just didn't eliminate their speed enough in the third period.

"... Just keep playing through like other teams are doing to us. Teams are going to play us hard. We know we're going to get the best of every team. We've got to find a way to raise our level when they come at us and when they have a little bit of momentum, find a way to take it away."

The past six losses (0-4-2), the Blues have been outscored 12-0 in the third period and overtime.

"We had some good play throughout the game (Monday)," Pietrangelo said. "Two good teams going at it. We just didn't find a way to put them away. There at the end of the second and third, we had our chances. They scored into the third, but we've got to find a way when we're up on teams to finish them off.

"... A point's a point, but right now we need more than that."

- - - 

The past two games, the Blues have had their share of goals allowed as a result of A) being beat along the boards in the defensive zone, and B) in front of the net.

It happened again Monday when St. Louis native Pat Maroon outworked Carl Gunnarsson in front of Carter Hutton before tipping in the tying goal.

"It's not so much defensive zone (coverage)," Hitchcock said. "It's getting beat out of the corner and getting beat at the net. That's not really d-zone coverage, that's just straight 1-on-1's. We got beat out of the corner and we got beat at the net; in the net. Those are straight 1-on-1 plays." 

Kevin Shattenkirk got beat in front for a goal against the Blackhawks, as did Joel Edmundson on what proved to be the winning goal Saturday.

"Grit, determination, technique," Hitchcock said. "But that's a team thing. You've got to get it done."

- - -

The Blues finally got a power play in the third period against the Oilers, but they had not had one since the 5:16 mark of the third period against the New Jersey Devils, a span of roughly two games when McDavid was called for tripping at 6:56.

"I think we've got to be a little more aggressive all over the ice," Pietrangelo said. "I think moving our feet, that's going to draw more penalties. Tonight was an example of that. We did a pretty good job on the forecheck. Both ends of the ice, we need to skate with the puck a little more and make them take penalties."

- - -

The Blues will make at least two changes in the lineup tonight, with defenseman Brad Hunt joining the lineup along with forward Dmitrij Jaskin

Hitchcock said one defenseman and one forward are dealing with sickness, and they'll go through warmups to decide on a lineup. Also, Ty Rattie is a possibility of playing tonight.

If both sick players come through OK during warmups, it's likely that Gunnarsson and Nail Yakupov will be scratched for Hunt and Jaskin.

- - - 

The Blues' projected lineup:

Jaden Schwartz-Paul Stastny-Dmitrij Jaskin

Robby Fabbri-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko

Alexander Steen-Patrik Berglund-David Perron

Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Colton Parayko

Joel Edmundson-Kevin Shattenkirk

Carl Gunnarsson-Brad Hunt

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

Healthy scratches are Nail Yakupov and Ty Rattie. Robert Bortuzzo (lower body) is on injured-reserve and Alex Pietrangelo did not play (ill).

- - -

The Stars' projected lineup:

Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin-Patrick Eaves

Antoine Roussel-Radek Faksa-Brett Ritchie

Lauri Korpikoski-Jason Spezza-Jiri Hudler

Curtis McKenzie-Devin Shore-Adam Cracknell

Esa Lindell-John Klingberg

Dan Hamhuis-Stephen Johns

Johnny Oduya-Jordie Benn

Antti Niemi will start in goal; Kari Lehtonen will be the backup. 

Healthy scratches include Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak. Mattias Janmark (knee), Ales Hemsky (hip) and Patrick Sharp (concussion) are out, as is Cody Eakin (suspension).

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