Thursday, December 22, 2016

(12-22-16) Blues-Lightning Gameday Lineup

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Blues (18-11-5) put center Paul Stastny on injured-reserve on Thursday and recalled center Wade Megan, who will make his NHL debut today against the Tampa Bay Lightning (6:30 p.m.; FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).

Stastny, who sustained an upper-body injury in a 3-2 overtime win against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday, will not play tonight and the expectation is he'll only miss the one game tonight since the Blues don't play again until Dec. 28 when they begin a six-game homestand against the Philadelphia Flyers.

"It's day-to-day," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I think we fully expect him to be ready to go when we come back. We've got a four-day break. That's lots of time; we've got a lot of time."

Megan, recalled from the Chicago Wolves who signed a one-year, two-way contract this past summer, was a fifth-round pick of the Florida Panthers in 2009; he had 13 goals and 11 assists in 28 games for the Wolves this season.

Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk knows a thing or two about the 6-foot-1, 194-pound Megan since they played together in college at Boston University.

"He's a really smart player," Shattenkirk said. "Not a full comparison, but he plays like 'Stas' in a way where he's always in a good supporting role for the puck. He's really strong on his stick. He's not extremely fast speed-wise, but he's got tremendous skill. He's got great hands around the net, finds pucks. He's just a very smart player. He does a lot of good things because he reads the game very well. So for me, that's what we're going to get out of him and obviously he's doing well down in the minors for him to be getting this call up."

The loss of Stastny means the lineup will be a bit fluid tonight, and during the morning skate here at Amalie Arena, Kyle Brodziak was taking the shifts as the third-line center between Robby Fabbri and Dmitrij Jaskin.

"It's going to be a little different," Brodziak said. "Obviously 'Stas' is a huge part of our team. He plays against top players, takes tons of faceoffs, very good at faceoffs. Yeah, we're definitely going to miss him, but it's got to be a little more onus on everyone else to elevate their game.

"When you're called to go on the ice, you've got to make sure you're giving it your best performance. We understand that we're missing a very important piece, but it's opportunity for other guys to try and fill that void and do it to the best of their abilities."

Hitchcock said he will decide during the first period whether to keep Brodziak on that line or put Megan, who did not arrive in time for the morning skate but arrived in time for the game, on that line.

"I'm not sure yet," Hitchcock said. "We'll talk to him and see how his energy is. We would be remiss if we didn't look at Brodziak. He's really playing well right now, so whether it's him or 'Megs,' we'll see. I might make that adjustment in the first period to see how both guys look."

But from all accounts, it was Megan that deserved the call-up.

"Our understanding is he's played really well," Hitchcock said. "He's gotten great reports down there. Obviously he's scoring like crazy and smart player. He was noticeable in training camp, stayed right to the end of training camp, which is a good sign. Obviously if you're looking for a center, he's the guy you choose because he's dominating down there."

The Brodziak line with Scottie Upshall and Ryan Reaves has been one of the Blues' most consistent recently, if not all season. Would it be tough for Hitchcock to split it up for the time being?

"No, not at all. It's easy to break up," he said. "'Brodzy's a third-line center. He plays on the fourth line here but plays third-line minutes. He's a third-line center. This is the best year he's had since he came here. He's been a third-line center his whole life. I'm sure he can handle a few games there right now."

The fact Megan, 26, was able to stay in training camp until the end of it gave him some time with the current crop of NHL players, but he will be thrown right into the fire presently with no practices.

"That's everyone who gets called up and gets the opportunity," Shattenkirk said. "I think you have to run with it, and my mindset when I got called up was that they told me I was going to be there for two weeks and I was just going to try and play like myself for two weeks. I think if he has that mentality and can get him to get there, obviously you have to remind the guy he's just doing something right for him to get called up. It's the same thing for Brad when he came and we played together. I just told him, 'Whatever you're doing is working, so don't try and change it because you're playing with me. Just play hockey.' We're all good players, we'll all start to jell eventually."

Defenseman Brad Hunt, who played with Megan in Chicago this season, said the Blues will get a good player.

"He's just hard-nosed and would do anything for the team, a hard-working player," Hunt said. "He's a great teammate. His game's all about hard work and doing the right things for the team. I feel that's pretty transitional. He plays the game the right way and he'll do things that will help the team."

- - -

Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo was back on the ice after missing the game Tuesday after falling sick.

Pietrangelo will be back in the lineup tonight, meaning Carl Gunnarsson will be a healthy scratch.

"It's never fun to get sick," Pietrangelo said. "Whatever's in my system is out now, I think. Rough couple days for me, but body's working its way back so as close to 100 percent as I can feel."

Pietrangelo was at American Airlines Center on Tuesday but only heard things about it, including the play of the defensive pairs.

"I didn't even get to watch the game," he said. "I tried to make it to a TV, but didn't quite make it there. I was just listening for the goal horn and only heard it twice. Maybe that was a good sign.

"I hear good things. I heard they did a good job back there. They held their own. A win's a win, so we'll take it."

- - -

The Lightning (16-14-3) have been hit hard by the injury bug themselves, including goalie and St. Louis native Ben Bishop, who was placed on IR Wednesday with a lower-body injury that will sideline 'Big Ben' 3-4 weeks.

The Lightning is also expected to be without leading scorer Nikita Kucherov (lower body), Ondrej Palat (undisclosed), Ryan Callahan for an 11th straight game (lower body). Cedric Paquette (upper body) and Vladislav Namestnikov (undisclosed) were not part of the morning skate and may not play. Of course, the Lightning have been without Steven Stamkos (knee) since Nov. 15.

Tampa Bay is expected to dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen.

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup (Brodziak and Megan could flip spots):

Jaden Schwartz-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko

Alexander Steen-Patrik Berglund-David Perron

Robby Fabbri-Wade Megan-Dmitrij Jaskin

Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves

Joel Edmundson-Alex Pietrangelo

Brad Hunt-Kevin Shattenkirk

Jay Bouwmeester-Colton Parayko

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

Healthy scratches include Carl Gunnarsson, Nail Yakupov and Ty Rattie. Paul Stastny (upper body) is on injured reserve but day to day and Robert Bortuzzo (lower body) is still on IR.

- - -

The Lightning's projected lineup:

Brian Boyle-Valtteri Filppula-Jonathan Drouin

Alex Killorn-Tyler Johnson-Brayden Point

Cory Conacher-Tanner Richard-J.T. Brown

Michael Bournival-Erik Condra

Victor Hedman-Andrej Sustr

Jason Garrison-Anton Stralman

Slater Koekkoek-Braydon Coburn

Nikita Nesterov

Andrei Vasilevskiy will start in goal; Kristers Gudlevskis will be the backup.

The Lightning has no healthy scratches. Injuries include Ben Bishop (lower body), Ryan Callahan (lower body), Steven Stamkos (knee injury), Nikita Kucherov (lower body), Ondrej Palat (undisclosed), Cedric Paquette (lower body) and Vladislav Namestnikov (sick).

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