Thursday, March 30, 2017


Schmaltz to get another opportunity; Allen gets deserved break; Berglund's 
path to tying season best in goals; Steen, Schwartz to decide on faceoffs

DENVER -- Jordan Schmaltz will get another look for the Blues on Friday, and with the chance to clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs to boot.

Schmaltz, who played his third NHL game in a 3-1 win against the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday, will play for the first time in back-to-back games when the Blues (42-28-6), 11-1-1 in their past 13 games, can clinch a playoff spot in the Western Conference with at least a point against the Colorado Avalanche (20-53-3).

Schmaltz went a third straight game without registering a point, but coach Mike Yeo called it his best game of the three he's played.

"If we're measuring his three games, I would say that was his best game," Yeo said. "When he first came up, obviously it's a big step but even just practicing with the guys, getting a little more comfortable and used to the pace of the game. I felt like he had more pace in his game as far as how quickly he distributed the puck and how quick he was to close and defend. He looked confident. He looked like he felt like he belonged. Hopefully he can build off of that."

Schmaltz, who played alongside Robert Bortuzzo, played 14 minutes, 11 seconds and had two shots on goal and blocked two on the defensive side.

Schmaltz, the Blues' first-round pick (25th overall) in 2012, likes the Blues' system and feels it fits his style.

"Not only does it benefit my game, *but) we activate the 'D' coming out of our own end, but it helps any time you have the trackers back helping you out, helping the 'D' out once we get going north with it," Schmaltz said. "It's been fun.

"Yeah, I think so, especially tonight (playing) with the puck maybe a little more. At the same time, it's only my third game. I'm just trying to build."

And by doing that, the more Schmaltz plays, the more he can build.

"I think so, repititions, experience, but at the same time, it's up to the individual," Yeo said. "He strikes you as a kid that doesn't lack confidence, and that's a good thing. He's humble, but at the same time, he's confident in his abilities and it's translated into his play.

"I talked to him yesterday and my message was pretty simple: I just don't want you overthinking when you go out there and playing your game and being confident in it, and he did just that."

Schmaltz is getting the opportunity with Carl Gunnarsson (lower-body injury) to miss a second consecutive game, but Yeo said Schmaltz was going to play this trip no matter what.

"We had these two games circled that regardless, we were going to get him in," Yeo said. "For a while there, obviously things were very tight and the games were pretty tense. We felt we went with a bit of a veteran group and the group was going pretty good, so we wanted to keep it the same, but also in the back of our mind, we knew we wanted to get him experience and we wanted to give him an opportunity to show what he can do. So we looked at this two-game trip as an opportunity to do that. As it works out, he's in the lineup anyways, but he would have been no matter what."

* Allen gets a break -- After playing five straight and 20 of the past 25 games, Blues goalie Jake Allen gave way to backup Carter Hutton on Wednesday.

Allen's workload has been enormous, and considering how he's playing, it's no secret why.

"It was nice," Allen said after taking in the optional skate at Pepsi Center on Thursday. "I knew I wasn't going to play on Wednesday for a little while. It was nice just to get a good practice in, get a good skate in and watch the boys do their thing. 'Hutts' continues to play great for us. 

"Final push here, looking forward to pour it all in and see where we go."

But even when the Blues give Allen (30-19-4 with a 2.42 goals-against average and .914 save percentage) a night off, it's not like there's a significant drop off with Hutton, who's played superb himself.

It's a reminder of what Allen had tag-teaming with Brian Elliott the past few seasons.

"Me and 'Hutts' get along great," Allen said. "He's been great for our team, he's been a great addition. I think it's like any player. Any time you go to a different team or different organization, it's not going to happen at the drop of a hat. It's going to take a little while. We both had rough spurts throughout the year, but I think since the coaching change has been made, we both have been playing at the top of our games and giving the boys a chance and I think we both enjoy doing that. We're finding fun in the game and we're just having a good time. When he gets in there, he's working, and when I get in there, I'm working. Things are going well right now; we've got a good thing going.

"It's nice to have another partner come in and you get along with. I played against 'Hutts' a lot in the minors. He's a great guy off the ice. He's been great for our team. He's been behind (Pekka) Rinne for a while now and he knows how to perfect his role. He keeps guys light, keeps guys loose and he does that to himself, too. That's when he plays his best. When he's loose, he's light. He's having fun out there."

* Berglund matches season total for goals -- Center Patrik Berglund's 22nd goal Wednesday in the win over the Coyotes tied a career-high for a season, which he also accomplished in the 2011-12 season.

But considering Berglund had one in the first 30 games, this was the unlikeliest of occurances.

Berglund started scoring, started playing a bit of a different style and now has 21 goals the past 46 games.

"Obviously, I've been getting some good bounces," Berglund said. "I've been around the net much more and obviously helping and finding some pucks there. I think some hard work has been paying off, too. It's nice."

Berglund said he and his linemates David Perron and Patrik Berglund had a conversation Wednesday about creating more offense.

"Especially our line, we had a little meeting (Wednesday) morning because the last two games, we haven't really created a whole bunch of offense," Berglund said. "So we took a look at a few things we could do better. (Wednesday), we really did it. It helped us out, a bunch of zone time and a bunch of chances, too."

Berglund's next goal will set be a career-high for a season.

"I'll be more impressed if he breaks it," Yeo joked.

* Faceoff choices -- With Paul Stastny down with a lower-body injury and Alexander Steen moving up to play between Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko, it begged the question who would be the primary faceoff guy among that trio.

Well in recent games, both Steen and Schwartz shared the responsibilities. And it's done by feel rather than a coaching tactic.

"Him and 'Steener,' they go out there and it's basically on feel just as far as both guys, they're doing it by committee," Yeo said. "We leave it up to them, those two guys as far as when to decide which one takes it, which one doesn't. 'Schwartzy's been doing a pretty good job of it. I feel like 'Steener,' as he's gotten more reps, he's gotten really strong and 'Schwartzy' is surprisingly impressive in there, too."

Schwartz won six of nine draws (67 percent) on Wednesday, and Steen was on the plus side at 60 percent (nine of 15).

"It's not defined by us," Yeo said. "It's feel on their part."

* Quick notes -- Gunnarsson and Dmitrij Jaskin (upper-body injury) were among a handful or so of skaters on Thursday afternoon, but doesn't look like either will get in Friday.

Yeo said both are close, and that Jaskin, who's missed the past seven games, has been cleared to play after a collision with Bortuzzo on Los Angeles on March 13. 

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