Wednesday, April 26, 2017

(4-26-17) Predators-Blues Game 1 Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- After days of preparation and turning the page away from the first round, it's time to drop the puck on the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Blues and Nashville Predators open the Western Conference portion with Game 1 at Scottrade Center (7 p.m.; NBCSN, KMOX 1120-AM).

The Blues disposed the Minnesota Wild in five games, and the Predators served notice by sweeping the West's top seed, the Chicago Blackhawks.

Nashville has been off since last Thursday, and the Blues completed their series on Saturday with Magnus Paajarvi's overtime winner.

"Yeah, they've had a little bit longer wait than we had," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said of the Predators. "A little bit different having a four-day break in the middle of the playoffs, but a good couple days of rest and ready to go."

What's surprising is that this will be the first time in history the Blues and Predators will play against one another in the playoffs.

The Blues are the third seed from the Central Division, and Nashville comes in as the second wild card out of the west.

"We've played each other a lot," Pietrangelo said. "We're pretty familiar with each other."

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It'll be a matchup of two hot goalies (Jake Allen of the Blues and Pekka Rinne of the Predators) who were the top two statistical leaders in goals-against average (0.70 for Rinne, 1.47 for Allen) and save percentage (.976 for Rinne, .956 for Allen) in the first round among starters.

But just because both goalies were in lockdown mode in the first round, doesn't necessarily mean this will be a race to two goals.

"I know that they have a ton of skill over there and we have to respect that skill," Blues coach Mike Yeo said of the Predators. "They've got 1-on-1 skill, they've got speed, they've got transition skill, and it comes from the forwards and the back end. To think we're just going to be able to hold them to one goal every game is going to be tough. So obviously we're going to have a focus and an attention to detail in our defensive game. We're going to have to make it as hard on them physically and structurally as we can, but we're going to have to press, we're going to have to find a way to create some offense against a team that doesn't give up much, especially through the neutral zone, especially on the rush, so it's going to be a good challenge for us. We don't have an expectation of how each and every game is going to unfold. It might change. Special teams might become a big factor one night, it might become a little loose, a little more wide open one night. For me, the biggest thing is we're ready for whatever and we're not surprised by it and we're ready to deal with it through the course of the game."

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The Blues have won 14 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs the past two seasons, and as teams advance, experience plays a big factor.

Not only have the Blues played 25 games the past two seasons in the playoffs, but the majority of their roster has the expereince.

"Experience matters," Pietrangelo said. "I think it really does. Last year we knew playing against Chicago, we let them back into it, same with Dallas. We played those extra games and went to seven games. It seems like this year, we have a little more jump, especially in that Game 5 to close things out and not extend it longer than we had to."

The Blues have 18 skaters on the roster that were a part of the run to the conference final last season and feel it could be a nice benefactor.

"I think so," Yeo said. "I don't think we can bank on it but certainly experience is a valuable tool for us as far as understanding and having a good grasp of what to expect and again, how to prepare and how to make sure you're ready. It should serve us well, just like these guys played last year too, they went past round one. I think both teams have experience in the playoffs, and both teams will lean on that, but every year's a new year as well too so you can't bank on that and assume that that's going to serve you well. For me, if it's anything, it's recognition of the preparation that you need going into games."

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Alexander Steen did not skate again, and Ivan Barbashev was in his spot in line rushes, but Steen, who's nursing a lower-body injury, will play. 

The Blues recalled defenseman Petteri LIndbohm from the Chicago Wolves and assigned on loan defenseman Thomas Vannelli to the Wolves, who play in Game 5 of their first round playoff series against the Charlotte Checkers tonight in Chicago.

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The Predators are expected to get left wing Colin Wilson (lower body) back after missing the first round series against the Blackhawks. 

Former Blues defenseman Brad Hunt, who was claimed off waivers by the Predators, is not on the lineup tonight.

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The Blues' projected lineup:

Jaden Schwartz-Paul Stastny-Vladimir Tarasenko

Alexander Steen-Patrik Berglund-David Perron

Vladimir Sobotka-Jori Lehtera-Magnus Paajarvi

Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Joel Edmundson-Colton Parayko

Carl Gunnarsson-Robert Bortuzzo

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

Healthy scratches include Ivan Barbashev, Zach Sanford, Dmitrij Jaskin and Petteri Lindbohm. Robby Fabbri (knee) and Nail Yakupov (lower body) are out with injuries.

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The Predators' projected lineup

Filip Forsberg-Ryan Johansen-Viktor Arvidsson

Kevin Fiala-Calle Jarnkrok-James Neal

Colin Wilson-Colton Sissons-PA Parenteau

Cody McLeod-Mike Fisher-Austin Watson

Roman Josi-Ryan Ellis

Mattias Ekholm-P.K. Subban

Matt Irwin-Yannick Weber

Pekka Rinne will start in goal; Juuse Saros will be the backup. 

Healthy scratches include Anthony Bitetto, Vernon Fiddler, Brad Hunt, Miikka Salomaki, Pontus Aberg and Harry Zolnierczyk. Craig Smith (lower body) is out.

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