Saturday, October 7, 2017

(10-7-17) Stars-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- After opening with an exciting 5-4 overtime victory against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, the Blues open their home schedule today against Ken Hitchcock and the Dallas Stars (7 p.m., FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).

A sellout crowd is expected tonight to see the new-look Blues against their former coach who spent parts of six seasons building the Blued to what they are now.

"Sometimes the energy that comes out can backfire, sometimes it can help you but it wears off quickly," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "I think we should definitely try to use our crowd tonight. Our crowd's going to be jacked up, it's going to be exciting, it's going to be loud and if we play the game the right way, then I think we can make that even louder. That said, I think keeping your emotions, keeping your focus and really staying in the process is going to be important."

The Blues have enough veteran players that have been there, done that in regards to playing in season and/or home openers but they never get old.

"It's just a good feeling to play in front of the home crowd," Blues center Kyle Brodziak said. "You'll feel the energy right from warm-ups. Once you step on the ice for warm-ups and you see the crowd and the start of the game, the emotions that go into it, it's definitely a little bit special."

"Home opener is big for us," Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson said. "That's what we've got to focus on. ... It's a good challenge."

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Hitchcock, who was 248-124-41 in 413 regular season games with the Blues, can tie Al Arbour for third on the all-time coaching wins list tonight.

But after being fired on Feb. 1, he's stepped into a new challenge with a familiar foe.

Hitchcock began his coaching career with the Stars in 1995 and should have some emotions coming into the first regular-season game against the Blues.

"It's a little normal now because of the exhibition thing," Hitchcock said of playing the Blues twice in preseason. "Like I said to people, we were very ... I think you realize we were really proud of what we built here and I think you find out when you're in a different organization you trying and to get back on the winning track, how challenging and difficult that task is. You ought to not take it for granted because when you're with an organization that's in the playoffs all the time, there's a lot of things that go into that are a sense of cooperation between the coaches and the players, the management and the coaches that make a big difference if you're going to get into the playoffs and be there consistently. I think we're learning some of those lessons in Dallas now and hopefully we catch on quick."

Hitchcock was able to see some of the new renovations to Scottrade Center and came away impressed.

"It's beautiful," he said. "The score clock's outstanding, players love the lighting. I haven't been over to that side (the coaches room) so I can't tell you. Ours is still a nice one-bedroom bungalow over there. It looks outstanding to be honest with you."

The Blues should be jacked to face their former coach, too, but once they're on the ice, that stuff tends to wear off.

"On a personal level, it has some meaning for him," Brodziak said of Hitchcock. "At the end of the day for both teams, for players on each team, it's going to be business as usual. Early in the season, you've got bigger goals in mind. I think both teams want to come off good starts and feel good about their games. That's going to be the primary focus, but I think at the end of the day, I'm sure it means something to him and there's going to be some emotions."

Hitchcock hopes his knowledge of many of the Blues players gives him an advantage, but there are players he doesn't know, too.

"I don't really know it because I never saw it," Hitchcock said of this Blues team. "Obviously I know the players that were here. I think you understand why they win. They win because they've got a number of players who stay on task and stay on the program and that's why you win. To me, the National Hockey League is everything about who's in, not who's out. When you have quality players that are in, they can carry the day for a very ong period of time and I think you learn to appreciate that over time. To me, it's all about who's in. They've got good players that are in and I don't really know some of the other guys because I haven't seen them."

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The Blues won't make any lineup changes from the one that won in Pittsburgh.

Yeo said he was pleased with many aspects of the game but there are ones that need to be altered as well.

"Given it's the first game of the year and playing against a good team, there was large chunks of that game that looked right," Yeo said. "It's Game 1 of the process of trying to get better and starting to grow our game. Obviously there's still things that we need to improve on. We made some big mistakes in the game. Obviously you're not going to win a lot of hockey games when you're giving up four goals, bu that said, there was a lot of things to like in the game. I thought the pace of the game was very good, there was a lot of areas where we were real tough to come through in the neutral zone and making it tough on their speed and their skill. Obviously we'd like to close on guys a little bit quicker and d-zone and I think we'll get tested in that regard tonight."

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The Blues' projected lineup:

Vladimir Sobotka-Paul Stastny-Vladimir Tarasenko

Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Dmitrij Jaskin

Magnus Paajarvi-Oskar Sundqvist-Tage Thompson 

Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Chris Thorburn

Joel Edmundson-Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson-Colton Parayko

Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo

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

Healthy scratches include Nate Prosser, Ivan Barbashev and Wade Megan. Alexander Steen (hand) and Jay Bouwmeester (ankle) are expected to be re-evaluated next week. Patrik Berglund (shoulder) is out until December. Zach Sanford (shoulder) is out until at least late February and Robby Fabbri (knee) is out for the season. 

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The Stars' projected lineup:

Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin-Alexander Radulov

Mattias Janmark-Jason Spezza-Brett Ritchie

Devin Shore-Martin Hanzal-Tyler Pitlick 

Antoine Roussel-Radek Faksa-Adam Cracknell

Esa Lindell-John Klingberg

Marc Methot-Jamie Oleksiak 

Dan Hamhuis-Stephen Johns 

Kari Lehtonen will start in goal; Ben Bishop, who was removed from the game Friday with 16:02 remaining with concussion-like symptoms, will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Gemel Smith, Greg Pateryn and Julius Honka. The Stars report no injuries.

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