By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- More injury news trickled down for the Western Conference-leading Blues, who host the Eastern Conference-leading Tampa Bay Lightning today at 7 p.m. (NBCSN, KMOX 1120-AM).
Already without left wing Jaden Schwartz for six weeks with a right ankle injury, defenseman Alex Pietrangelo was placed on injured reserve with a lower-body injury retroactive to Saturday after he blocked a shot against the Detroit Red Wings, and now defenseman Jay Bouwmeester will miss tonight's game with an undisclosed injury.
Pietrangelo came in Monday and received treatment and the Blues knew then he wouldn't be an option, so they opted for a healthy body the rest of the week considering the condensed schedule.
So the Blues will be without three of their top players against the NHL's top scoring team at 110 goals.
"He's still day to day for us, but looking at this week and the schedule we have, we didn't think he was going to get in these next couple games," Blues coach Mike Yeo said of Pietrangelo. "It gives us a chance to call in a healthy player without making a roster move. It puts him out for a week but we're still considering him day to day. We don't expect it to be long term. It's obviously frustrating for him to be out today but no point in putting him in a bad position too.
"'Bouw's going to be out tonight, too. Another day to day injury, going to be a good challenge for the guys we have in the lineup."
Recalled from the San Antonio Rampage, defenseman Jordan Schmaltz will jump right into the lineup and play alongside Vince Dunn.
"Last year getting my feet wet or whatever, I haven't played a game at this level in a while, so obviously there's a little bit of an adjustment period," said Schmaltz, who has nine games of NHL experience in the regular season and one in the playoffs. "But I think you just get in there, do what you can and be confident."
So the Blues (21-8-2) will charge out Colton Parayko, Joel Edmundson, Carl Gunnarsson, Robert Bortuzzo, Schmaltz and Dunn against the explosive Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov and the rest of the high-flying Lightning, who are 21-6-2.
Stamkos (12 goals, 30 assists) and Kucherov (20 goals, 21 assists) are Nos. 1-2 in the NHL in points.
"I thought last game, Colton and Eddie did a real nice job along with 'Gunny' and 'Borts,'" Yeo said. "They played like veteran players, going to need them to tonight, both 'Dunner' and 'Schmaltzy,' young players, but we don't expect them to play young. We expect them to come in and be ready to contribute and be ready to be solid and find a way to help us get to our game."
The Blues won't back down from the challenge.
"The young guys have got to step up," the ever-so-young 24-year-old Edmundson said, who logged a career-high 25 minutes, 49 seconds on Sunday against Buffalo. "It's why they in the AHL. If there's chances like this, it's going to be exciting to see how they come up, especially against Tampa tonight, which is going to be a challenge. It'll be fun.
"Everyone wants to beat the best team in the league, and we've got a chance to do that tonight."
Parayko, who played a season-high 27:32 on Sunday, will be the one that draws the majority of Pietrangelo's minutes and Edmundson will be up in the 20's likely again.
"I'm looking forward to taking it on, taking on the roll, but you just realize how important of a piece 'Petro' is," Parayko said. "He obviously puts up a lot of minutes each night, obviously over 26 (minutes) I would say each night. Not only even-strength, but he plays on both penalty kill and power play. But at the same time, it's kind of the nature of our job. I think we've got to make sure we come together as a group collectively and get it done. It's going to be huge.
"We had this at the beginning of the year, too (with Bouwmeester and Alexander Steen out with injuries). I think the beauty is we continue to come together as a group and continue to find ways to get points and get wins. We are always finding ways to win. That's the beauty of our group."
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Both teams are in search of their fifth straight win tonight, and if you think the Lightning will take the Blues lightly, think again.
"If you ever looked at it that way, I think you'd be in trouble," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "... The second you take anybody lightly in this League, you're in trouble. There's a reason why they're number one in the West., because they have a good team and they've got depth, and any time you've got a good goaltender back there, it's tough."
Yeo embraces the challenge the Lightning, who beat the Blues 2-1 in Tampa on Oct. 14, pose.
"It's a team that has the ability to score but more than that they're hungry to score," Yeo said. "They're dangerous off the rush, dangerous in the offensive zone, they can score making plays, and finding seams and creating movement and they can also score at the net. It's a great challenge for us to see how we defend against that tonight."
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It was quite the whirlwind weekend for Blues forward Ivan Barbashev.
After being recalled Sunday from the Chicago Wolves to replace Schwartz, Barbashev was thrown right into the lineup against the Sabres in a 3-2 overtime victory.
Barbashev played Friday and Saturday with the Wolves against the Cleveland Monsters and pulled a trifecta of games in three days with the Blues on Sunday.
"It was pretty busy," Barbashev said. "... It doesn't matter. I was really happy to be here. They told me right away. It's nice.
"I was really happy to be back here just to play a game with the Blues again. It felt great. I thought the game (Sunday) was pretty good for me as well."
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- Blues center Brayden Schenn, who was named the NHL First Star of the Week on Monday, has a four-game point streak (six goals, one assist).
- Blues goalie Jake Allen, the NHL Third Star of the Week last week, is 4-0-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average and .944 save percentage his past 4 starts.
- Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko has a three-game point streak (two goals, two assists) and has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) the past 10 games.
- Blues goalie Carter Hutton skated this morning and is eligible to come off IR on Thursday. He took a puck off the skate during the morning skate last Thursday before the Blues faced the Dallas Stars.
- The Blues announced late Tuesday afternoon they've assigned forward Sammy Blais to San Antonio. Blais has one goal and two assists in nine games with the Blues. It's the third time Blais has been assigned back to the AHL.
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The Blues' projected lineup:
Vladimir Sobotka-Paul Stastny-Vladimir Tarasenko
Alexander Steen-Brayden Schenn-Dmitrij Jaskin
Ivan Barbashev-Patrik Berglund-Magnus Paajarvi
Scottie Upshall-Oskar Sundqvist-Kyle Brodziak
Joel Edmundson-Colton Parayko
Carl Gunnarsson-Robert Bortuzzo
Vince Dunn-Jordan Schmaltz
Jake Allen will start in goal; Ville Husso will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Chris Thorburn and Sammy Blais. Jaden Schwartz (ankle), Alex Pietrangelo (lower body), Jay Bouwmeester (undisclosed), Carter Hutton (lower body) and Zach Sanford (shoulder) are all out. Robby Fabbri (knee) is out for the season.
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The Lightning's projected lineup:
Vladislav Namestnikov-Steven Stamkos-Tyler Johnson
Ondrej Palat-Brayden Point-Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn-Yanni Gourde-Cory Conacher
Chris Kunitz-Cedric Paquette-Ryan Callahan
Victor Hedman-Andrej Sustr
Mikhail Sergachev-Anton Stralman
Slater Koekkoek-Dan Girardi
Andrei Vasilevskiy will start in goal; Peter Budaj will be the backup.
The healthy scratch will be J.T. Brown. Jake Dotchin (undisclosed) and Braydon Coburn (lower body) are out.