Saturday, December 30, 2017

(12-30-17) Hurricanes-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester was activated off injured reserve, a sign he could very well play today for the Blues when they play host to the red-hot Carolina Hurricanes at Scottrade Center (7 p.m.; FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).

In a corresponding move to make room for Bouwmeester, the Blues assigned defenseman Jordan Schmaltz to San Antonio of the American Hockey League.

Bouwmeester, who sustained a lower-body injury that kept him out the past nine games, missed the first 21 games of the season with a fractured left ankle. He was with the team in Dallas and skated Friday morning but did not play in a 4-2 loss to the Stars, the Blues' fifth loss in six games and seventh in the past nine.

Carolina, which like the Blues (23-15-2) is playing on back-to-back nights (a 2-1 win over Pittsburgh at home Friday), is also playing its third game in four nights, like the Blues.

The Hurricanes (18-12-7) have won four in a row and seven of eight.

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To fans, the Blues' loss to Dallas had many stark reminders of what's been plaguing this team since the departure of Jaden Schwartz to a right ankle injury: lack of offensive punch.

But when the Blues took a 2-1 lead in the third on goals by Vladimir Tarasenko and Tage Thompson 1 minute 5 seconds apart, it was the chance to try and lock down a big road win in a tough building against a team that has thrived at American Airlines Center this season.

But it was not to be, as Dallas scored three times inside of five minutes remaining.

"I thought we played a solid game," said Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson, who's questionable roughing penalty late in the game helped the Stars produce the game-deciding power-play goal from Alexander Radulov. "We stuck to the system throughout the whole game. Our PK did a great job throughout the whole game until the very last one. We've got to be happy with the 55 minutes that we played well, but we've just got to bear down in the last five."

"I thought we played pretty good up until the last, just like in Edmonton (on Dec. 21), whatever the last whatever minutes," Blues left wing Alexander Steen said. "It's just right now, disappointing losing. It's not good enough to lose a game like that."

Especially when the Blues were put in a vulnerable position after Edmundson and Dallas captain Jamie Benn were tied up by the Blues' goal, and Edmundson was the lone skater sent off for roughing.

"I had no idea. I was trying to get the puck out," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said of the call. "Did you guys see it? At that time in the game, I don’t know if that’s really the right call, but that’s their job, not mine."

What coach Mike Yeo was hoping to see is the Blues, with a lead in the third, continue to stay on the hunt and deliver the knockout punch like they did earlier in the season. 

"I felt that maybe we kind of sat back again," Yeo said. "That’s the tendency that we have to fight right now. You know you want to win so bad that you just want to hang onto that lead. When we’re at our best, I think we’re still aggressive, but again, we can dissect it all we want. The players played their hearts out tonight. We played a real strong road game against a tough team and I felt that we deserved to win, so we just have to keep doing that."

But when a team hasn't had much luck winning lately, that play-it-safe mode is a bad habit that is hard to shake.

"No, what we did at the beginning of the year, I think we buried them," Pietrangelo said. "Edmonton, same thing. We got away from the game that got us there and good teams are going to take advantage of that, right? You’re down by a goal, you’re going to start trying things that you aren’t when you’re tied or you’re ahead. We knew they were going to have a push, we just got to do the small things and limit those opportunities.

"Yeah, we were good defensively for most of the game. We have been for a while now. We score a couple goals. We still got to find a way to find a way to consistently score more than that. We can’t be giving up what we’re giving up, especially at the end of games."

The Blues are 1-5-0 the past six and 2-7-0 the past seven and now begin a three-game homestand.

"It’s a long season," Yeo said. "We always say if you get too excited about when things are going well, then you’re going to be in trouble. And if you get too down when things aren’t going well, usually there’s kind of a saying in our game that when things are going at their best, you’re usually not quite that good, and when things are going their worst, you’re definitely not that bad."

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After the game, Yeo took the blame for inserting goalie Jake Allen back into the game with 9:05 remaining after Allen missed the previous 9:34 after being sent off by league concussion spotters following a collision with teammate Colton Parayko.

Carter Hutton came on in relief and made two saves, and was in line for the win after the Blues scored both goals while he was in net, but Yeo chose to go back to Allen after being told Allen was good to resume playing, which Yeo second-guessed after the game.

But players didn't think it was the wrong decision.

"No, not at all," Edmundson said. "'Hutts' did a good job when he came in. You've got to give him credit for that. I still think Jake played solid when he was in there. He said he felt fine coming back in, so you can't blame him. He's been solid for us all year and he played well tonight, so you can't put the blame on him."

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An update on the four Blues prospects competing in the World Junior Championships in Buffalo.

Through three games, Russia's Klim Kostin (2017 first round pick) is tied for second in points with five (three goals, two assists). 

Canada's Jordan Kyrou (2016 second round pick) has four points (one goal, three assists) and is tied for fourth.

Canada's Robert Thomas (2017 first round pick) has two assists, and Denmark's Nikolaj Krag Christensen (2016 seventh round pick) has one goal in two games.

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The Blues did not hold a morning skate on Saturday and Yeo will give a better idea of a lineup when he meets with the media at 5:30 (CT). 

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The Blues' projected lineup:

Alexander Steen-Paul Stastny-Tage Thompson

Ivan Barbashev-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko

Vladimir Sobotka-Patrik Berglund-Dmitrij Jaskin

Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Chris Thorburn

Joel Edmundson-Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson-Colton Parayko

Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo

Carter Hutton is expected to start in goal; Jake Allen would be the backup.

Healthy scratches would include Jay Bouwmeester (if he doesn't play, but if he plays, is likely to replace Gunnarsson or Bortuzzo), Oskar Sundqvist and Magnus Paajarvi. Jaden Schwartz (ankle), Sammy Blais (lower body), Zach Sanford (shoulder) and Robby Fabbri are out.

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The Hurricanes' projected lineup:

Sebastian Aho-Jordan Staal-Teuvo Teravainen

Jeff Skinner-Victor Rask-Elias Lindholm

Brock McGinn-Derek Ryan-Justin Williams

Joakim Nordstrom-Lucas Wallmark-Phillip Di Giuseppe

Jaccob Slavin-Brett Pesce

Klas Dahlbeck-Justin Faulk

Noah Hanifin-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Scott Darling will start in goal; Cam Ward will be the backup.

Healthy scratches are expected to be Josh Jooris and Haydn Fleury. Former Blue Lee Stempniak (lower body) and Marcus Kruger (undisclosed) are out.

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