Wednesday, March 21, 2018

(3-21-18) Bruins-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues will be without leading goal scorer Vladimir Tarasenko for a second straight game against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday (7 p.m.; NBCSN, KMOX 1120-AM).

Tarasenko did not take part in the morning skate and will not play due to an upper-body injury. He is listed as day to day.

Tarasenko took an elbow to the mouth/jaw area in the first period against the New York Rangers on Saturday from defenseman Neal Pionk but finished the period and then did not return.

Tarasenko, who leads the Blues with 27 goals, did not play in Sunday's 5-4 overtime win against the Chicago Blackhawks.

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The Blues (39-28-5), who have won four of five, can move within one point of the second wild card in the Western Conference tonight with any win over the Bruins (45-17-9), who need a point to clinch a playoff spot tonight. The Blues trail the Ducks, who play at the Calgary Flames on Wednesday, by three points.

"I would say desperation is a stronger word," Blues coach Mike Yeo said regarding the Blues' play. "I think what we're seeing right now, and we still have to continue to get better at it. You look at the goal that we give up with three seconds left last game, that was a good reminder for our group, that's what we talked about. Those types of plays, they don't match our situation and they can't. The reality for us is, our desperation should show up in every single play in the game and it doesn't mean you're going to play a perfect game, it doesn't mean there's not mistakes, it doesn't mean you're going to win every single battle when you're on the ice. But when you have that approach, you certainly put yourself in a better position."

Said captain Alex Pietrangelo: "The position that we're in, you're trying to get every point you can. We know where we're at and what we have to do."

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Blues left wing Scottie Upshall skated Wednesday for what is presumed as the first time since an MCL sprain sustained March 3 against the Dallas Stars.

Upshall, who was originally diagnosed to miss four weeks, could be ahead of schedule for a potential return.

"It's feeling good," Upshall said. "It feels really good. I've been working hard to get back. It's obviously a huge time of year where having bodies in the lineup -- healthy bodies -- are crucial. It was a tough injury, but I've been working real hard to get back with the training staff and the coaches to get back.

"... I'm just kind of taking it day to day. The training staff hasn't really cleared me with the doctors for contact yet. But today was a good skate. I've got to be able to skate and play physical, so today was a good test to see where I'm at and things looked good."

Yeo acknowledged Upshall, who has 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in 61 games this season, is on the cusp.

"He's getting close," Yeo said. "We'll see here but he may be ready to join us for practice, but obviously I still have to talk to the trainers. But talking to Scottie after practice, he feels good, he looks good out there. That's good news."

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The Blues' recent mini surge of three power play goals in the past four times with the man advantage moved them past the Columbus Blue Jackets into 29th in the NHL. 

Not much consolation there, but gaining some traction there is a step in the right direction.

Defenseman Vince Dunn moved onto the first unit with Tarasenko out of the lineup. Coincidence? Perhaps, but utilizing all five guys makes the Blues a but more unpredictable.

"I don't think it has to do with 'Vladi' being off it," Dunn said. "He's a key part of our power plays since he's been here and I think he's done a great job on our power play. But I think the last few games, we've been using everyone. We've been comfortable in different spots and wherever we are on the ice, we've just been making hockey sense plays. We haven't been trying to worry about getting to the wall or if you're the net front guy, making sure you're there. It's just kind of reading off each other and making plays. When we're doing that and we're reading each other, we're really feeling the game on one another. 

"It wasn't anything too special. It wasn't any fancy plays. Just moving pucks to the guys that were open and taking the shots when you have them."

Pietrangelo, Dunn and Alexander Steen have scored the power-play goals the past two games with net front presence (Steen) and shots from the point (Pietrangelo) and circle using a screen (Dunn).

"What I liked, it's been, I'll use the word simplistic," Yeo said. "What you're not seeing right now is us getting into zone and our first pass trying to make a seam pass, trying to make a high-risk play. And with that, less turnovers. I think a simpler approach has allowed us to move the puck around the box, making percentage plays gives you the opportunity to tire our the penalty killers a little bit more. When you do that, eventually lanes are going to open up, when they open up, we're shooting those pucks.

"... A little more aggressive to toward the net. We've had great net front, 'Steener's done a great job there, we've got more than one guy, we've got a secondary high screen that's there too. More aggressive in shooting the pucks and moving puck around the entire box and finding the options."

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Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, who missed practice on Tuesday, was part of the morning skate and will play tonight. Bortuzzo has been getting more rest after left knee injury sustained Feb. 16 in Dallas.

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Former Blues captain David Backes is on the trip with the Bruins but will not play tonight after sustaining a laceration above his knee on March 17 agaijnst Tampa Bay that required 18 stitches.

Backes' family got a suite to the game tonight before his injury and will be at the game, but now he'll be a part of it.

I'll have more on Backes, who spent time with Pietrangelo and his family on Tuesday, and his injury-filled season in Boston, his time with the Bruins and his close friendship with Pietrangelo in another post.

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The Blues' projected lineup:

Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Alexander Steen

Patrik Berglund-Kyle Brodziak-Vladimir Sobotka 

Dmitrij Jaskin-Ivan Barbashev-Tage Thompson

Nikita Soshnikov-Oskar Sundqvist-Chris Thorburn

Carl Gunnarsson-Alex Pietrangelo

Vince Dunn-Colton Parayko

Joel Edmundson-Robert Bortuzzo

Jake Allen will start in goal; Ville Husso will be the backup. 

The healthy scratch is Jordan Schmaltz. Vladimir Tarasenko (upper body), Carter Hutton (neck) and Scottie Upshall (knee) are all day to day. Robby Fabbri (knee) and Jay Bouwmeester (hip) are out for the season.

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The Bruins' projected lineup:

Brad Marchand-Riley Nash-David Pastrnak

Ryan Donato-David Krejci-Danton Heinen

Tim Schaller-Sean Kuraly-Tommy Wingels

Jordan Szwarz-Noel Acciari-Brian Gionta

Torey Krug-Brandon Carlo

Matt Grzelcyk-Kevan Miller

Nick Holden-Adam McQuaid

Anton Khudobin will start in goal; Tuukka Rask will be the backup. 

The healthy scratch is Paul Postma. Rick Nash (upper body), Zdeno Chara (upper body), Jake DeBrusk (upper body), Patrice Bergeron (fractured foot), Charlie McAvoy (sprained MCL) and David Backes (leg laceration) are all out.

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