By LOU KORAC
CHICAGO -- As expected, Jaden Schwartz will miss today's first road game of the season against the Chicago Blackhawks (7:30 p.m.; FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM) and likely Sunday at home against the Anaheim Ducks with a lower-body injury.
Schwartz was hit by a Vladimir Tarasenko shot four minutes into the first period of a 5-3 win against the Calgary Flames. He finished the game and played 19 minutes and had an assist but did not practice Friday.
"He's out for tonight. He's doubtful to questionable for tomorrow," Blues coach Mike Yeo said of Schwartz. "I don't know that there's going to be a big improvement there, but the report we got is nothing to be concerned long-term here."
Schwartz is a key component for the Blues but has a history of leg/foot injuries stemming from getting hit with pucks. He missed 20 games last season after getting hit by a Mike Green shot in Detroit and the Blues went 9-10-1 with him out of the lineup.
But Yeo feels like there are players more equipped to handle the loss of a player of Schwartz's caliber.
"I think that we have more guys who are capable of stepping up and that's what we're going to need from them," Yeo said. "We have guys with offensive ability on all four lines right now. Obviously we're losing a quality player in the game here tonight, but certainly there's other guys that should be capable of stepping up for us and filling that void."
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Sammy Blais will move off the line with Robert Thomas and Ivan Barbashev and move into Schwartz's role on the second line with Brayden Schenn and David Perron, who scored his fourth NHL hat trick in the win Thursday.
"I think I've been playing pretty good with Robby Thomas and 'Barby,'" Blais said. "I just got to bring what I've been doing with them with 'Schenner' and Perron. Two really good players. I've played with 'Schenner' last year and in preseason. I think we've got good chemistry and with Perron, we're going to be good together. I've just got to keep playing like I'm playing and I think that's why I'm successful the first three games and I've got to be playing hard, physical and the scoring chances will come.
"I really feel more comfortable. I feel more confident with the puck and I'm not scared of making plays. I finish my check every chance I have. I've just got to keep working hard and everything's going to be fine."
Blais doesn't have a point in three games, but Yeo has liked what he's brought to the table and has a decent history playing with Schenn.
"It's a great opportunity for him to Robby to Jordan [Kyrou], a great opportunity for them tonight to get in there and prove that you can really come into an environment like this, a building like this and not be intimidated," Yeo said. "I think for a young player, sometimes it's one thing to do it at home and it's another thing to go out and do it, whether it's because of the matchups that you might be faced with or whether, I don't want to say the intimidation factor, but certainly a little bit more comfortable when you're at home. I'd like to see them come in here and play a real hard, determined game and play to make a difference and I thought they did that last game. When they do that, they are a factor.
"I would think there's some opportunity for some ice time. Will probably try a couple different looks here tonight. We'll have some consistency, but it won't be shift after shift, that's for sure."
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With Schwartz coming out, veteran Chris Thorburn will make his season debut and play alongside Barbashev and Thomas.
Thorburn has had an interesting start to the season, from being waived to going unclaimed to getting his family packed and ready to ship off to San Antonio to play in the American Hockey League. But when he got the text from general manager Doug Armstrong that he was staying and to be on the ice for practice the following day, he's been here since.
"I'm super-excited to be a part of the club, to be a part of the room tonight," the 35-year-old Thorburn said. "Just excited to get going. ... To be part of the battle with the guys and try to help out in any way I can, it doesn't solidify anything, but at the same time, to be in the room, to go out there and play a game with the guys and try and contribute, that's what I'm most excited about."
When Thorburn lines up with Thomas, he'll play with a player 16 years his junior.
"I'm sure there's a couple of them. [Alexander] Burmistrov rings a bell because he's a young kid out of junior and he made our team out of Atlanta, but it's been a long time," Thorburn said. "I'll talk to [Thomas] before the game. I'm going to try and keep up with him, keep up with the play and hopefully we can contribute. I was thinking I'm a good passer, so we're going to be fighting over that puck. But I want the goal, yeah. It's a good mix. Even with 'Barby' on that line, I played with 'Barby' last year. He's an easy guy to play with. It might take a few shifts, but hopefully not. I'm just going to bring some excitement to that line and some energy."
Yeo likes what Thorburn can bring.
"'Thorbs' had a good camp," Yeo said. "He actually spent a lot of focus on his summer and his training was outstanding and he came in lighter and he's been moving well. It's always good to get everybody involved early in the season. This is not necessarily the reason the way we would like for it to happen. Obviously 'Schwartzy's a tough guy to replace, but that said, when you do lose a player, it's another opportunity for somebody else. Whether it's a guy like 'Thorbs' coming into the lineup or a guy like 'Blaiser' moving up the lineup. Even a guy like Robby, he's going to get some extra shifts tonight and a guy like Jordan's going to get some extra shifts. There's going to be some opportunity for some guys there."
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Blues defenseman Jordan Schmaltz was a popular player in the locker room doing a media scrum ahead of his first regular-season head-to-head matchup with younger brother and Blackhawks center Nick Schmaltz.
"It's good. It's fun, and I just can't wait for tonight," Schmaltz said. "I think I'd like to know what he likes to do and how he likes to play, but at the end of the day, he's a pretty good player and I'm just gonna do my best and hopefully, I get the better half of him."
Schmaltz will be paired with Robert Bortuzzo tonight.
"We've spent some time with 'Schmaltzy' here in the last week," Yeo said. "I think that he has the ability to be an impactful player for our group. If we look at sort of his game and what he can add for us, the thing for me is he has to defend, he has to use his skating ability to defend. I think through camp, his cap control has been good, his positioning has been good. Where I'd like to see him excel and take a step in his game is his puck-moving and his execution. It's not that he's doing a poor job with it. I think I'd like to see him put a little more onus, demand the puck a little bit more and sort of take on that responsibility that he wants to be the guy to execute, to move the puck because he has that ability."
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The Blues and Blackhawks met in St. Louis on Oct. 6, and Chicago came away with a 5-4 win in overtime on Jonathan Toews' game-winner, giving him his sixth NHL regular-season hat trick.
Yeo said the Blues played into Chicago's game that night and feels they need to do some things differently.
"We have to be better on the puck, stronger on the puck," Yeo said. "I thought that too many times we got into the offensive zone and checked too easily or just threw it away. When you do that, you have possession of the puck, you're putting yourself in an offensive position, you're not putting yourself in a defensive position. When you pass it to them, it's going to be pretty tough to get it back. I thought that just fed into their game. Defensively, our play at the net has to be better. I think they're going to look at the pre-scout and try to take advantage of us there. This is a team that throws a lot of pucks at the net that will try to out-will you at the net. No secrets that we have to be better and stronger there, too."
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Jake Allen will get the start in goal for the fourth straight game, and Yeo said backup Chad Johnson will make his Blues debut Sunday against the Ducks.
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The Blues' projected lineup:
Pat Maroon-Ryan O'Reilly-Vladimir Tarasenko
Sammy Blais-Brayden Schenn-David Perron
Alexander Steen-Tyler Bozak-Jordan Kyrou
Ivan Barbashev-Robert Thomas-Chris Thorburn
Joel Edmundson-Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Bouwmeester-Colton Parayko
Robert Bortuzzo-Jordan Schmaltz
Jake Allen will start in goal; Chad Johnson will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Vince Dunn, Jakub Jerabek. Jaden Schwartz (lower body), Robby Fabbri (groin), Nikita Soshnikov (concussion), Carl Gunnarsson (knee, hip) and Oskar Sundqvist (concussion) are out.
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The Blackhawks' projected lineup:
Alex DeBrincat-Jonathan Toews-Dominik Kahun
Alexandre Fortin-Nick Schmaltz-Patrick Kane
Chris Kunitz-Artem Anisimov-John Hayden
Brandon Saad-Marcus Kruger-David Kampf
Duncan Keith-Henri Jokiharju
Erik Gustafsson-Brent Seabrook
Brandon Manning-Jan Rutta
Cam Ward will start in goal; Anton Forsberg will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Brandon Davidson and Luke Johnson. Corey Crawford (concussion), Gustav Forsling (wrist), Connor Murphy (back) and Andreas Martinsen (back) are out.
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