By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Next man up.
That's the message from the Blues locker room on Monday.
For the second straight game, the Blues (7-8-3) will be without four key players when they return home to host the Los Angeles Kings (6-12-1) at 7 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM)
Forward Jaden Schwartz and defenseman Carl Gunnarsson are expected to be out through the weekend after sustaining upper-body injuries in a 4-1 win against the Vegas Golden Knights last Friday.
It's unknown at what point Gunnarsson was hurt Friday but never returned after the first period, but Schwartz was seen holding his hand/wrist after getting hit with a Vladimir Tarasenko shot on the power-play with 17 minutes 56 seconds remaining in the third period. Schwartz played two more shifts after finishing that lengthy 2:39 shift out but left with just under 10 minutes to play.
Forwards Alexander Steen and Pat Maroon are out with an upper-body injuries and have missed two games. Both played in Chicago to begin the road trip.
The Blues are already without defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, who has resumed skating. He has missed 11 games with a lower-body injury.
"Guys are going to have to play some more minutes obviously up front, but next man up," Pietrangelo said. "Opportunity for guys like 'Thomer' [Robert Thomas], Sammy [Blais], guys that can really make their mark and try and make a difference."
Blues coach Mike Yeo went with this lineup in a 4-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks last Saturday to cap off a 1-2-0 road trip and will have to do so again.
"Steen is day-to-day, upper-body," Yeo said. "Pat skated this morning. He felt good out there, so he's coming along. I'd say hopeful for the weekend but we'll see. 'Schwartzy' and 'Gunny', I would expect both guys to be out through the weekend and then we'll see how they're doing next weekend.
"'Bortz', he has been on the ice a couple times now. Wasn't out with us obviously, but it's a good sign and he's progressing."
What Yeo will do is mix up some of his pairings for tonight against a Kings team that has lost four of five and playing their third game in four nights with a rookie goalie [Calvin Peterson].
Yeo is moving Robby Fabbri up to the top line with Ryan O'Reilly and Tarasenko, moving David Perron up to left wing with Tyler Bozak and Brayden Schenn will stay on the right wing, and Nikita Soshnikov and and Sammy Blais will skate with Robert Thomas.
"We need to find somebody to start making plays to Vladi as well," Yeo said, "and Robby Fabbri has that ability. He is tenacious. I think that's one important quality of anybody that plays with skilled players and someone like Vladi. You need somebody who's tenacious. Somebody who's gonna help dig out pucks, create turnovers, get the puck on our stick. And just equally important, get the puck on his stick.
"We're happy with the group that we have. It's always challenging, but every team faces this. Every team has guys that are out of the lineup and you have to step up. When we're approaching a game like tonight you've got to look at the O'Reilly's, the Tarasenko's, the Schenn's, the Bozak's, the Perron's, those veteran guys. Those guys that have experience scoring and contributing. Being effective both ends of the ice. We need those guys to be on top of their game, first and foremost. And then on top of that, we've got guys that are getting the extra opportunity, whether it's getting into the lineup, whether it's getting extra ice time. Come into the game and don't just blend in. Make sure you find a way to impact the game. To have an effect, a positive effect, on the outcome."
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Blais has skated in 10 games this season now and has added a new dimension to his game: hits.
Blais is sixth in the NHL (minimum of 10 games) averaging 3.7 hits per game, but he led the team with five on Saturday and had six, four more than anyone else, on Friday against Vegas.
Blais is the team leader in the category and never would have imagined being so.
"No, but I think I've been playing pretty good when I was physical and good on the forecheck," Blais said. "I just try to bring that every game and I have been successful with that and I'll just try to keep doing that again."
Known more for his offensive prowess coming up through the ranks of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Blais has adapted to a more well-rounded game despite no points yet this season.
"When I was in junior, I was a pretty small player," Blais said. "I was like 5-foot-10 and now I'm almost 6-foot-3. I like doing it and I think it gives energy to the team when I do it, so I just got to keep doing it.
"When I use my body, I get the puck back and start playing in the o-zone. That's what I need to do. Tonight I'm playing with 'Thomer' and Soshnikov and we've got to play in the o-zone. I think if we do that, we'll be good."
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O’Reilly has 19 points (10 goals, nine assists) the past 13 games and has points in 11 of 13. He'll try to keep his streak going.
Tarasenko has 10 points (four goals, six assists) the past 10 games.
Jake Allen will get the start in goal tonight. Allen has stopped 50 of 52 shots his past two starts and has a 1.01 goals-against average in those games, a 1-0 loss to Chicago last Wednesday and a 4-1 win at Vegas.
"He's been quietly looking very confident and I think that confidence translates into his play," Yeo said of Allen. "Very aggressive, that's what I've seen from him. He seems to be reading the play well and then he's out and he's challenging and he's on top of the blue (crease). And obviously making athletic saves but I think that it's his reads and his aggressiveness leading up to the shot that put him in a good position."
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The Blues' projected lineup:
Robby Fabbri-Ryan O'Reilly-Vladimir Tarasenko
David Perron-Tyler Bozak-Brayden Schenn
Nikita Soshnikov-Robert Thomas-Sammy Blais
Zach Sanford-Ivan Barbashev-Oskar Sundqvist
Vince Dunn-Alex Pietrangelo
Joel Edmundson-Colton Parayko
Jay Bouwmeester-Jordan Schmaltz
Jake Allen will start in goal; Chad Johnson will be the backup.
The Blues have no healthy scratches. Jaden Schwartz (upper body), Robert Bortuzzo (lower body), Alexander Steen (upper body), Pat Maroon (upper body) and Carl Gunnarsson (upper body) are all out.
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The Kings' projected lineup:
Alex Iafallo-Anze Kopitar-Dustin Brown
Ilya Kovalchuk-Jeff Carter-Tyler Toffoli
Carl Hagelin-Adrian Kempe-Matt Luff
Kyle Clifford-Nate Thompson-Austin Wagner
Derek Forbort-Drew Doughty
Jake Muzzin-Alec Martinez
Dion Phaneuf-Oscar Fantenberg
Calvin Petersen will start in goal; Peter Budaj will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Paul LaDue and Michael Amadio. Jonathan Quick (knee), Jack Campbell (knee), Jonny Brodzinski (shoulder) and Trevor Lewis (foot) are all out.
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