By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Since acquiring him in the summer of 2017, Brayden Schenn hasn't missed a game for the Blues.
Despite taking part in the morning skate, albeit, just getting in some skating and light shooting, Schenn will miss today's game for the Blues (4-5-3) against the Carolina Hurricanes (6-6-2) with an upper-body injury sustained in Saturday's 5-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild.
Schenn, who played in all 82 games last season and the first 12 this year, did not practice on Monday.
"I would say he's day-to-day right now," Blues coach Mike Yeo said of Schenn, who has nine points (three goals, six assists). "Obviously you guys saw him on the ice. Just felt that he wasn't physically able to play at the level … he wouldn't have enough to be able to play at his level tonight and being sensible, making sure we're not putting him in position to damage it worse to be out longer."
With Schenn out of the lineup, rookie Robert Thomas gets a big chance to move into the top six and center Robby Fabbri and David Perron.
"It's a really big opportunity for me," Thomas said. "it's something I've worked all of camp at the start of the season to get to this opportunity. I'm pretty excited about it."
Thomas will play the ninth game of his NHL career and season, and after this, the Blues will have to make the decision of whether to keep him in the NHL or send him back to juniors.
"No, maybe management. I don't focus on that," Yeo said of the decision. "For me, it's another game. I consider it a big game for him because we've given him the opportunity to be in the lineup for eight games up to this point. Not big minutes and probably not in the role, I don't want to say that it doesn't suit him, but certainly not in the role that he's going to be in down the road as an NHL hockey player. We see him playing higher up in the lineup and being a skilled player and playing with skilled guys. We knew an opportunity would come and I have seen progress and development in his game up to this point. You can see, first off, he is much more used to the battle and the pace of the NHL game and he's adjusted to that nicely. More frequently, through every game, you're seeing him skate through the neutral zone with the puck on his stick. You didn't see that much in the first couple games. So there's been progress and now we're anxious to see if he can take another big step tonight. Increased ice time, bigger role and again, playing with players who can do something offensively with a guy who can make plays."
With Thomas moving up, Ivan Barbashev will return to the lineup after also being a healthy scratch the past two games.
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Goalie Chad Johnson will make just his second start of the season tonight against the Hurricanes, who he's 7-3-1 with a 2.53 goals-against average and .919 save percentage against for his career.
With the amount of days off between games and playing in only one back-to-back on the season, Jake Allen has had the cage in 11 of the 12 games.
Johnson will be playing in his fourth game after coming on in relief of Allen twice.
"I'm excited to kind of get in there," said Johnson, who lost his only other start, 3-2 to Anaheim on Oct. 14. "Being my second start, it's been a long time trying to get in the games here or at least a start. I'm just excited to get another opportunity here.
"Obviously I knew early on that might be a possibility. Obviously things will always be adjusted depending on how the team is doing and where we are in the standings and just what they feel, obviously the coaching staff. I knew looking back now, it's tough to get in games with our schedule and the breaks we've had between games."
Yeo said they had this game scheduled for Johnson, who is 0-2-0 with a 3.27 GAA and .872 save percentage on the season, all along.
"We had this one circled on the calendar," Yeo said. "We haven't given him a start yet (in a while) and so, our schedule has allowed us to give Jake the reps and the opportunity. We've gotten Chad into a couple games but we've wanted to get him into a game here. It's a tough matchup for him tonight but when you get give that goalie that benchmark, a goal, you can see him dial up his focus in practice and I've got a good feeling that he'll be ready for the task tonight."
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Jay Bouwmeester will be a healthy scratch for the second time this season and be replaced by Jordan Schmaltz.
Or is Bouwmeester really healthy?
That's something Yeo hinted at today for the first time when he mentioned that Bouwmeester could use some more therapy for his surgically-repaired left hip.
"Obviously, it's difficult having a guy like 'Bouw' come out, but I think this is a good opportunity for 'Bouw,'" Yeo said. "I think first off, it's difficult for me as a coach, to see sort of everything, I don't want to say everything, but a large part of our struggles getting pinned on him. That's a shame because I see just what he's gone through in the last couple years. I see that physically, he's not there yet. So right now it's a good opportunity for him to get some extra therapy on his hip, to get some extra work in at practice. Physically he's not there yet and we can't ask him, and it's impossible, but when I watch the games, first off, scoring chance-wise, yes, some of them end up in the back of the net, some of them are glaring, there's a lot of focus on them right now and the ones that he's making seem to end up in the back of the net, but I can tell you it's not as bad as what it's being made out to be and he's getting closer to getting back to being the player we think he can be."
Schmaltz will play for the ninth time in 12 games after being a healthy scratch the past two. He was skating with Bouwmeester and Joel Edmundson in practice Monday.
"For me, I don't really try and worry about it," Schmaltz said. "I think for me, it's just kind of stay around the team, go about my business each day and when my number's called like it is today you just gotta be ready. Especially in the past, I think I've gotten a lot better at how to handle maybe coming out of the lineup and coming back in. You just gotta trust your game and bring what you can to the team and do what you do, and live with the results.
"We have seven defensemen, eight with 'Bobbo' [Robert Bortuzzo], that can play. Even down in San Antonio there's guys that can play, too. So I think with the organizational depth on defense sometimes you gotta come out of the lineup. I'm just gonna try and come in today and make it hard on them, and hopefully get the win and do my job."
If Bouwmeester is not completely healthy, it makes it very peculiar why a 35-year-old defenseman coming off major surgery played 19-plus minutes a game in eight of the 11 games he played, including five of them at 20-plus minutes.
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St. Louisan Pat Maroon will start a game on the fourth line tonight for the first time this season.
Maroon has seven points, which isn't too bad, for 12 games, and has been effective on the power play but it's obvious he's squeezing the stick trying to score that first goal in front of the hometown fans.
"For sure," Yeo said when asked if Maroon is a guy squeezing the stick. "We've got a lot of guys, but that's whether it's our team or the individuals.
"We can't get caught up looking at the big picture because you can't go out and play one game and make up for you plus-minus or the fact you don't have a goal or don't have as many points as you want. Let's put the focus on tonight and have a little five-game segment, whatever the case is, let's narrow our focus and when you do those things, you'll climb out of it. That's the same thing for our team right now. We can't get caught up in the start. Let's just build here. Let's make sure we come tonight. Let's make sure we feel real good about the work ethic we bring and the game that we played and if we keep doing that night after night we'll like where we're at."
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Another guy admittedly squeezing the stick is left wing Jaden Schwartz, who comes in with just one goal in 10 games (four points total).
Schwartz will never be questioned for his work ethic. It's the staple of his game, but in the past, that work ethic has translated well into offensive production not only for himself but his linemates.
It hasn't been the case thus far.
"It haven't been playing my best," Schwartz said. "Obviously there's been flashes. There's certain games better than others, but I think consistently, my game hasn't been where it needs to be at. Tomorrow I can try and get some momentum that way and help us to win some games.
"You can put your finger on a few things. I think puck touches haven't been there. I think not enough zone time. That's a key factor as well and making plays when they're there. Sometimes you're overthinking a little too much. When things aren't going well, you might be gripping it a little bit. I've been in this situation before and you kind of go through these different phases throughout the year and feel like I'll come out of it here."
Schwartz has played the majority of the past two seasons with Schenn, and trying to ignite a fire again, Yeo put the Schwartz-Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko line back together this season to see if they could re-create some of the early-season magic the trip had to start last season, and it just didn't materialize.
"Obviously we need 'Schwartzy' to be involved in the offense the way that we know the way he's capable of," Yeo said. "I think that confidence is a big part of it for 'Schwartzy' right now. You can tell that he's pressing. You can see it in his game, he tries so hard out there. He puts so much effort into every shift that he plays that I just think he's grinding a little bit mentally. It will come, I'm not worried about 'Schwartzy'. He's a guy, we'll make an adjustment on the power play tomorrow, and if we can try to get him a few more puck touches, maybe that gets him a little bit better feel. I think the line that he's playing with today, part of that, with the mindset of let's try to surround him with players that can get him the feel and the confidence in his game that will help him produce because effort-wise it's never a question with him."
Schwartz said he's been looking for that one game that can get him going and believes it will come.
"When pucks aren't going in, you seem to grip it a little bit things just aren't bouncing your way, but I think mentally you've just got to stay with it and try work on a few things and make a couple adjustments," Schwartz said. "I don't ever like to let my work ethic deviate. I like to always keep that, but I still think offensively, there's maybe different holes I can jump in or more plays that can be made. I'm not a flashy player, so I've just got to keep it simple and be harder on the puck and be harder around the net. That's where I score most of my goals."
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Center Ryan O'Reilly, who will play with Schwartz and Tarasenko tonight, puts his seven-game point streak (four goals, eight assists) on the line, which is one short of his career-high.
Tarasenko has a four-game point streak (four goals, one assist).
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The Blues' projected lineup:
Jaden Schwartz-Ryan O'Reilly-Vladimir Tarasenko
Robby Fabbri-Robert Thomas-David Perron
Zach Sanford-Tyler Bozak-Alexander Steen
Pat Maroon-Ivan Barbashev-Oskar Sundqvist
Carl Gunnarsson-Alex Pietrangelo
Vince Dunn-Colton Parayko
Joel Edmundson-Jordan Schmaltz
Chad Johnson will start in goal; Jake Allen will be the backup.
Jay Bouwmeester and Nikita Soshnikov are healthy scratches. Brayden Schenn (upper body) and Robert Bortuzzo (lower body) are out.
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The Hurricanes' projected lineup:
Warren Foegele-Jordan Staal-Justin Williams
Micheal Ferland-Sebastian Aho-Teuvo Teravainen
Jordan Martinook-Lucas Wallmark-Andrei Svechnikov
Brock McGinn-Nicolas Roy-Valentin Zykov
Jaccob Slavin-Dougie Hamilton
Calvin de Haan-Justin Faulk
Trevor van Riemsdyk-Brett Pesce
Curtis McElhinney will start in goal; Scott Darling will be the backup.
Haydn Fleury is the healthy scratch. Victor Rask (hand) and Petr Mrazek (lower body) are out.