By LOU KORAC
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The Blues will make one lineup change when the Western Conference Final begins today in Game 1 against the San Jose Sharks.
Defenseman Carl Gunnarsson will not dress and be replaced by Robert Bortuzzo.
Gunnarsson sustained a lower-body injury in Game 7 against the Dallas Stars.
Blues coach Craig Berube confirmed the change, and Bortuzzo, who has played in six Stanley Cup Playoff games, will be paired with Vince Dunn.
The rotating defensive players doesn't seem to bother the Blues, who have used both Bortuzzo and Gunnarsson since Gunnarsson returned from injury.
"We've had interchange throughout the whole year," defenseman Colton Parayko said. "We obviously have a really good d-core and I think that [Bortuzzo] coming in, it's obviously a big body, a guy that's hard to play against and that's just another guy we can play. We're really looking forward to having 'Borts' in the lineup and watching him do his thing."
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One area the Blues have excelled in is their discipline and staying out of the penalty box.
Going into tonight's game, the Blues have a streak of 126:44 without taking a penalty. It dates back to the first period of Game 6 against Dallas when Pat Maroon was called for goaltender interference.
Of the four remaining teams, the Sharks are second at 18.5 percent conversion rate and 10th in the playoffs behind the Boston Bruins, who are first overall at an astounding 30 percent.
"We've been a disciplined team all along in the playoffs," Berube said. "I don't expect anything different, but emotions will be running high, this building's a tough building to play in, We know that. But I think we had that tough challenge in Winnipeg, a tough building. They're similar buildings. I don't see an issue with that. I think our guys will be ready to go from the drop of the puck. We've got to get to our game as quickly as possible and we've done a good job of that on the road for the most part in the playoffs."
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One of the biggest challenges for the Blues is to keep the large San Jose forwards from parking in front of goalie Jordan Binnington.
Berube acknowledges that the Sharks like to clog up the slot and top of the crease, using defensemen Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson as filters, guys who like getting pucks to the net quick.
"They might be the best team in the league like that going to the net, getting tips on pucks and things like that," Berube said. "Karlsson and Burns do a great job of getting the puck off quick. They really do a good job of shooting off the pass. In our end, we're going to have to do a good job of getting in shooting lanes on Karlsson and Burns, getting tighter to them as much as we can. But it's below the dots that we've got to box people out and get sticks. That's very important. A lot of their goals come that way. It's going to be a challenge, but it's going to be boxing guys out, getting on sticks and in shooting lanes boxing shots."
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The Blues' projected lineup:
Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko
Sammy Blais-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron
Pat Maroon-Tyler Bozak-Robert Thomas
Ivan Barbashev-Oskar Sundqvist-Alexander Steen
Joel Edmundson-Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Bouwmeester-Colton Parayko
Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo
Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Jake Allen will be the backup. Healthy scratches will be Robby Fabbri, Michael Del Zotto, Zach Sanford, Mackenzie MacEachern, Chris Thorburn and Ville Husso. Carl Gunnarsson (lower body) is day-to-day.
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The Sharks' projected lineup:
Timo Meier-Logan Couture-Gustav Nyquist
Evander Kane-Tomas Hertl-Joe Pavelski
Marcus Sorensen-Joe Thornton-Kevin Labanc
Joonas Donskoi-Barclay Goodrow-Melker Karlsson
Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon-Erik Karlsson
Joakim Ryan-Justin Braun
Martin Jones will start in goal; Aaron Dell will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Micheal Haley, Dylan Gambrell, Tim Heed, Lukas Radil, Radim Simek and Antti Suomela. The Sharks report no injuries.
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