Saturday, December 14, 2019

(12-14-19) Blackhawks-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Another injured Blues forward will mark his return to the lineup tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Alexander Steen will get back in after missing 16 games with a left high ankle sprain. Steen, who has five assists and is a plus-2 in 17 games this season, is likely to join the line with Ryan O'Reilly and David Perron.

The Blues (19-8-6) held an optional skate and didn't run lines, but Steen will go in for veteran Troy Brouwer, who will be a healthy scratch.

"I think the last week to 10 days was a little bit more frustrating  than the start," Steen said. "I think I was getting really close. It just couldn't get over that last thing, but I feel good and ready to go tonight, so I'm excited.

"I've had this (injury) too before. They're all a little bit different depending on ... I was a little bit younger the last time it happened. You know what you need to be doing for the injury, but also for conditioning and making sure you're ready to go when you get back as well."

Should Steen go on the second line, it will slide Tyler Bozak back to center the third line Ivan Barbashev and move Robert Thomas back to the right wing.

Steen will help the Blues, who are 1-3-0 their past four games but defeated Vegas 4-2 on Thursday to snap a three-game losing streak, tighten things up defensively and on the penalty kill too.

"He plays the right way and effort base, works extremely hard out there, does all the right things, both ends of the ice," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "Kills penalties. It's good to have him back.

"He'll definitely voice his opinion and make sure we're doing things the proper way, which is good to happen."

Steen is anxious and eager to get back into the battle with his teammates.

"Yeah, that's obviously why that last week is a little bit towards the frustrating side," Steen said. "You're itching to get back with the guys, so I'm excited to get back in with them tonight.

"... Tonight's a rivalry against Chicago on a Saturday night, so it should be a good atmosphere in the building and a fun one for me to get back into."

Also, Zach Sanford, who was in concussion protocol and missed the past two games, was on the ice and is healthy enough to play, but Berube chose not to put him back in just yet.

"He probably is," Berube said. "It was my decision to keep him out tonight."

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Berube said that Carl Gunnarsson's upper-body injury shouldn't keep the defenseman out long-term, but being placed on injured-reserve will keep him out at least a week; he was injured Thursday against Vegas.

"I think so. I believe we'll know next week, the middle of the week, we'll know a lot more," Berube said. "That's probably a good timeline. We'll know a lot more in the middle of the week next week."

In the meantime, Niko Mikkola was on the ice for the optional practice Saturday morning but will not play; he was recalled on Friday from San Antonio of the American Hockey League to replace Gunnarsson's roster spot.

"Of course I'm excited. First time to get the call-up," Mikkola said. "I just try to enjoy and wait for (an) opportunity.

"... It feels different now. I feel like I earned it. I just try to work hard and wait for the opportunity and try to be ready."

Berube said he's liked what he's heard of Mikkola's game with the Rampage; he had eight points (two goals, six assists) in 26 games.

"He's been good," Berube said. "He is what he is, he's a solid defending defenseman, big, closes plays out, an aggressive player. He's got a real good stick at defending. 

"He's played well. I thought he had a good camp here and we like him a lot. He's improved his puck movement, which is good. That's important. I think he's got a good future. We'll see if we can get a look at him up here. We'll see how he goes."

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The Blackhawks (12-14-6) have struggled at times mightily this season and are 0-2-1 their past three games, getting outscored 14-6 in the process. Chicago, which is also been hit with a rash of injuries, is 3-7-2 the past 12 games.

Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton knows the challenge against the Blues is daunting.

"They're a veteran team, and they know how to win," Colliton said. "They don't beat themselves. They're under control, clean with the puck. I think their defensemen are big, smooth and clean. It makes it difficult to forecheck them, makes it difficult to create offense because they're inside you and they're big, and obviously their forwards play a really heavy forechecking game.

"It'll be a challenge for is, but I think we can take a page out of their book and be patient, take what they give. We don't need to win the game on the first shift, have a good start, give ourselves the opportunity to win the game over 60 minutes."

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Bozak will play in his 700th NHL game tonight. He has 415 points (152 goals, 263 assists). 

Thomas has a three-game point streak (one goal, two assists).

Blues goalie Jordan Binnington, who will get the start against Chicago's Corey Crawford, will face the Blackhawks for the first time.

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The Blues' projected lineup:

Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Jordan Kyrou

Alexander Steen-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron 

Ivan Barbashev-Robert Thomas-Tyler Bozak

Mackenzie MacEachern-Jacob de la Rose-Oskar Sundqvist

Colton Parayko-Alex Pietrangelo

Jay Bouwmeester-Justin Faulk

Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo

Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Jake Allen will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Troy Brouwer, Zach Sanford and Niko Mikkola. Vladimir Tarasenko (shoulder), Sammy Blais (wrist) and Carl Gunnarsson (upper body) are out.

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The Blackhawks' projected lineup:

Brandon Saad-Jonathan Toews-Dominik Kubalik

Alex DeBrincat-Dylan Strome-Patrick Kane

Zack Smith-David Kampf-Ryan Carpenter

Alex Nylander-Kirby Dach-Matthew Highmore

Olli Maatta-Brent Seabrook

Erik Gustafsson-Connor Murphy

Dennis Gilbert-Adam Boqvist 

Corey Crawford will start in goal; Robin Lehner will be the backup. 

Healthy scratches include Dylan Sikura and Slater Koekkoek. Duncan Keith (groin), Andrew Shaw (concussion protocol), Calvin de Haan (shoulder) and Drake Caggiula (concussion protocol) are out.

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