By LOU KORAC
CHICAGO -- Robert Bortuzzo will be back in the lineup for the Blues when they open a two-game trip against the Chicago Blackhawks today at 7:30 p.m. (FS-MW, ESPN 101.1-FM).
Bortuzzo is eligible to return after serving a four-game suspension stemming from a cross-check on Nashville forward Viktor Arvidsson on Nov. 23.
"More moving past it," Bortuzzo said of the incident. "You never want to see someone get hurt on a play. I'm just playing hard. Unfortunate a guy got injured. Moving past it and getting ready to go."
Bortuzzo will be paired with Vince Dunn against the Blackhawks tonight and playing in his 12th game. The Blues assigned Derrick Pouliot to San Antonio of the American Hockey League on Sunday to make room.
"That's the goal. I've been skating well and practicing hard. I'll just get back in there with Dunner," Bortuzzo said. "We've done some good things together. Hopefully just kind of build off some of the games we've been playing before the break here. It's going to be a fun game to play in. It's always nice to jump into a game like that. ... Any time you're sitting out, you're just chomping at the bit to get back in there. Team's playing great hockey. We've been able to put some guys in and out. I'm just excited to be around the game, teammates and playing."
Blues coach Craig Berube opted for Bortuzzo over Carl Gunnarsson, who missed the past two games due to illness but appeared ready to go after taking part in the morning skate; he'll be a healthy scratch instead.
"He knows if you cross-check somebody like that, there's going to be some repercussions," Berube said of Bortuzzo. "It was a (knee-jerk) reaction. He plays a hard game, but he's normally not doing stuff like that. He'll play his game. I think he'll be fine."
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The Blues (17-5-6), who have a nine-game road point streak (7-0-2) heading into the matchup against the shorthanded Blackhawks (10-11-5), will insert Nathan Walker onto the top line with Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz and keep Robert Thomas with Tyler Bozak and Ivan Barbashev.
It's a move Berube made mid-game Saturday against Pittsburgh and one he'll stick with, at least to start tonight.
"There was nothing going on with that line at the time during the game and so I made that switch and we ended up scoring a goal and had a couple good opportunities, but other than that Walker can really skate and get on top of people," Berube said. "Just keep him there and see how it goes. He's going to be good for that line, brings a good work ethic, skating, getting on top of people. Robby Thomas, he's played with Bozak a ton, so they have good chemistry together and they ended up getting a big goal too.
"[Walker] had a great training camp and then went down to the American [Hockey] League and he's been their best player down there. He's going well right now."
Walker scored against the Penguins, a key goal in the second period to give the Blues a 2-1 lead, in a 5-2 win.
"I don't change anything in regards to my game," Walker said. "I think there's a reason why I'm there, so that's my game and I don't want to change anything with that. I obviously want to make whatever works with them, so any question I have, I'm sure they'll answer and help me out. ... They're both great players. Anyone can see that. They make such great plays in the o-zone and the d-zone. I've got to try and adapt to that. Hopefully I can make some of those plays too."
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Tonight will mark the Blues' third in four days, and eighth in 14 days with a lot of travel and hard, heavy games.
The Blues have managed their time and energy properly most of this stretch and will have to do so once again after coming off a three-game trip, a quick game home, and back on the road for two that will wrap up Wednesday in Pittsburgh, their ninth game in 16 days.
Energy will be key.
"It is, but still, we've got to practice and get some things in there at times," Berube said. "We've just got to make sure we're not out on the ice too long. We still got to work on things. When we can, we'll get out there and practice. It was a morning skate today because of back-to-back games and traveled. Just have a morning skate, but we still have to get out there at times and make sure we're having a full practice and keep working on things. We've got to keep improving."
Defenseman Colton Parayko, who averages 23 minutes a game, said the game itself is the least of the worries about proper body management.
"Not even in the game, just in general," Parayko said. "You need to take care of yourself, take care of your body. Obviously it's tough playing three in four and then you're traveling between the two, but I feel like that's kind of been our travel schedule a bit this year. We've had a few tough back to backs and things like that. We've done a good job responding every time. We've just got to make sure we work together. I think when we stay connected and we play like that, it just makes our jobs easy trying not to give us any extra work. If you put in the right work and the hard work, do it the proper way, we should be fine."
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Jake Allen will get the nod tonight in goal.
Allen, who will start for the third time in the past five games after Jordan Binnington started four straight and six of seven, is 4-0-2 with a 2.50 goals-against average and .923 save percentage on the road this season. Going back to last season, Allen is 6-1-5 with a 2.21 GAA and .928 save percentage; he's stopped 348 of 375 shots in 734:00 minutes. In his only regulation loss in this stretch, he allowed one goal in a 2-0 loss against Ottawa.
"Both goalies have played really well, but it's a tough schedule," Berube said. "We can't overplay one goalie and we're going to need both guys. Jake's done a great job of going in there and winning games for us. Right now, it's going to be a lot of rotation."
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The Blackhawks will play a forward short tonight; they also have a plethora of injuries they're dealing with and goalie Robin Lehner will miss the game because he's sick, and the Hawks needed to recall a goalie from Rockford to back up Corey Crawford tonight, and with Andrew Shaw (undisclosed) suddenly out, Chicago is in need of a forward but can't recall one because they're up against the cap.
Chicago is already without Duncan Keith (groin), Dylan Strome (concussion protocol) and Drake Caggiula (concussion protocol).
"It's unfortunate for them obviously, but it doesn't change our mindset, or our game plan or how we play the Hawks because they're one short," Berube said. "We've got to be ready to go. They're a good team over there and they're a good team at home."
What it means is the Blues will probably see a double dose of Patrick Kane, who has 62 points (24 goals, 38 assists) in 62 games against the Blues.
"He's a player that makes plays," Parayko said of Kane. "You've just got to know where he is at all times on the ice. Any time he's on the ice, he's dangerous and can make things happen.
"I just think any time you play Chicago, it's a rivalry, a good rivalry. They have a good team over there. They have a lot of good players that can make things happen. If you give them the time and space and don't approach them the proper way, they'll take advantage of it."
Berube added, "He's probably going to get extra looks out there with another line. We're probably going to have to keep our eye on that too."
Kane, who is on a 15-game point streak (11 goals, 13 assists), is impressed with how the Blues have managed their injuries and how they've managed the season thus far defending the Stanley Cup.
"Very impressive and you look at their lineup and they have a lot of injuries too," Kane said. "They obviously have a formula that works over there. Started with the back half of last year and into the playoffs and winning and what they've done at the start of this year is pretty impressive too. It'll be a tough matchup."
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Blues forward Ivan Barbashev has six points (two goals, four assists) in a three-game point streak.
Blues forward David Perron has eight points (three goals, five assists) in a seven-game point streak.
Blues center Ryan O'Reilly has six points (one goal, five assists) in a four-game point streak.
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The Blues' projected lineup:
Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Nathan Walker
Zach Sanford-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron
Ivan Barbashev-Tyler Bozak-Robert Thomas
Mackenzie MacEachern-Jacob de la Rose-Troy Brouwer
Colton Parayko-Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Bouwmeester-Justin Faulk
Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo
Jake Allen will start in goal; Jordan Binnington will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Carl Gunnarsson and Austin Poganski. Vladimir Tarasenko (shoulder), Alexander Steen (ankle), Sammy Blais (wrist) and Oskar Sundqvist (lower body) are all out.
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The Blackhawks' projected lineup:
Brandon Saad-Jonathan Toews-Alex Nylander
Alex DeBrincat-Ryan Carpenter-Patrick Kane
Zack Smith-Kirby Dach-Anton Wedin
Dominik Kubalik-David Kampf
Olli Maatta-Connor Murphy
Calvin de Haan-Brent Seabrook
Erik Gustafsson-Slater Koekkoek
Corey Crawford will start in goal; Kevin Lankinen will be the backup.
The Blackhawks have no healthy scratches. Duncan Keith (groin), Dylan Strome (concussion protocol), Drake Caggiula (concussion protocol), Robin Lehner (illness) and Andrew Shaw (undisclosed) are all out.
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