Thursday, October 3, 2013

(10-3-13) Predators-Blues Gameday Lineup

By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Will he or won't he? That was the question surrounding the status of the Blues' Brenden Morrow for tonight's season-opener.

Morrow, 34, was still in the process of finalizing the paperwork for his working visa. He was not on the ice for the morning skate as the Blues were preparing for the 2013-14 opener against the Nashville Predators (7:30 p.m. on FSN, KMOX 1120-AM and Y-98.FM).

But the Carlyle, Saskatchewan was able to finalize all his paperwork and he will be in the lineup tonight.

If Morrow was unable to finalize his paperwork, Magnus Paajarvi was going to slide into Morrow's spot alongside Derek Roy and Chris Stewart.

"We'll just see where Brenden's at," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said after the morning skate. "He's getting his paperwork done now, so if he's back in time, he'll play. If not, Magnus will go into that hole."

When asked if Morrow could play tonight, Hitchcock said: "I don't know. It's up to the government."

Paajarvi, acquired from Edmonton in the David Perron trade, has been working his way up the ladder after taking time to adjust to a new team and a new system.

He began training camp playing with fellow Swede Patrik Berglund and Vladimir Tarasenko but slipped down the ladder a bit.

But as Hitchcock has pointed out in the last week to 10 days, Paajarvi is catching up to the tempo of the system.

"It's been a progression," Paajarvi said. "I didn't have everything, but it's getting there. Still working on it. It's got to be to the point where I go on my instincts. That's where I'm going towards. That's what I want and that's when you play your best hockey, when you go on your instincts. ... Hopefully it's an instinct right now.

"I've been on a couple teams now, even back home, everyone has different systems. You have act as professional as can be and just get into that system. It shouldn't be an issue. The only thing that's tough is you have to work all over the ice. I think that's a good thing. That's what winning teams come out of. That's definitely not an issue."

Stewart, who will be introduced to new linemates this season, welcomed the idea of playing with Paajarvi if Morrow is unable to play.

"I'd love to play with a guy like Magnus," Stewart said. "His speed is unbelievable with the way he can skate. It's great. He plays that straight-ahead hockey. He's shifty with the puck. He's a lot more skilled than a lot of people give him credit for. I think he'll be good tonight.

"It's always tough when you get traded. When I first got traded here, they started using terms in hockey I've never heard before in my life. I thought I was in university science class. I didn't really know what was going on. It's going to take a lot of adjustment, but he's a smart player and once he gets used to the systems and the way we do things around here, he could be really effective."

- - -

With the day finally here, the Blues will throw four weeks' worth of hard work over training camp into a regular season for the first time tonight, and Hitchcock believes his team is ready for the long journey.

"I think we're built for the long haul, long haul during games, long haul during the season," Hitchcock said. "Some teams have the star power going. We've got a lot of durable players who can play both ends of the game and both sides of the puck.

"I think we're built for the long haul. I think we're a hardened team. We're going to need it. ... I like the fact we're built for the long haul. We've got more people that can play on the power play than we've ever had. We've got more people that can kill penalties. We've got four lines ... when people talk about four lines, we've got four lines. We're confident. ... We've got some real durability in our team and I think we're going to need it at the end."

- - -

Hitchcock said he watched the game between the Anaheim Ducks and Colorado Avalanche and saw the spat towards the end of the game between Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau and Avs' Patrick Roy.

It stemmed from what Roy thought was a dirty hit to the knee of top overall pick Nathan MacKinnon by the Ducks' Ben Lovejoy earlier in the game of a 6-1 Avs win.

After a Ducks goal in the waning seconds, both teams had their fourth-line players on the ice, or enforcer-type players, and fisticuffs ensued as well as the coaches behind the benches.

Roy was angry at Boudreau for his young player being hit and Boudreau was angry at Roy, saying the Avs' rookie coach was chirping his players on the ice.

Both coaches were visibly upset and Roy nearly shoved the middle partition separating the teams' benches onto Boudreau, to which Hitchcock joked this morning: "Bruce, he could have had a new middle name ... pancake," Hitchcock said. "He could have got squished.

"If that thing goes any further, Bruce has got the best weight-loss program going. Wow!"

But Hitchcock went on to say that Roy's actions have no place in the NHL.

"I saw that firsthand. That's junior hockey," Hitchcock said. "It's got no place in our game. You can't be pushing barriers down or whatever. It's just got no place in our game.

"I've been involved in some of those incidents a long time ago and they are really, really scary."

- - -

The Blues' opening night lineup:

Alexander Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

Brenden Morrow-Derek Roy-Chris Stewart

Jaden Schwartz-Patrik Berglund-Vladimir Tarasenko

Vladimir Sobotka-Maxim Lapierre-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Jordan Leopold-Kevin Shattenkirk

Barret Jackman-Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak will open as the starter in goal; Brian Elliott is the backup.

The Blues have no injuries. Healthy scratches include LW Magnus Paajarvi, RW Adam Cracknell as well as D Ian Cole.

- - -

The Predators' projected lineup:

Nick Spaling-Matt Cullen-Eric Nystrom

Gabriel Bourque-Mike Fisher-Craig Smith

Colin Wilson-David Legwand-Patric Hornqvist

Rich Clune-Paul Gaustad-Matt Hendricks

Roman Josi-Shea Weber

Seth Jones-Mattias Ekholm

Victor Bartley-Kevin Klein

Pekka Rinne will start in goal; Carter Hutton is the backup.

Injuries include F Viktor Stalberg (shoulder) and C Filip Forsberg (lower-body). Healthy scratches include F Taylor Beck and D Ryan Ellis.

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