Saturday, March 29, 2014

(3-29-14) Stars-Blues Gameday Lineup

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Ken Hitchcock's lineup doesn't usually change the following game after a win. But in the case of the Blues, who have more depth than usual, two changes will be made for tonight's game against the Dallas Stars.

When the Blues (50-16-7) host the Stars (35-27-11) at 7 p.m. (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM), left wing Chris Porter and defenseman Ian Cole will be in the lineup and left wing Magnus Paajarvi and defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo will be out of the lineup.

Cole, who hasn't played since March 19 at Chicago, will replace Colaiacovo not because of poor play. In fact, Colaiacovo, who has a goal and four points in 18 games and has arguably played his best hockey in a Blues uniform, will give way to Cole simply to get him into what Hitchcock calls "the mix."

"We want to see Cole play more," Hitchcock said. "I think he's underrated from the red line in. He's also going to get power play time today. Not just tokens at the end, but I think he's going to get some significant power play time today and we'll see how he looks. 

"I'm not experimenting. I have a plan in the back of my head if tomorrow was Game 1, where we want to go. I also feel like we're in a position where we need to get more people involved in the solutions here. So I want to see other people play and not leave people on the sidelines too long. The focus is more including as many people as we can."

Cole will play with Kevin Shattenkirk, and the two have a history together in junior and the United States Developmental Program's U-18 squad.

"It'll be good," Cole said. "Give (Shattenkirk) the opportunity to jump whenever he wants pretty much and I'll be back there."

As for Porter, he will be inserted into the lineup out of necessity. Porter, who has one assist in 16 games, has played his way into the mix with his tenacity.

"(Porter) wins all the board battles," Hitchcock said. "The fourth line's got to win a lot more board battles than they're winning right now. It's one and done and it's not good enough. We need to get more play from our fourth line, more sustained pressure, more weight and tenacity brought in. Every time it seems like we play him on our team, our team plays really well. He plays really sound. He's got a great conscience, he's a smart player. If he can finish on all the empty nets, he'd probably have 20 goals this year even in a limited role. He wins all the board battles and that's exactly what we need from that line right now."

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After picking up his 30th point of the season Thursday against the Minnesota Wild, Vladimir Sobotka gave the Blues 11 players this season with 30 points or more, which is No. 1 in the NHL.

Balance is the key for the Blues, who don't rely on that one go-to guy for point production.

Among the 30-point club are T.J. Oshie (60), Alexander Steen (58), David Backes (55), Jaden Schwartz (53), Alex Pietrangelo (49), Vladimir Tarasenko (43), Shattenkirk (42), Derek Roy (37), Jay Bouwmeester (36), Patrik Berglund (32) and Sobotka (30).

"I think some players are playing to their potential, but I think the other thing we've done is really since training camp, we've put in so many competitive drills during the hockey practices that it's impacted the way guys are outworking goaltenders," Hitchcock said. "I think it's just our mindset. 

"We play defense to create offense rather than just play defense to play defense rather than just play defense to play defense. Our mindset is how fast can we play defense to get it back in the offensive zone. We have this reputation of being a big team. We're not really that big, but we are quick. We can create turnovers and if we get in the offensive zone, I think that's kind of the focus for us."

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* Steen will play in his 600th career game tonight. He has 154 goals and 361 points.

* With a victory tonight, the Blues will match the 1999-2000 team for most wins in franchise history.

* The Blues are 11-2-1 in their past 14 and 8-0-2 in their past 10 home games.

* The Blues are 22-5-7 in one-goal games, which is third-best in the NHL.

* The Blues' penalty kill is second in the NHL at 85.9 percent. They have killed 59 of 64 attempts since Feb. 1.

* The line of Steen, Backes and Oshie have 15 points the past two games and they're a combined plus-17.

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The Blues' probable lineup:

Alexander Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

Patrik Berglund-Vladimir Sobotka-Jaden Schwartz

Brenden Morrow-Derek Roy-Steve Ott

Chris Porter-Maxim Lapierre-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman-Roman Polak

Ian Cole-Kevin Shattenkirk

Ryan Miller will get the start in goal; Brian Elliott will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Jordan Leopold, Carlo Colaiacovo, Magnus Paajarvi and Dmitrij Jaskin. Vladimir Tarasenko (thumb) is out.

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The Stars' projected lineup:

Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin-Valeri Nichushkin

Antoine Roussel-Cody Eakin-Ryan Garbutt

Shawn Horcoff-Vernon Fiddler-Colton Sceviour

Ray Whitney-Dustin Jeffrey-Alex Chiasson

Alex Goligoski-Trevor Daley

Jordie Benn-Brenden Dillon

Aaron Rome-Sergei Gonchar

Kari Lehtonen is expected to start in goal; Tim Thomas would be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Kevin Connauton and Chris Mueller, who the Stars called up from their American Hockey League affiliate, the Texas Stars. Erik Cole (upper body) and Rich Peverley (irregular heartbeat) are out.

Stars coach Lindy Ruff said Seguin (soreness), Whitney (sickness) and a host of other players are battling injury and illness. Some are questionable for tonight.

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