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Blues fourth line getting rewarded with more ice time

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues

DENVER - If you've been watching Blues games on TV lately and feel like every time you look, the fourth line of Scottie Upshall, Kyle Brodziak and Ryan Reaves are on the ice…

…it's because they are!

In the last five games, the Blues' fourth line has been used more often, seeing an average ice-time increase of almost three minutes per game more than the previous five-game stretch.

The increased responsibility is, at least in part, due to their effective play.

"Some of the matchups we've been giving them against top lines and D-zone face-off starts, we're not able to do those things if they're not on top of their game," said Blues Head Coach Mike Yeo. "They've been delivering. Obviously they've chipped in and helped us offensively some times, but it's the hard minutes they're giving us. 'Uppy' and 'Brodzy' both factor in on the penalty kill. You see us using those guys a lot in D-zone face-offs and using them a lot against top lines, and that frees up a lot of our offensive guys to do what they want to do."

"It's been good. I think 'Yeosy' is starting to trust us more," added Ryan Reaves. "I think we're playing against some top lines and shutting them down and putting some points on the board to add to it. It's good for the team when we can eat some of those minutes."

Since Feb. 1, the Blues have allowed the fewest goals (36) and the fewest even-strength goals (29) in the League. The penalty kill also ranks third overall in that span, denying 51 of 57 power-play chances from the opposition (89.5 percent).

Part of that success is about having everyone - not just one line - on the same page, and another part of it is good goaltending (Jake Allen have combined for seven shutouts on the road since Feb. 1). But don't underestimate the fourth line's contributions in shutting down opponents - both at even-strength and while shorthanded.

Video: Blues' fourth line getting more ice time

"It's nice to get out on the ice as much as we can," said Kyle Brodziak. "We've had a little bit of a different role. We have to be responsible and play a smart game. Hopefully we get to keep going and just keep playing smart hockey."

The line is contributing offensively, too - Scottie Upshall has scored in consecutive games for the first time as a Blue.

"I wouldn't mind if one of them would feed me a pass every once and awhile," Reaves joked. "But 'Uppy' is closing his eyes and shooting as usual, and somehow they're finding the net."

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