ST. LOUIS - With several defenseman out of the lineup due to injuries, the Blues have persevered and will get Jay Bouwmeester back tonight against the Penguins (7 p.m., NBCSN, KMOX).
Bouwmeester was injured Jan. 8 in Anaheim after taking a hard hit from Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf in the first period. He did not return to the game and has missed four games with what the team classified as an upper-body injury.
Bouwmeester has been skating for several days, though, and said he’s good to go tonight.
“I felt good yesterday and good enough to play (tonight),” Bouwmeester said after the morning skate. “I started pushing a little harder and felt good all day yesterday so I’m fine.”
“It’s big - I play pretty much the whole game with him,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said of getting his defensive partner back. “He’s obviously a great player, a big impact on the game on both ends of the ice. Anytime you get a player of that caliber back, an elite player, it’s just going to make your team better.”
Before the injury, Bouwmeester was hitting his stride. He has one goal and 10 assists this season and was skating as well as he has since a groin injury hampered him last season.
“He plays the heaviest 5-on-5 minutes on the team. He plays in every situation,” Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said. “Between 5-on-5 and the penalty kill, he plays the most minutes of anybody.”
“Anytime you miss a little bit of time, things seem like they’re going a little fast,” Bouwmeester said of trying to get up to speed. “I’ll pick it up pretty quick. We’re playing a team today that is playing pretty well, so that forces you to get right back into it.”
The Penguins come to town with points in four consecutive games, most recently beating the Carolina Hurricanes 5-0 on Sunday at Consol Energy Center. The Penguins are just 2-6-1 in the second night of back-to-back games.
Sidney Crosby has 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in his last 13 games and scored twice in the previous meeting between these teams - a 4-3 Penguins victory on Nov. 25 in Pittsburgh.
“We know what they bring,” Pietrangelo said. “They’ve been pretty good offensively as of late and their power play is obviously always dangerous, so for us, keep it 5-on-5, play good defense and that will take care of the rest.”
FABBRI ON FIRE
Robby Fabbri’s sweet toe-drag set up Jori Lehtera’s game-winning goal in overtime on Saturday vs. Montreal, providing yet another example of the rookie’s impressive skillset.
Fabbri also scored in the first period in that game, giving him a team-leading six goals over the Blues’ last 14 games.
“If you look at the goal, it’s a great play from Vladi (Tarasenko) there,” Fabbri said of Lehtera’s overtime winner. “A lot of credit goes to my linemates and to the team. I’m glad I’m helping and contributing.”
“He’s really earned his way,” Hitchcock said. “He’s a typical 19-year old, underage player where he’s hit some walls he’s run into from an energy standpoint. He’s such a competitive kid, he’s fought right through it… Right now, he’s not playing on the power play, not because he’s not a good power-play guy, but it gives him the energy on 5-on-5 play.”
Defenseman Andre Benoit will make his Blues debut tonight against the Penguins. Benoit signed a two-way contract with the Blues last July and has four goals and 21 assists in 37 games with the Chicago Wolves this season.
Benoit takes Robert Bortuzzo’s spot in the lineup. Hitchcock said Bortuzzo sustained a lower-body injury Saturday against Montreal.
“I’m excited,” Benoit said of his call up. “I want to come here and show what I can do and take it from there. I take pride in my defensive game first and foremost, and that allows my coaching staff to put me out there. From there I try to contribute offensively while I can, all the while being responsible in my own zone.”
Alexander Steen - Paul Stastny - Troy Brouwer
Robby Fabbri - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko
Patrik Berglund - David Backes - Ty Rattie
Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Colton Parayko - Kevin Shattenkirk
Joel Edmundson - Andre Benoit
Brian Elliott’s 46 saves on Saturday vs. Montreal were the most by a Blues goaltender at home since Curtis Joseph made 46 saves on April 11, 1993 against Minnesota. Elliott won his 150th career game Saturday and is 3-1-1 with a 2.43 goals-against average and a .927 save-percentage since Jake Allen was injured.
Jori Lehtera is on a four-game point streak (two goals, three assists), which includes his first career overtime goal on Saturday.
The first 15,000 fans at tonight’s game receive a “Department of Defense” poster courtesy of Midwest Bankcentre.