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Blues Get Stastny Back Tonight vs. 'Canes

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues

ST. LOUIS - Paul Stastny will be wearing a cage tonight when he returns to the lineup after missing two games with an upper-body injury.

Stastny was hit in the cheek by a puck in the first period last Friday in Anaheim but has been skating with the team since Tuesday.

“Yesterday felt good and every day has been better,” Stastny said after today’s morning skate. “This is what we were hoping for. I’m good to go.”

The Blues will get their top center back as they look to extend their win streak to three games tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes (7 p.m., FSMW, KMOX). The Blues earned two points in a difficult game Saturday in Los Angeles, then put on a convincing performance Tuesday for a 5-2 win against the New Jersey Devils.

Tonight, they just need more of the same.

“The next three are at home, but this one is important and we just have to try and build from there,” Stastny said. “We had a stretch where we were losing games, now we’re finding ways to win and we’ve got to keep building on that.”

“It hasn’t been clean, and it’s not going to be when you’re missing a third of your roster,” Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said. “But our sprit keeps going. Guys deserve a lot of credit. We’ve really battled for three or four weeks now, and it’s pretty impressive when you watch it.”

The Hurricanes got off to a slow start but have been playing well lately, winning three straight and going 6-2-2 in their last 10 games. Carolina has moved over the .500 mark with a 19-18-7 record and is coming off of a 3-2 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday. Defenseman Justin Faulk leads the team with 32 points (14 goals, 18 assists) in 44 games, while Eric Staal (28 points) and Kris Versteeg (27 points) are second and third, respectively.

“Carolina plays a lot like all the teams that are coming in here. New Jersey is quick, Carolina is quick, Montreal is really quick. Our challenge is that we’re not built like they are, and they’re not built like us,” Hitchcock said. “Who controls the tempo, who controls the critical ice is going to have success. When we control critical ice, we’re good. And when we don’t, we’re chasing from behind and that’s not what we want to do.

“They’ve got a bunch of young defenseman like we do that aren’t afraid to play, aren’t afraid to join the rush, aren’t afraid to play with some risk in their game and that’s hard to defend.”

BRUISING BLUELINERS

Speaking of young defenseman, the Blues have found a pretty good defensive pairing in Robert Bortuzzo and rookie Joel Edmundson.

The two have been giving the Blues a physical edge, and it’s been very effective in the last few games.

“We challenge each other to see who is going to be more physical,” Edmundson said. “We complement each other well out there, and so far, it’s been good. (We) want to show our physical presence in the first period early so they might double-guess dumping it in our corner the next time. That definitely gives us an advantage.”

“We trust them against good players,” Hitchcock added. “They’ve got an edge to their game, they’re always going to have an edge. They play a little bit reckless and there’s times you’re going to like that and times you’re going to worry about it. But we like it because we can play them against good players.”

PROJECTED LINES

David Backes did not participate in today’s skate, but Hitchcock said he was simply taking a “maintenance day.” Carl Gunnarsson skated today, but he’s not ready to return just yet.

Below are the projected lines for tonight, but as always, subject to change.

Forwards

Alexander Steen - Paul Stastny - Troy Brouwer

Robby Fabbri - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko

Patrik Berglund - David Backes - Scottie Upshall

Dmitrij Jaskin - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves

Defense

Kevin Shattenkirk - Alex Pietrangelo

Chris Butler - Colton Parayko

Joel Edmundson - Robert Bortuzzo

Goalie

Brian Elliott

BLUE NOTES

Fans are encouraged to arrive early to tonight's game for a special puck drop celebrating St. Louis.

The Blues have won two straight games against the Hurricanes and seven of the last eight (6-1-1). Carolina’s last win in St. Louis came via the shootout on Dec. 11, 2010.

Brian Elliott will play in his 300th career game tonight, becoming the 20th active goaltender to reach that mark. Since joining the Blues in 2011-12, Elliott’s .660 win percentage is second only to Washington’s Braden Holtby (.672).

New Jersey’s Bobby Farnham was suspended four games by the NHL Department of Player Safety for his hit Tuesday on Dmitrij Jaskin. The department called the hit “violent and predatory” and a “calculated decision by a player seeking retribution.”

Fans dressing up for tonight’s Star Wars game WILL be allowed to wear masks and carry light sabers. All guests will be required to remove their mask upon entering Scottrade Center or when purchasing alcohol.

The Blues will post three clues on Snapchat (stlouisbluesnhl) during tonight’s game showing the location of a miniature Han Solo character. The first fan to find Solo will win a pair of tickets to see Star Wars at the Omnimax courtesy of the St. Louis Science Center and will participate in a light saber battle during the game for a chance to win a Jaden Schwartz autographed bobblehead.

Ronald McDonald House volunteers will be selling $1 scratch-off tickets for a chance to win meet-and-greets with select players after the game, Blues tickets, and food, beverage and retail discounts.

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