ST. LOUIS - When a versatile, all-around player like Alexander Steen gets placed on injured reserve and is expected to miss four weeks, you might expect the Blues to have to make significant changes.
After all, Steen is a critical component in even strength, power play and penalty kill situations.
So, just how different will the Blues look tonight when they host the San Jose Sharks at Scottrade Center? (7 p.m., NBCSN, KMOX).
Not much different at all, actually.
In fact, Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock will keep the lineup the exact same, except for slotting Magnus Paajarvi into Steen’s spot alongside David Backes and Patrik Berglund.
“We’re not going to re-invent the wheel,” Hitchcock said after Monday’s morning skate. “Both these teams play a similar style, both are playing really well. We’ll get a really good test and evaluation (of our lines) today and then see if we have to make some adjustments tomorrow.”
With many of the club’s top forwards missing significant time this season due to injury, the Blues feel well-prepared to deal with another one, but they know trying to fill the void left by Steen won’t be easy.
“Steener does everything for us,” said Blues forward Jaden Schwartz. “He’s a big guy in the locker room and on the ice and his play speaks for itself. He does everything, puts up numbers while playing against the other teams’ top line, plays in every situation. It’s going to take everyone, not just one guy replacing him.”
“I’m just going to do my thing and try to help the line out with (David) Backes and (Patrik) Berglund,” Paajarvi said. “When we have offense, we’ll go for it, and defensively, we’ll be solid. I’m not going to replace Steener, not a whole lot of guys can. I’m going to do what I do best and hopefully it works out.”
Hitchcock said Dmitrij Jaskin, who won’t play tonight, is likely to get a chance in Steen’s spot in the near future.
“They’re both players that have shown the ability to create scoring chances,” Hitchcock said of Paajarvi and Jaskin. “With Alex out, they’re going to have that opportunity.”
On Sunday, the Blues activated goalie Jake Allen from injured reserve, and he’ll serve as the backup tonight against the Sharks.
Allen sustained a lower-body injury on Jan. 8 against Anaheim and has missed 17 games. At the time of the injury, Allen ranked fifth in win percentage (.629), seventh in goals-against average (2.17), ninth in save-percentage (.924) and second in shutouts (5).
Since the injury, Brian Elliott has taken the job and ran with it, posting a 12-3-3 record. He has surged to the top spot in the League in goals-against average (2.06) and save-percentage (.931).
Hitchcock said Allen would be evaluated in practice tomorrow and could start in one of the back-to-backs this weekend in Nashville or Carolina.
“I’m excited to be back and excited to contribute in any way I can,” Allen said. “Brian’s been the best goalie in the last month hands down, and he’s got our team in a great position for a playoff push and good chance in our division. If it wasn’t for him, things could be a lot different, I think. I’m certainly happy for him and it’s great to see.
“But I’m ready to go. Give me a chance and I’m ready to go.”
Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo skated with the team today, but he isn’t ready to return just yet. With the exception of Paajarvi in for Steen, tonight’s lineup will remain the same.
Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko
Robby Fabbri - Paul Stastny - Troy Brouwer
Patrik Berglund - David Backes - Magnus Paajarvi
Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester - Kevin Shattenkirk
Carl Gunnarsson - Colton Parayko
Joel Edmundson - Robert Bortuzzo
With a goal and an assist Saturday, Vladimir Tarasenko has eclipsed the 50-point plateau for the second consecutive season.
The Blues have points in three of their last four games against the Sharks, with their only regulation loss coming in the last meeting: 3-1 on Feb. 4. Since that game, the Blues are unbeaten in regulation (6-0-1).
Schwartz has points in four straight games against the Sharks (two goals, six assists).
The Sharks acquired former Blue Roman Polak in a trade with Toronto earlier today. The Sharks sent two second-round picks and Raffia Torres to Toronto in the deal. “He’s not fun to play against, he’s a tough guy,” Hitchcock said. “Players love him, teammates love him, coaches love him. He’s a great add.” Polak is not expected to arrive in time to play tonight.