PITTSBURGH - Robert Bortuzzo’s first goal as a Blue might have been eight months ago, but he remembers it like it was yesterday.
Down 2-0 in Pittsburgh, where he spent the first three-plus seasons of his NHL career, Bortuzzo was near the blue line watching a wild goal-mouth scramble when the puck came loose. He wound up, took a booming shot and beat former teammate Marc-Andre Fleury to get the Blues on the board.
The goal would spark a rally from St. Louis, who won 3-2 after Alexander Steen buried the game-winner in overtime.
“That was a good feeling,” Bortuzzo said of scoring against his former team. “But more specifically, the win was a good feeling. Anytime I can contribute to a win is good.”
Bortuzzo will be in the lineup tonight for the second consecutive game.
“With Bortuzzo, we've got a different energy and you go through energy flows with your team all the time. We get a good energy with Robert,” Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said after the team’s practice Tuesday. “Our feeling was we needed a different energy back there, so Robert supplies it. You saw it (against Buffalo). I'm sure you're going to see it again (against Pittsburgh), and we need that type of energy…when we need the boost, we put 'Borts' back in."
Bortuzzo takes Joel Edmundson’s place for the second straight game and will play on a pair with rookie Colton Parayko.
After playing 138 games with the Penguins, Bortuzzo knows more about them than probably anyone in the Blues’ locker room.
“Time and space is a big thing,” Bortuzzo said when asked the keys to beating Pittsburgh. “They have high-end forwards and their D jumps into the rush. If you can eliminate some of those areas and tighten up gaps, take away space in the D-zone - that’s where they’re going to hurt you - if you can do that and be hard on some guys, their night will be longer than anticipated. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
The Blues and Penguins split the regular-season series last year, with both teams winning on the road.
Entering tonight, the Blues have won three straight at Consol Energy Center, all of which have been one-goal victories.
“When you're a little bit scared, it gets your attention. You don’t want to be embarrassed by their skill set,” Hitchcock said of playing the Penguins. “Any mistake you making checking-wise ends up in the back of your net, so you’ve got a healthy respect for the other side. The fear factor is a great motivator. That’s what does it for us.”
The Penguins are 2-1 on their current four-game homestand, most recently losing 3-1 to the Sharks. For the season, Pittsburgh sits third in the Metropolitan Division with a 12-8-0 record (24 points) despite ranking 26th in the League with only 2.20 goals-per game.
“They’re winning hockey games. There’s a lot of firepower over there, guys that can light up the scoresheet,” Bortuzzo said. “We’re going to try to make them play in their own end.”
Ryan Reaves gets back in the lineup tonight, replacing Scottie Upshall. Hitchcock said he expects Reaves to bring an “edge” and be “comfortable to play against.”
The morning skate was optional, but here’s what we expect the lines to look like:
Steen - Stastny - Tarasenko
Fabbri - Backes - Brouwer
Paajarvi - Lehtera - Jaskin
Ott - Brodziak - Reaves
Bouwmeester - Pietrangelo
Gunnarsson - Shattenkirk
Bortuzzo - Parayko
Kevin Shattenkirk has points in six consecutive games (two goals, six assists), which ties Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson and Carolina’s Justin Faulk for the longest active streak by a defenseman.
Jake Allen will start again tonight and is 5-2-0 on the road this season. He has won four of his last five road games, recording a .961 save-percentage.
Former Blue Ian Cole ranks third on the Penguins in ice time since March 2, 2015, averaging 19:26.
The Blues did not have a power-play chance Monday in Buffalo, but have scored four times on their last 12 power-play attempt on the road.