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Reaves moves up to third line vs. Jets

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues

ST. LOUIS - Don't call it a promotion, but Ryan Reaves could see more ice time tonight when the Blues host the Winnipeg Jets at 7 p.m. at Scottrade Center (FSMW, KMOX).

He'll definitely the start the game on the third line with Robby Fabbri and Patrik Berglund, and that's an opportunity he's looking forward to.

"It's going to be fun. Obviously those guys know how to put the puck in the net," Reaves said after the game day skate. "I'm going to try and do some grinding down low and open up some room for them and let them do their thing."

Reaves' new opportunity presented itself because Kyle Brodziak is expected to miss five weeks with a right ankle injury. Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said he wants to try Reaves out on the third line to add some grit and determination to it, but he's not sure how long he'll stick with it.

"It gives us two defined third lines. I'm going to move Reavo around based on the opponent, and also the situation in the game, so I'm not going to cast that in stone," Hitchcock said. "We'll see how it looks, whether it's two shifts, a full game or whatever. But the feeling for us moving forward is we need to play two third line situations. Between him and Bergy and Barbashev's line, we'll see where Reavo fits the best."

Once considered just an enforcer, Reaves is contributing much more than that. Last Tuesday in Pittsburgh, he exhibited some explosive speed and scored a crucial second period goal to add to the Blues' lead over the Penguins.

Video: Reaves set to join third line

"Losing Brodziak is a tough situation for our group, but you know it's an opportunity for guys to step up," linemate Scottie Upshall said. "Reavo has been a vocal guy and he's been playing great, been chipping in offensively as well as being good fuel for physical play for our team. I think he'll provide a lot of energy with the lineup balance as it is (now on the third line). It's good for our team to have a little shakeup."

"He's made it really easy for us. He's played well," Hitchcock added about Reaves. "Sometimes when you move up a notch in the lineup, you get careless with the puck. We've talked to Ryan about it and we're hopeful. If he keeps with the same deep puck play, he can add some grit and determination to that line, which we're going to need moving forward."

BARBASHEV STAYS IN

After making his NHL debut with just over 10 minutes of action and four hits last Thursday in Minnesota, Barbashev has been recalled from the Chicago Wolves for the second time and will center the fourth line again tonight vs. Winnipeg.

Barbashev has posted 37 points (19 goals, 18 assists) in 45 games with the Chicago Wolves this season.

"He's a young player, and he's had a great year with he Wolves," Hitchcock said. "He's a net-front, down-low guy in the American Hockey League. It's unrealistic to think that's going to happen at this level on a consistent basis just based on size. But we love what he brings to the team. He brings a savvy type of game, a competitive game on the boards, he stays on the puck. There are a lot of young guys in the League playing now, and this is really a reward for a guy who spent two summers here in St. Louis, worked his tail off and went from a fourth line player to a first line player in the American Hockey League.

"We've got some nice choices here," Hitchcock added. "(Barbashev), (Wade) Megan, (Kenny) Agostino, those guys have had great years offensively. Over the next little while while we find out how long (Brodziak) is out, all three guys might get a look here."

BLUE NOTES

The Blues have earned points in seven of the Jets' last eight visits to Scottrade Center since the franchise returned to Winnipeg.

Vladimir Tarasenko, who scored at the NHL All-Star Game on Sunday, has four goals and four assists over his last six games against the Jets.

Alexander Steen has posted 1.67 points per game at home in January. Only Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby (2.25) and Boston's Brad Marchand (2.00) have been better. Steen also has 12 points (five goals, eight assists) over his last 12 games.

On Thursday in Minnesota, Patrik Berglund played in his 604th game as a Blue, passing Larry Patey for 10th on the all-time franchise list.

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