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Shattenkirk More Comfortable as Blues Host Jets

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues

ST. LOUIS - After returning from a lower-body injury four games ago, Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk finally feels like he’s getting back up to speed.

“Physically I’m back to 100 percent. As far as getting my game up to speed, I’m pretty close,” Shattenkirk said. “I’m still making a few plays that are a little uncharacteristic and panicky I think, but I just need to keep trusting myself and trusting that I have more time to make plays.”

“He’s getting better and better as it goes on,” Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock added. “When you really see it is when he’s able to join the rush and use his feet. When his feet are active and he’s on attack mode, he’s a very effective player.”

Shattenkirk recorded his 200th career point with an assist Saturday against Chicago, and since his return, the Blues power play has improved, going 4-for-14 (29 percent success rate).

That’s probably no coincidence.

“More than anything, I think we’re starting to work together,” Shattenkirk said. “We have a little more consistency in the (power-play) units and knowing who we’re going out there with. Knowing who you play with and how to play with those guys really helps the power play click a little more. We’re doing things with a purpose now and that’s what’s helping.”

“We were too slow in the beginning and holding onto it. The last little while, it’s been a lot quicker, moving around, finding the open guy and getting a shot off,” Alexander Steen said. “Once we hit them with one shot, to move it quickly up again and hit them with another one has been key. It’s been us that’s been too quick for the PK to adjust to.”

Finding power-play success comes at the right time for the Blues, who will meet the League’s most-penalized team tonight in the Winnipeg Jets (7 p.m. FSMW, KMOX). Winnipeg comes to town having lost their last four games by a combined score of 21-6 and most recently suffered a 7-0 loss at the hands of the Nashville Predators on Saturday. Winnipeg had 84 penalty minutes in that game.

Despite their struggles, Hitchcock said his team can not afford to overlook the Jets tonight.

“They’re a hard team to play against. We all go through (bad) stretches,” he said. “They’re never a team that you could ever question effort. They never cheat themselves. They’re a team that plays such an honest game. I have fun coaching against them because they test every part of your game.”

WELSH DEBUTS

Jeremy Welsh was recalled from the Chicago Wolves yesterday and will make his Blues debut tonight.

Welsh originally signed a two-way deal with the Blues last summer. He’s played in 25 career NHL games with the Carolina Hurricanes and the Vancouver Canucks, but spent all of last season with the Wolves, scoring 20 goals and 21 assists in 75 games.

This season, Welsh has played in 11 games, scoring five goals and three assists.

“This caught me by surprise, but obviously I’m excited,” Welsh said after the morning skate today. “I’ve done the drive-up / call-up and play thing before. I’m not really nervous, but the adrenaline will be going with crowd and being back in the NHL. It’s really exciting.”

Welsh will play with Kyle Brodziak and Scottie Upshall on the team’s energy line.

“He’s been a great player for (the Wolves),” Hitchcock said. “He’s been hard on the puck, he’s been determined, he’s been a weighty player, he's scored because of it, he goes into the hard areas offensively and defensively. He’s a guy that got rewarded for really good play down there. He’s been excellent every game.”

PROJECTED LINES

Hitchcock will shuffle the forward lines a bit tonight by moving David Backes up and putting Jori Lehtera with Dmitrij Jaskin and Troy Brouwer.

"It looked good last night when I was scribbling it on paper, so I brought it today," Hitchcock said. “It’s more based on more secondary scoring. We’ve sat on one line. David can play anywhere, but we want to get an identity with the Lehtera line. We’ve got to get more secondary scoring.”

Here's how the lines look for tonight:

Forwards
Steen - Backes - Tarasenko
Jaskin - Lehtera - Brouwer
Paajarvi - Gomez - Fabbri
Welsh - Brodziak - Upshall

Defense
Edmundson - Pietrangelo
Bouwmeester - Shattenkirk
Gunnarsson - Parayko

Goalie
Allen

BLUE NOTES

Shattenkirk will play in his 300th game with the Blues tonight. “It’s been 299 good ones so far,” Shattenkirk said. “I probably couldn’t have guessed it when the trade happened, but things have been great for me here and I’m happy to have spent this much time with the Blues.”

Jake Allen has a 1.52 goals-against average and a .951 save-percentage in two career starts against the Jets.

Colton Parayko is the only player in the League with at least 20 hits, 35 blocked shots and 10 points. He ranks third among all NHL defenseman with a plus-10 rating.

The first 12,500 fans 13 and older will receive a Blues camouflage jersey at tonight’s game.

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