By Kyle Shohara
The wounds from a 3-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday were substantial enough that there will be at least one lineup change tonight as the Ducks close out their two-game road trip against the St. Louis Blues.
Defenseman Sami Vatanen will not play tonight, head coach Bruce Boudreau confirmed after the team’s morning skate at Scottrade Center. Avs forward John Mitchell clipped Vatanen in the chin area with his elbow after he was bumped into by Ducks center Nate Thompson. Vatanen left the game after just 5:54 TOI.
Thompson, too, was banged up in Wednesday’s game and didn’t practice yesterday, though reports from St. Louis suggest he’s likely to play. Thompson missed the first 25 games of the season due to offseason shoulder surgery.
Replacing Vatanen tonight will be defenseman Korbinian Holzer, who will draw back into the lineup for the first time since Jan. 23 at Detroit. The 28-year-old blueliner has appeared in 18 games for the Ducks this season, earning one assist and six penalty minutes.
“You just need to have a positive mindset,” said Holzer. “You just want to come in and help the team win. Even if I'm not in, you can try to get better every practice and push other guys to get better. That's how you stay ready mentally.”
In keeping with a recent trend of having each goaltender start two consecutive games, it’ll be Frederik Andersen’s turn in net tonight for Anaheim. Andersen has won a career-tying seven consecutive decisions, and has won 13 of his past 14 (13-0-1). The 26-year-old hasn’t lost in regulation since Dec. 21 against the New York Islanders. The big Dane enters tonight’s game with a league-low 1.79 goals-against average (minimum 15 games) and ranks second in save percentage (.936) since Christmas.
Ducks center Shawn Horcoff is eligible to return to the lineup after serving a 20-game suspension for performance-enhancing drug use, but Boudreau didn't say for certain the veteran would be back in tonight. Horcoff has 6-4—10 points in 45 games with the Ducks this season.
The Blues are coming off a 3-2 shootout victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday. St. Louis is riding a four-game win streak and has done it without the services of left wing Alexander Steen (upper-body), center Steve Ott (hamstring) and goaltender Brian Elliott (lower-body). All three took part in the team’s morning skate as they work towards returning to the lineup.
Leading the way for the Blues is right wing Vladimir Tarasenko, who has become the first Blue with consecutive 30-goal seasons since Brad Boyes scored 43 in 2007-08 and 33 in 2008-09. Tarasenko has 30 this season and potted 37 in 2014-15. The 24-year-old has a goal and an assist in his past three games against Anaheim.
“Winning the battles and getting the pucks in one-on-one battles is going to be really important because it always comes down to that,” Boudreau said, on the keys to success against St. Louis. “They're a very similar team to Los Angeles. They're deep and they keep coming at you. They're big and strong. If we win the battles along the boards, usually we're successful.”
Anaheim and St. Louis conclude a three-game season series this evening at Scottrade Center. These two teams have won their respective home games, including a 4-3 Ducks shootout win on Jan. 8 at Honda Center and a 2-1 Blues victory on Oct. 29 at Scottrade Center.
Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock says the most recent meeting, the aforementioned 4-3 shootout game on Jan. 8, was a showcase of two rugged teams flexing their muscles. “They played well and we played hard, it was a hell of a hockey game,” Hitchcock said to the Blues’ official website. “Pretty physical. Both teams didn’t give much. There’s a lot of good stuff for both teams to learn from. They have six or seven different players on their team between injuries and trades (since then), and we’ve got to adjust to that. They play a real honest game. They play very collective on the ice - that’s why they’re having such a good season right now.”
Andrew Cogliano says the shutout loss to the Avs was a wakeup call for the Ducks, who recently reeled off a franchise-best 11 wins in a row. “We're used to a higher standard,” Cogliano said. “Everyone was disappointed with how easy we gave up goals. We've been much better playing good, defensive hockey. EXPECTED LINE COMBINATIONS
"To lose a game like that is something we haven't been used to. We all know what we need to do. This is an important game for us. This is a really tough team to play against in a tough building.”
David Perron-Ryan Getzlaf-Ryan Garbutt
Jamie McGinn-Rickard Rakell-Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano-Ryan Kesler-Jakob Silfverberg
Nick Ritchie-Nate Thompson-Mike Santorelli
Cam Fowler-Kevin Bieksa
Hampus Lindholm-Josh Manson
Simon Despres-Korbinian Holzer
Frederik AndersenST. LOUIS BLUES
Jaden Schwartz-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko
Robby Fabbri-Paul Stastny-Troy Brouwer
Patrik Berglund-David Backes-Dmitrij Jaskin
Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Carl Gunnarsson-Kevin Shattenkirk
Joel Edmundson-Colton Parayko