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At the Rink: Canucks at Blues

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- A familiar face is expected to face the St. Louis Blues on Thursday.

Vancouver Canucks goalie Ryan Miller, who was acquired by the Blues from the Buffalo Sabres prior to the NHL Trade Deadline last season, will face his former teammates when the Canucks and Blues battle at Scottrade Center (8 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, SNV).

Miller went 10-8-1 with a 2.47 goals-against average and .903 save percentage in 19 regular-season games for the Blues and was expected to be the missing piece for a deep Stanley Cup Playoff run. But after the Blues went up 2-0 in their Western Conference First Round series against the Chicago Blackhawks, they dropped the next four games and lost the series in six.

Miller was 2-4 with a 2.70 GAA and .897 save percentage against the Blackhawks and took a lot of heat from fans in St. Louis for the playoff failure.

The Blues informed Miller, 34, an impending unrestricted free agent, that he would not be offered a contract; he signed a three-year, $18 million contract with the Canucks on July 1.

"It's a team game," Blues right wing T.J. Oshie said, citing fan criticism as being unfair. "Maybe there's some pucks that he'd like to stop, but there's a lot of pucks that we would have liked to go in. You can look at our top guys, our core guys, and put the blame just as much on us for not putting the puck in the net as much as for him letting them go in."

Miller, who is 3-1-0 with a 3.20 GAA and .884 save percentage in four games with the Canucks, was pulled in the second period of a 6-3 loss to the Dallas Stars on Tuesday after allowing five goals on 13 shots.

The Blues are expecting a motivated Miller on Thursday.

"He knows us," Blues center Patrik Berglund said. "It's obviously going to boost him a little extra. We know he's one of the best goaltenders in the world. We need to have a lot of traffic in front of him so he can't see the shots."

The Blues are dealing with the flu bug going around the locker room the past few days. Coach Ken Hitchcock called his lineup Thursday "fluid."

"We'll dress 20; we'll let you know who they are," Hitchcock said. "We don't know right now.

"We'll figure it out once we get to the game and see who can play and who can't."

The Canucks have allowed 10 goals in the past two games, both losses, after starting the season 3-0-0. Coach Willie Desjardins said the Canucks have to do a better job in all three zones.

"Almost all the goals come off rushes-against," Desjardins said. "In Dallas, we [gave up] a lot of rush goals. For us, we can't give out the odd rushes. We've got to make sure we're coming back into our end doing a good job. … It's a combination of things. We have to be better all over the ice defensively."

Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler will play in his 500th NHL game.

Here are the projected lineups:


Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Radim Vrbata

Chris Higgins - Nick Bonino - Alexandre Burrows

Shawn Matthias - Brad Richardson - Zack Kassian

Derek Dorsett - Linden Vey - Jannik Hansen

Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa

Alexander Edler - Christopher Tanev

Yannick Weber - Luca Sbisa

Ryan Miller

Eddie Lack

Scratched: Frank Corrado, Tom Sestito

Injured: Ryan Stanton (lower body)


Steve Ott - David Backes - T.J. Oshie

Alexander Steen - Patrik Berglund - Joakim Lindstrom

Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko

Magnus Paajarvi - Maxim Lapierre - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Ian Cole - Kevin Shattenkirk

Barret Jackman - Jordan Leopold

Jake Allen

Brian Elliott

Scratched: Chris Porter

Injured: Paul Stastny (shoulder), Carl Gunnarsson (hip)

Status report: Steen skated before the players took the ice and left. He's one of the players affected by the flu. Lehtera, who did not play Sunday against the Anaheim Ducks because of the flu, skated the past two days and appears ready to return to the lineup. ... Stastny, who the Blues list as week-to-week, removed the sling from his left shoulder Wednesday. He will be re-evaluated during the weekend. … The Canucks will reunite the defensive pairing of Hamhuis and Bieksa on Thursday after splitting the two against the Stars.

Who's hot: Oshie has 15 points in 18 games against the Canucks. ... Schwartz has seven points in five games to start the season. ... The Blues have earned points in five straight home games against the Canucks, going 3-0-2. … Daniel Sedin, who leads the Canucks with eight points, has a six-game point streak and at least a point in 11 of 14 games dating to last season. ... Vrbata, who is second on the Canucks with six points, has a point in four of five games.

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