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At the Rink: Devils at Blues

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues will add another key piece to their lineup Thursday in a rematch against the New Jersey Devils.

Center Paul Stastny, out the past eight games with a shoulder injury, will make his return to the lineup when the Blues and Devils go head-to-head for the second time in three days (8 p.m. ET, NHLN-US). The Blues won 1-0 in Newark, N.J., on Tuesday on a third-period power-play goal by Vladimir Tarasenko.

"It feels good. Practice is one thing. I think games are different things," Stastny said after the morning skate Thursday. "It's just getting back the rhythm, getting back the timing things. That's the most important. The first couple shifts, I've just got to get my feet under me and get back out there and get playing.

"… It's been tough sitting out this whole time, but better to be hurt early in the season than late in the season."

Stastny, who has one goal and four points in four games, was injured in the first minute against the Arizona Coyotes on Oct. 18 after a hit from Martin Hanzal. He said it was an unfortunate play and one he'll be aware of in the future.

"I put myself in a vulnerable position early in the game there," Stastny said. "Went to dump it in … we were changing. I usually don't put myself [in that position]. I was just totally reaching for it, just trying to block the puck and [Hanzal] just kind of went between me and the puck. Sometimes things like that happen. It's a learning experience. I usually don't do stuff like that, but it happens. The last couple weeks I've been upgraded. Every day's been better and better. I haven't had any setbacks from Day 1 to now, so it feels good."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, whose team is riding a six-game winning streak and is 8-3-1 on the season, welcomes back Stastny with open arms.

"We've got great structure going right now," Hitchcock said. "[Stastny's] going to add and be able to help us quite a bit. But as long as we don't get that 'loose' affair that was exciting for the fans and was the reason I have less hair and it's gray.

"I hope we just stay with the same structure and he's going to add to the mix and make plays down low. He's a gritty guy. It'll really help us, but we just don't want to get that loose game going that we brought into the start of the season."

The Devils (6-4-1) came to St. Louis with four injured players already in forward Mike Cammalleri (jaw), forward Martin Havlat (lower body), defenseman Jon Merrill (arm) and forward Jordin Tootoo (foot). They added center Adam Henrique to the list after he sustained a lower-body injury against the Blues on Tuesday.

Henrique, who leads the Devils with nine points in 12 games, is with the team on the trip but will not play Thursday. Right wing Mike Sislo was recalled from the Albany Devils of the American Hockey League on Thursday to take Henrique's spot in the lineup.

"It's that time of year and that's the League," said Devils coach Peter DeBoer, who called Henrique's injury day-to-day. "Everybody's dealing with different injuries. You have to find a way to survive it.

"I'm just taking [Henrique's injury] one game at a time. We'll see how he feels [Friday] morning. It was kind of a fluky thing. He was hopping over the boards."

Sislo will dress in his 15th career game Thursday.

"I'm hopeful. I'm preparing as if I'm going to play," Sislo said. "I'm excited. There's a lot of familiar faces and I know they've done well, so anything I can do to help, I'm hopeful that I can get in and help the team have success."

The projected lineups:


Ryane Clowe - Travis Zajac - Jaromir Jagr

Dainius Zubrus - Patrik Elias - Michael Ryder

Damien Brunner - Jacob Josefson - Steve Bernier

Tuomo Ruutu - Stephen Gionta - Mike Sislo

Andy Greene - Damon Severson

Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky

Eric Gelinas - Adam Larsson

Cory Schneider

Keith Kinkaid

Injured: Adam Henrique (lower body), Mike Cammalleri (jaw), Martin Havlat (lower body), Jon Merrill (arm), Jordin Tootoo (foot)


Patrik Berglund - David Backes - Dmitrij Jaskin

Alexander Steen - Paul Stastny - Joakim Lindstrom

Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko

Steve Ott - Maxim Lapierre - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson - Kevin Shattenkirk

Barret Jackman - Ian Cole

Jake Allen

Brian Elliott

Scratched: Jordan Leopold, Chris Porter, Magnus Paajarvi

Injured: T.J. Oshie (concussion)

Status report: After playing with Lehtera, Tarasenko, Backes and Berglund, Steen will return to his familiar role on Stastny's line. … Hitchcock said Oshie was at the rink Thursday but gave no detailed report on his condition. Oshie is out indefinitely. Jaskin will replace Porter in the lineup for the Blues. … Sislo will play on the Devils fourth line. … With Henrique out of the lineup, Elias will play center and Clowe moves up to the top line. … Tootoo could play Friday against the Detroit Red Wings, according to DeBoer.

Who's hot: Tarasenko has nine points, including seven goals, in five games. … Allen is riding a 127:26 shutout streak. … Jagr has 24 points in 27 games against the Blues.

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