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At the Rink: Lightning at Blues

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues will be without All-Star defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk for the foreseeable future, but as captain David Backes said, "Next man up."

The Blues (32-13-4), who host the Tampa Bay Lightning (32-15-4) on Tuesday, confirmed Monday that Shattenkirk will have abdominal surgery after he left the game Sunday against the Washington Capitals early in the first period. The surgery will take place within the next 7-10 days and he will be out week-to-week.

Shattenkirk, who's second in the NHL in points among defensemen (40), leaves a huge void in the Blues lineup. He's third on the team in minutes played (22:54), is part of the No. 1 power-play unit averaging 3:23 of power-play time, plays in the top four defensive pairing and is having arguably his best season in the NHL.

However, the Blues are not dwelling on his loss.

"He's a vital part of our team. He'll be missed, but someone else is going to have to step up and fill that void," Backes said. "We can't dwell on what we're missing. We've got to move forward with the 20 guys in the lineup, wish him a speedy recovery and hopefully he's back sooner than later. But these things happen and everyone will have to pick it up just a little bit and keep moving forward."

The Blues will play a third consecutive game without center Jori Lehtera (concussion symptoms) and left wing Patrik Berglund (shoulder). Their injuries were confirmed by general manager Doug Armstrong on Tuesday.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock is not only juggling who fills Shattenkirk's role but two players who play in the top nine among forwards.

"We're missing three significant parts, and it has to be absorbed throughout the lineup," Hitchcock said. "Our whole team dynamic has changed because what was a fourth line is now a third line.

"[Shattenkirk] played both ends of special teams and played 5-on-5 against top players. It's going to have to be absorbed throughout the group, but Tampa's the same thing, they're missing two top defensemen [Matthew Carle and Radko Gudas] and they don't seem to have missed a beat with it. We're just going to have to make some physical and mental adjustments with our game, get a couple practices in so guys are used to playing in different situations and take it from there.

"It impacts kind of across the board where we have to have everybody take it on. I don't think it's just [Shattenkirk]."

The loss of Shattenkirk means St. Louis native Chris Butler will take on added responsibility. Butler has been a healthy scratch the past seven games.

"You can't sit around and waste energy and worry about who's playing and who's not playing," Butler said. "It's a team that's built on depth. We're a deep team. That's how we beat teams, that's how we have success. If you've looked at what we've done the last handful of games, it's rolling over those four lines, kind of balancing out the minutes here and there, that's what allows us to be successful. That's what allows us to play the hard game that we like to play.

"[Shattenkirk's] a tremendous piece of the puzzle that we have in this room. … You've kind of seen him grow a lot this year. For me, I'm just going to go in there and try to play simple."

The game will feature three players that went to the same high school in the St. Louis area together in 2005. Butler, Blues center Paul Stastny and Lightning goalie Ben Bishop all played at Chaminade College Preparatory School in suburban St. Louis.

The Blues are 10-0-1 and can match the longest streak in franchise history (12 games) with at least a point. They established the mark in the 2000-01 season (11-0-1).

Here are the projected lineups


Valtteri Filppula - Steven Stamkos - Ryan Callahan

Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn - Cedric Paquette - Jonathan Drouin

Brenden Morrow - Brian Boyle - Brett Connolly

Anton Stralman - Victor Hedman

Luke Witkowski - Mark Barberio

Jason Garrison - Andrej Sustr

Ben Bishop

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Scratched: J.T. Brown, Nikita Nesterov

Injured: Radko Gudas (knee), Matthew Carle (abdomen)


Alexander Steen - David Backes - T.J. Oshie

Jaden Schwartz - Paul Stastny - Vladimir Tarasenko

Dmitrij Jaskin - Joakim Lindstrom - Ty Rattie

Steve Ott - Marcel Goc - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson - Chris Butler

Barret Jackman - Ian Cole

Brian Elliott

Jake Allen

Scratched: none

Injured: Kevin Shattenkirk (abdomen), Jori Lehtera (concussion symptoms), Patrik Berglund (shoulder), Chris Porter (ankle)

Status report: Butler will take Shattenkirk's spot and play alongside Carl Gunnarsson. … Brown will be a healthy scratch for the fifth time in six games. … Witkowski, who was recalled Jan. 16, will play his third NHL game.

Who's hot: The Steen-Backes-Oshie line has a combined 63 points in the past 15 games. Steen has nine goals and 13 assists, Backes has nine goals and 11 assists and Oshie has nine goals and 12 assists. … Elliott is 7-0-1 in his past nine starts. … Paquette has five goals in the past three games. … Killorn has two goals and four assists the past five games.

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