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At the Rink: Penguins at Blues

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues will welcome defenseman Jay Bouwmeester back to the lineup Monday against the Pittsburgh Penguins (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, SNE, SNO, SNP, ROOT).

Bouwmeester missed the past four games with an upper-body injury sustained Jan. 8 against the Anaheim Ducks on a hit from Ryan Getzlaf. He has been on the ice the past few days and felt progressively better.

"I feel good. Good enough to play, so we'll try and play," Bouwmeester said. "I started pushing a little harder. I felt good all day [Sunday] and I felt fine. Any time you miss a little time, things seem like they go a little faster. We picked it up pretty quick."

Bouwmeester averaged 23:08 of ice time per game for the Blues (26-15-7) before he departed the lineup. He will be a welcomed addition for coach Ken Hitchcock.

"He plays the heaviest 5-on-5 minutes on the team," Hitchcock said. "He plays every situation, he plays 5-on-5. Between 5-on-5 and PK, he plays the most minutes than anybody. It's the same thing as [Carl] Gunnarsson. [Bouwmeester's] a top-three defenseman, Gunnarsson's our top four. When you're missing three and four out of your lineup, that's a big hole and we've been able to survive. It's good on us."

Defenseman Andre Benoit, recalled from Chicago of the American Hockey League on Sunday, will make his Blues debut Monday. He replaces defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, who is out with a lower-body injury sustained Saturday blocking a shot against the Montreal Canadiens.

"Obviously I'm excited," said Benoit, who has played 179 NHL games with the Buffalo Sabres, Colorado Avalanche and Ottawa Senators. "I want to come in here and show what I can do and take it from there. At the same time, I was able to get a lot of my confidence back playing in the AHL this year and hopefully I can take that with me and play well here.

"I thought camp went well. It is what it is. I started in Chicago, played well there and now I want to take advantage of this."

Hitchcock is aware that the Blues need contributions from call-ups during this sustained stretch of injuries.

"Benoit's here because quite frankly, he played the best of anybody there," Hitchcock said. "We're in that situation. We've got four games left [before the All-Star break]. We sustained another injury and we need him to be a good player for us right now. He's played the best of any of them down there the last three weeks or so and deserved the call-up and so he got the call-up and he's going to play tonight."

The Penguins (21-16-7), who recalled defenseman Derrick Pouliot from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL, did not hold a morning skate.

Pouliot, selected in the first round (No. 8) by Pittsburgh in the 2012 NHL Draft, played 34 games with the Penguins last season, scoring two goals and five assists. He has 47 points (13 goals, 34 assists) in 68 AHL regular-season games and has a goal and two assists in seven AHL postseason games.

Pouliot, at 6-foot, 208 pounds, is a team-leading plus-16 for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season.

Defenseman Kris Letang will be a game-time decision.

Here are the projected lineups:


Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist

Carl Hagelin - Evgeni Malkin - Phil Kessel

Tom Kuhnhackl - Eric Fehr - Bryan Rust

Kevin Porter - Matt Cullen - Conor Sheary

Olli Maatta - Trevor Daley

Brian Dumoulin - Ben Lovejoy

Ian Cole - Derrick Pouliot

Jeff Zatkoff

Marc-Andre Fleury

Injured: Beau Bennett (upper body), Nick Bonino (hand), Kris Letang (undisclosed), David Warsofsky (concussion)

Scratched: Sergei Plotnikov


Alexander Steen - Paul Stastny - Troy Brouwer

Robby Fabbri - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko

Patrik Berglund - David Backes - Ty Rattie

Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Kevin Shattenkirk - Colton Parayko

Joel Edmundson - Andre Benoit

Brian Elliott

Jordan Binnington

Injured: Jaden Schwartz (ankle), Steve Ott (hamstring), Jake Allen (lower body), Carl Gunnarsson (upper body), Robert Bortuzzo (lower body), Magnus Paajarvi (upper body)

Scratched: Dmitrij Jaskin, Chris Butler

Status report: Letang, who did not play Sunday in a 5-0 win against the Carolina Hurricanes after sustaining an undisclosed injury Friday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, will be a game-time decision, coach Mike Sullivan said. Warsofsky sustained a concussion when he collided with referee Tim Peel on Sunday. Bennett skated Monday. … Hitchcock would not specify Bortuzzo's injury other than to say it was lower body, an injury that could keep the defenseman out for a prolonged period. Gunnarsson skated again Monday but will not play.

Who's hot: Crosby has 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in his past 13 games; Malkin has 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) in his past nine games. … Lehtera (two goals, four assists) has points in four straight games and five of the past six. Rattie has scored in consecutive games. Berglund has two goals and two assists in the past three games.

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