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Blues aim to extend recent woes of Penguins

by Louie Korac

PENGUINS (32-17-9) at BLUES (38-16-4)


ST. LOUIS -- Playing on consecutive nights at Scottrade Center for the only time this season, the St. Louis Blues will quickly shift gears when they face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the back end Saturday.

The Blues (38-16-4) go from the physical, in-your-face Boston Bruins, who they handled in a 5-1 win Friday to a more highly-skilled Penguins team that's had a tough go of scoring goals in recent games.

The Penguins (32-17-9), who are 0-2-1 in their past three, have scored one goal in each loss.

"I think we do things a little bit different than some teams," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We don't really prepare for Pittsburgh until tonight. We kind of do a little review here based on last night's game or even if we played two days ago. … This morning will be a review on what happened last night real quick and then we'll get ready for Pittsburgh tonight. We know the energy they play at, we know the energy we've got to have for tonight, so it's save it all to put it in and prepare closer to the game.

"I don't look at [the Penguins] from a star power standpoint. They're just good players. They're strong players, they're strong 1-on-1 players with Sid [Crosby] there and [Chris Kunitz] and David [Perron], that's a strong line. That's a strong 1-on-1 line, it's a strong line offensively. We're going to have good players playing against them, they're going to be good players playing against us. For a coach, they're fascinating matchups. I think they're matchups where you get a real good critical review after a game like this."

Penguins coach Mike Johnston, who will give backup goalie Thomas Greiss a rare start, calls the Blues a tough matchup.

"Knowing Ken Hitchcock so well, they play with a lot of structure, a lot of discipline to their game," Johnston said of the Blues. "They're a hard team defensively. I watched the game close last night and the last couple games that they've played, and certainly I thought Boston played pretty well in the first period last night. I know they got down, but I liked some of the things they did and we've got to pull from the last two games what teams did well and [assistant coach] Gary Agnew knows the team, so he can provide us with some more information that way."

Saturday marks the first game for centers Marcel Goc and Maxim Lapierre against the teams that traded them Jan. 27.

The Blues sent Lapierre to the Penguins for Goc in a trade Hitchcock said "helped both teams. We have a hunter mentality on our fourth line and we needed someone to just kind of calm it down between the dots. Goc has done that for us. He's allowed those guys to turn it loose and get after people. He's been a good sweeper. I think when the line when [Lapierre] was there, it was a very high-energy line, but the puck was a magnet and it was over-pursued at times and a lot of odd-man rushes. It certainly wasn't a reflection on [Lapierre], it was the way the three guys were built. They're very emotional players, very intense players. We just needed someone to kind of calm it down a little bit. I think on the other size, Pittsburgh needed that size and that durability that [Lapierre] brings. It's a good hockey trade for me for both teams."

Johnston agreed.

"Both players have similar responsibilities now with different teams," Johnston said. "Lapierre for us is a quick guy on the forecheck as you know, good penalty killer, good on draws, good faceoff guy and he's a guy that adds a little more size and quickness to our lineup when he comes in, and sometimes I think when trades are made, both teams are looking for a certain ingredient to make their team overall better. I believe from our end it's been good and I know [Goc is] a real quality guy and a quality player. I'm hearing it's worked out here."

Here are the projected lineups:


Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - David Perron

Blake Comeau - Evgeni Malkin - Patric Hornqvist

Nick Spaling - Brandon Sutter - Beau Bennett

Craig Adams - Maxim Lapierre - Steve Downie

Paul Martin - Kris Letang

Rob Scuderi - Simon Despres

Derrick Pouliot - Robert Bortuzzo

Thomas Greiss

Marc-Andre Fleury

Scratched: Zach Sill

Injured: Pascal Dupuis (blood clot), Christian Ehrhoff (concussion), Olli Maatta (upper body)


Alexander Steen - David Backes - T.J. Oshie

Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko

Chris Porter - Paul Stastny - Dmitrij Jaskin

Patrik Berglund/Steve Ott - Marcel Goc - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson - Petteri Lindbohm

Barret Jackman - Ian Cole

Brian Elliott

Jake Allen

Scratched: Ott/Berglund, Joakim Lindstrom, Chris Butler

Injured: Kevin Shattenkirk (abdomen)

Status report: Johnston said Saturday he could tweak his forward lines in hopes to jump-start some offense. … Hitchcock didn't disclose which Blues forward would be out with Porter back in the lineup. Porter missed 22 games with an ankle injury.

Who's hot: Steen has seven points the past five games, including three assists Friday against Boston. Oshie has six points in six games. Tarasenko has scored in six of the Blues' past 10 games. … Letang has 13 points (12 assists) the past 12 games.

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