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Blues face Capitals following Leopold trade

by Louie Korac / NHL.com

CAPITALS (7-6-3) at BLUES (11-4-1)

TV: CSN-DC+,FS-MW

ST. LOUIS -- Needing some cap relief and wanting to give a veteran player ice time, the St. Louis Blues traded veteran defenseman Jordan Leopold to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Blues acquired a 2016 fifth-round pick from the Blue Jackets for the rights to Leopold, who played in seven games this season. With the return of Carl Gunnarsson from a hip injury and the steady play of Barret Jackman and Ian Cole, Leopold, 34, was a healthy scratch for seven straight games and eight of the past nine. St. Louis accommodated Leopold by dealing him to a Columbus team that's been decimated by injuries and where he will step right in and play.

The Blues, who host the Washington Capitals on Saturday, have recalled defenseman Chris Butler from the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League.

The Blues will retain $500,000 pro-rated of Leopold's $2.25 million salary that's in the final year of a two-year, $4.5 million contract.

"In the situation that we're in right now and where Jordan is, he wants to obviously continue to play and as a seventh defenseman, his ice time was going to be predicated on injuries and I think it's a difficult time obviously for Jordan to be moving, but I think it's going to help him get back on the ice on a regular basis in Columbus," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. "It's going to also relieve some cap space moving forward.

"We've kept $500,000 pro-rated in the salary. ... What it's going to do is create $1.1 million pro-rated cap space for us moving forward and that obviously grows as you get closer to the deadline. We've been very close to the salary cap this year and this creates a little more room for us moving forward if we want to try and do some other things to improve our team from this day forward. Our cap space is a little greater."

Armstrong identified the play of Butler, Petteri Lindbohm and Brent Regner with the Wolves as reason to believe the depth of the organization on the blue line enabled them to move the veteran Leopold.

"I talked to [Wolves assistant coach] Mark Hardy [Saturday] and Chris has played very well," Armstrong said of Butler. "We believe in the depth there, and also Lindbohm that came over from Finland wasn't really on our radar screen in the summer.

"In talking to the guys [Friday] night, [Lindbohm] played his best game as a pro [against] Utica. There’s some positive things there and Regner's played well down there. We believe we have some depth. If we get pushed and taxed, we also have the cap space to do other things if we need to."

Leopold, who has 66 goals and 210 points in 659 NHL games, never requested a trade.

"We talked over the summer," Armstrong said. "You try and have that relationship with the guys. We said Ian Cole's going to get a big opportunity this year. Leo said, 'I love St. Louis, I want to be a Blue but I also have a career to worry about.' It never got into 'I demand this.'

"I understand where he's at. He loves the game and he wants to play. The way you get contracts is to be on the ice and prove people that you're a contributing player. I think he's going to get that opportunity in Columbus. Right now, he wasn't getting that here and he most likely wasn't going to get that here unless there were injuries."

The Capitals, who lost 1-0 on home ice to the New Jersey Devils on Friday night, had limited skaters on the ice Saturday. Coach Barry Trotz will address the media at 5 p.m. CT.

Here are the projected lineups:

CAPITALS

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Jay Beagle

Marcus Johansson - Andre Burakovsky - Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera - Eric Fehr - Joel Ward

Liam O'Brien - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Michael Latta

Brooks Orpik - John Carlson

Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen

Nate Schmidt - Mike Green

Justin Peters

Braden Holtby

Scratched: Jack Hillen

Injured: Brooks Laich (shoulder), Tom Wilson (lower body), Dmitry Orlov (wrist), John Erskine (neck surgery)

BLUES

Patrik Berglund - David Backes - T.J. Oshie

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

Brian Elliott

Jake Allen

Scratched: Chris Porter, Magnus Paajarvi, Chris Butler

Status report: The Capitals are expected to start Peters in goal Saturday after Holtby stopped 27 shots Friday. ... Wilson could return to the lineup Saturday. ... O'Brien, who sustained a lower body injury Friday, is a game-time decision. ... Butler is expected to arrive in St. Louis on Sunday.

Who's hot: Tarasenko has 12 points during a seven-game point streak (6 goals), Lehtera has 10 points during a six-game point streak (six assists) and Schwartz has eight points (seven assists) during a five-game point streak. The trio has combined for 30 points in seven games and 38 points in 10 games. ... Ovechkin has 14 points in nine games against the Blues; Backstrom has 12 points in eight games against St. Louis.

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