BLUES (14-6-2) at PENGUINS (12-8-0)
TV: FS-MW, ROOT
PITTSBURGH – St. Louis Blues forward Ryan Reaves will return to the lineup against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday at Consol Energy Center.
Reaves, who has missed the Blues' past three games, is expected to replace forward Scottie Upshall on St. Louis' fourth line against Pittsburgh. In 14 games this season, Reaves does not have a point and has three shots.
"He's uncomfortable to play against," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "He's had very much an up-and-down season, most of it based on health. He's healthy now. He feels good. We've conditioned him. This is about as far as we can go with him. The rest is kind of going to be in his court."
Pittsburgh didn't make any changes during its Tuesday practice and did not hold line rushes Wednesday morning, so the lineup likely will remain the same against St. Louis. After scoring four goals each game in back-to-back wins to start their four-game road trip, the Penguins forwards cooled in a 3-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks Saturday.
Center Sidney Crosby has continued to struggle. In the past three games, where the Penguins went 2-1-0 and scored nine goals, Crosby was held without a point and had seven shots.
Pittsburgh has attempted to spark Crosby's line by rotating three forwards (Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist and Beau Bennett) on his right wing, but has yet to see it pay dividends. Crosby, who is currently in his second stint playing with Hornqvist this season, said the Blues could make it difficult for any of the Penguins to break out Wednesday.
"They're really committed to playing defense and they do it well as a unit," Crosby said. "When you're playing a patient team like that, you can't force things and allow yourself to create mistakes that way. I think just be patient, but obviously we have to get to our game and use our speed and not sit back, but we also have to understand they're going to try to clog the neutral zone up and force turnovers."
Penguins coach Mike Johnston said the Blues' defensive pairings have unique size.
"They're big and they're very mobile at getting up ice," Johnston said. "But they have great size on the backend, so you have to have a set plan on how to play against a defense like that and that's part of our game plan tonight."
That backend includes former Penguins defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, who is expected to play alongside Colton Parayko. In his first game against Pittsburgh since being traded, along with a seventh-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, for defenseman Ian Cole, Bortuzzo scored a goal in a 3-2 Blues win on March 24.
"It's tough to get one past Marc-Andre [Fleury]," Bortuzzo said. "A lot of guys don't have that under their best. Fortunately, I do and I'm sure he'll give me heck about it."
Fleury is expected to make his 18th start Wednesday opposite Blues goalie Jake Allen, who is in line for his 17th start.
Here are the projected lineups:
Alexander Steen – Paul Stastny – Vladimir Tarasenko
Magnus Paajarvi – Jori Lehtera – Dmitrij Jaskin
Robby Fabbri – David Backes – Troy Brouwer
Steve Ott – Kyle Brodziak – Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester – Alex Pietrangelo
Carl Gunnarsson – Kevin Shattenkirk
Colton Parayko – Robert Bortuzzo
Injured: Patrik Berglund (right shoulder surgery), Jaden Schwartz (fractured right ankle)
Scratched: Scott Gomez, Scottie Upshall, Joel Edmundson
Pascal Dupuis – Sidney Crosby – Patric Hornqvist
David Perron – Evgeni Malkin – Phil Kessel
Chris Kunitz – Nick Bonino – Beau Bennett
Sergei Plotnikov – Matt Cullen – Eric Fehr
Rob Scuderi – Kris Letang
Brian Dumoulin – Ben Lovejoy
Ian Cole – Adam Clendening
Injured: Olli Maatta (upper body), Bryan Rust (undisclosed)
Scratched: David Warsofsky, Daniel Sprong
Status report: Maatta (upper body) skated on his own before practice Tuesday. He is expected to miss 3-4 weeks because of a hit from Minnesota Wild forward Nino Niederreiter that sent him into an open door Nov. 17 … The Blues activated Stastny from injured reserve Monday. After missing 16 games with a broken foot, he had one shot in St. Louis' 2-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres.
Who's hot: Kessel scored the Penguins' lone goal in a 3-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks Saturday. He and Malkin are tied for the team-lead with seven goals each. … Tarasenko has scored a goal and an assist in three of his past four games. Tarasenko leads St. Louis and is tied for eighth in the NHL with 22 points.