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Blues promise changes for Game 3 against Sharks

St. Louis could add Paajarvi, Bortuzzo, in place of Ott, Edmundson

by Eric Gilmore / Correspondent


Western Conference Final

Best-of-7 series tied 1-1

TV: 9 p.m. ET; CBC, NBCSN, TVA Sports

SAN JOSE -- St. Louis Blues forward Magnus Paajarvi and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo could make their Western Conference Final debuts in Game 3 against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center on Thursday.

"We're making changes," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We've always done it when we don't feel that our group is performing the way we want it to. We've been fortunate that every time we've made the changes we've played better. We're looking to make changes again."

The Blues lost 4-0 in Game 2. The best-of-7 series is tied 1-1.

Hitchcock declined to reveal the changes he'll make, but Paajarvi and Bortuzzo left the ice early during the Blues' optional morning skate, while forward Steve Ott and rookie defenseman Joel Edmundson stayed late, a sign they likely will be scratched.

In addition to the lineup changes, Hitchcock strongly hinted that he'll also shuffle his forward lines.

"I think the significant injuries, the long-term injuries, have really helped us because it's put people in positions, really starting in October that they had not played before, that they had to get used to," Hitchcock said. "I think it has really helped us in the playoffs. We've put people in positions where's it's surprised some of the media, it's surprised some of the opposition, and yet our players in some cases played 40 games in that position. So it's really helped us.

"I don't think we would be here today without having that flexibility because that flexibility has allowed us to be almost seamless in some of the things that we're able to do that has helped us win hockey games."

Paajarvi has played 276 regular-season games in six seasons with the Edmonton Oilers and Blues but none in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He had three goals and six assists in 48 games this season.

"I've never played playoffs so that would be cool if that would happen," Paajarvi said. "I would not think too much. I would try to keep it as simple as I can if I get in. ... You go all in."

Ott has taken a penalty in each of the first two games against San Jose and has one assist in nine playoff games. He had two assists in 21 regular-season games.

"It's going to be hard to match on the road and we know that," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "So now [Hitchcock] wants to make adjustments, and he does what he does, but maybe have a guy in there, you can start him in the offensive zone and not worry about the matchup. That's his strength and that's where he belongs."

Bortuzzo has played in four games during the postseason, Games 4, 5 and 6 in the first round against the Chicago Blackhawks and Game 6 against the Dallas Stars in the second round. He has one assist and a plus-2 rating.

Edmondson has one goal and a minus-3 rating in 13 playoffs games. He had 14 shifts totaling 8:57 of ice time in Game 2.

Sharks coach Peter DeBoer likely will stick with the same lineup and line combinations that he's used the past three games.

San Jose captain Joe Pavelski said he expects the Blues to play their best game of the series Thursday.

"They're desperate," he said. "They're a team that plays well on the road so far this playoff. They've been strong there and they're looking to be a little bit better.

"We've got to be ready to bring our game and everyone has got to contribute. Everyone needs to keep doing the same things. Lay the pucks in, go forecheck and play with the puck a little bit and be heavy down there."

Here are the projected lineups:


Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko

Robby Fabbri - Paul Stastny - Troy Brouwer

Patrik Berglund - Alexander Steen - David Backes

Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Magnus Paajarvi

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Kevin Shattenkirk - Robert Bortuzzo

Carl Gunnarsson - Colton Parayko

Brian Elliott

Jake Allen

Injured: None

Scratched: Joel Edmundson, Steve Ott, Ryan Reaves, Dmitrij Jaskin, Petteri Lindbohm, Chris Butler, Peter Harrold, Ty Rattie


Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Joonas Donskoi

Melker Karlsson - Chris Tierney - Joel Ward

Dainius Zubrus - Nick Spaling - Tommy Wingels

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun

Paul Martin - Brent Burns

Brenden Dillon - Roman Polak

Martin Jones

James Reimer

Injured: Matt Nieto (upper body)

Scratched: Michael Haley, Dylan DeMelo, Matt Tennyson

Status update: Thornton was slashed in the left thumb by Bouwmeester early in the third period of Game 2 and left the bench briefly to be examined, but he played the rest of that game and was on the ice for the morning skate Thursday. "It's fine," he said. ... Nieto will miss his fourth straight game because of an upper-body injury he sustained in the first period of Game 6 of the second round against the Nashville Predators when he rammed into a goal post on a rush. He skated Thursday but remains day-to-day, and there's no timetable for his return. "It's one of those things where it's whenever I feel I could go in there, play with contact and play a playoff-style game. And right now I'm not there but I'm working hard to get there," Nieto said. ... Lehtera and Steen might change places in the lineup for Game 3. Steen centered the top line in Game 7 against Dallas, and he spent some time there late in Game 2 against San Jose with Lehtera moving to the third line.

Who's hot: Backes has two goals and three assists in his past five games. His 13 points are tied for the Blues lead with Fabbri and Tarasenko. … Burns has two goals and an assist in his past two games and 18 points in 14 playoff games.

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