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Blues' Tarasenko set to return against Kings

by Louie Korac / NHL.com

KINGS (7-4-0) at BLUES (8-2-1)

TV: NBCSN

ST. LOUIS -- The return of right wing Vladimir Tarasenko to the St. Louis Blues lineup will help coach Ken Hitchcock create at least some stability for the players he uses on the right side.

When the Blues host the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday, Tarasenko will take his normal position playing on the top line with Alexander Steen and Jori Lehtera after missing one game with a lower-body injury. The rest of the lineup, particularly the right side, will be a mix-and-match.

"We're a team in transition, we're experimenting on a couple lines here to see how it works, but like we did the last game, we've got to be real flexible," Hitchcock said. "We've got to change on the fly if it's not working or if we're getting outplayed or if it's a bad matchup, we won't hesitate to change.

"I think the one constant is the line with Steen, Lehtera and Tarasenko, the rest we've got to be flexible. We've been flexible every game depending on how the matchups work, depending on what the other coach wants or what he's looking for. Wherever we can take advantage of, we're having to do that. Until we get some bodies back we've got to operate this way, and so far it's been working."

Players prefer to get acclimated with particular linemates, but in times when the Blues are missing forwards Paul Stastny (broken foot), Jaden Schwartz (fractured ankle) and Patrik Berglund (shoulder surgery), players have had to adjust.

"I don't think as a player you like that," Hitchcock said. "… You'd like to be able to know your linemates, you'd like to be able to play on the same line all the time, but we've got to find success off those lines. We can't just put a line together and then that line end up defending the whole time. We've got to find a way to help those guys have success."

Tarasenko, who leads the Blues in goals (six) and points (10), caught a break that he was sidelined only one game after taking a hit from Anaheim Ducks' Shawn Horcoff on Oct. 29.

"I feel good, really good. I'm ready to go tonight," Tarasenko said. "… We really miss those guys with injuries right now. I think in this time, it's a tough time for us, but we can build a better team spirit."

The Kings, who had their seven-game winning streak end with a 4-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday, had a limited optional skate Tuesday morning. Jhonas Enroth was the first goalie off the ice and is expected to get his second start of the season. Jake Allen, named the NHL Second Star of the Week on Monday, will start for the fourth straight game for the Blues, who close out a five-game homestand.

The NHL's top two ice time leaders will square off in the game. Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo leads all NHL skaters at 27:05; Kings defenseman Drew Doughty is second at 26:52.

Here are the projected lineups:

KINGS

Milan Lucic - Jeff Carter - Tyler Toffoli

Marian Gaborik - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown

Tanner Pearson - Nick Shore - Trevor Lewis

Kyle Clifford - Andy Andreoff - Jordan Nolan

Brayden McNabb - Drew Doughty

Alec Martinez - Jake Muzzin

Christian Ehrhoff - Derek Forbort

Jhonas Enroth

Jonathan Quick

Scratched: Jamie McBain, Jordan Weal

Injured: Matt Greene (upper body), Dwight King (lower body)

BLUES

Alexander Steen - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko

Scottie Upshall - David Backes - Troy Brouwer

Robby Fabbri - Dmitrij Jaskin - Ty Rattie

Steve Ott - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson - Colton Parayko

Joel Edmundson - Robert Bortuzzo

Jake Allen

Brian Elliott

Scratched: Scott Gomez, Chris Butler

Injured: Paul Stastny (foot), Kevin Shattenkirk (lower body), Jaden Schwartz (ankle), Patrik Berglund (shoulder)

Status report: Shattenkirk took part in the morning skate but will miss a ninth consecutive game. Shattenkirk hasn't been ruled out for Wednesday in Chicago. "He was a full participant, so we'll see tomorrow," Hitchcock said. … McBain, whose wife delivered the couple's first child Monday, missed the game against the Blackhawks and it was not known as of early Tuesday afternoon whether he would make it in time to St. Louis to play. If he plays, he would likely replace Forbort.

Who's hot: Muzzin has a four-game point streak (one goal, five assists). Doughty has five assists the past four games. Kopitar has a goal in three of the past five games after one in six to start the season. … Parayko has four points in four games (two goals, two assists). Allen is 3-0-0 with a 0.98 goals-against average and .963 save percentage his past three starts.

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