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Blues to reunite Oshie, Backes for Game 2 vs. Wild

by Louie Korac /

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock has a penchant for changing his lineup or moving players around following a loss.

But for Game 2 of the Blues' Western Conference First Round series against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports 2), he will make a minor tweak that doesn't involve a lineup change.

"No, we're not making any lineup changes," Hitchcock said Friday, one day after the Blues lost 4-2 in Game 1. "We need to play better. We need to play our way at a higher level, and if we do that we'll be in good shape. But that's definitely what we need to do. I think every aspect of our game needs to be amped up a little bit if we expect to beat this team here. They're a real good team and we're going to have to be on top of our game to beat them."

Although the Blues' lineup will remain the same, Hitchcock will flip right wings T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund.

Oshie, who played with Jaden Schwartz and Paul Stastny down the stretch in the regular season and in Game 1, will move to a line with David Backes and Dmitrij Jaskin. Berglund will play with Schwartz and Stastny.

"The way we finished is the way we started [Friday]," Hitchcock said after practice. "[Oshie] had moved up and played the last few shifts with David. We're familiar with that group. We'll keep trying to help the guys and see if we can get a little bit better chemistry for everybody here."

Oshie, Backes and Alexander Steen has been a line used previously and had big results. But for now Hitchcock will use Backes and Oshie together while keeping Steen with Jori Lehtera and Vladimir Tarasenko.

"There's going to be an instant chemistry there," Oshie said. "We've played together for so long. When we're playing with someone else we usually know it's only a matter of time until we get back together. After a loss we expected the lines to be jumbled today. ... You want to play simple, get pucks deep. Hopefully we can get [Jaskin] to the front of the net and get some loose pucks."

It's not to say that Oshie found things tough playing with Schwartz and Stastny.

"I thought we were really good," Oshie said. "I thought we were pretty good yesterday too but we're going to give them a different look tomorrow and hopefully that will shake things up."

As for other adjustments heading into Game 2, Hitchcock said it was simple.

"I thought they out-checked us," Hitchcock said of the Wild. "I thought their determination to defend was greater than ours was both offensively and defensively. I thought they had more minutes where they made it hard on us. They were better. If you took it for 60 minutes there were ebbs and flows. We were really good in stages; they just were better in more stages. They were much better than we were in the second period. We mounted a pretty big comeback in the third but I think their checking and their compete on the puck was at a little bit higher level than ours was."

The Blues lost for the eighth time in nine games in the regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs (1-7-1) with three or more days between games this season; it's an odd record since players tend to relish the time off during a demanding schedule. But it's been a detriment to the Blues.

"It's a pretty weird stat," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "They had the same thing too. It's a matter of getting back into game form. Yesterday was a big game. There [were] a little bit of nerves there at the start. We just didn't get to our game right away, which ultimately hurt us, not being able to get on top of things early enough. We know what we did right yesterday and how we looked when we did and that's what we have to do tomorrow from the start."

Added goalie Jake Allen, who made 25 saves in the loss Thursday: "I think we got out of our game routine, game shape a little bit. We had five days off maybe. Definitely easier when you're playing every other night. You just get in that mentality and that focus of playing at game speed and game atmosphere. We got that first game out of the way. It wasn't our best. We can only really improve. Tomorrow will be a different story."

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