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Blues welcom streaking Avalanche to St. Louis

by Louie Korac
ST. LOUIS – The Blues (23-12-5) will have to continue their impressive home play (16-3-2) if they want to beat the red-hot Colorado Avalanche, who have suddenly thrust themselves into the Western Conference playoff race by winning nine of their last 10, 10 of 12 and 13 of 18.

The Avs (23-18-1) are coming off an impressive 4-0 win at Chicago on Friday night.

"They're a very fast, energetic, physical team," Blues defenseman Barret Jackman said. "If we want to beat them tonight, we'll have to match that and maybe initiate that speed and physicality."

Hitchcock agreed.

"They're all on the same page," Hitchcock said. "They've got speed and when they play with speed, they have speed without the puck, which has created problems for everybody. If you're not ready for their pressure, their forechecks and their physical play, you're going to be surprised, in trouble and on your heels. You look at their hit totals in the last 10 games, it's really high. When you're playing physical, that means you're skating. When you're hitting people that means they're on the outside and you're on the inside, and that's what they're doing. That means they're playing very physical."

Hitchcock said this will be a game of gaining success in the dirty areas.

"It's going to have to be. You're not going to get anything easy," he said. "They're not giving you odd-man rushes now. They're not giving you easy opportunities. Chicago had one odd-man rush yesterday. They're making it hard on the opposition and if you're not ready to pay the price, then they're going to beat you every time.

"I told the players today you're going to get checked hard. How you react to getting checked hard is going to determine how long you stay in the game. They've pushed some really good hockey clubs right out because of their hard play."

Here are the probable lineups for tonight's game between the Colorado Avalanche and the St. Louis Blues from Scottrade Center:


David Perron - David Backes - Chris Stewart
Matt D'Agostini - Patrik Berglund - T.J. Oshie
Vladimir Sobotka - Jason Arnott - Jamie Langenbrunner
Ryan Reaves - Scott Nichol - B.J. Crombeen

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Cade Fairchild - Roman Polak

Brian Elliott
Jaroslav Halak

The Blues are without F Andy McDonald (concussion), LW Alex Steen (concussion symptoms), D Kent Huskins (ankle), D Kris Russell (groin) and D Ian Cole (suspension), who is eligible to return Tuesday at Montreal. Expected scratches include LW Evgeny Grachev and F Chris Porter. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said there was a good chance Reaves (hip) would be taken off injured reserve today but if he's not available, Porter or Grachev would be inserted into the fourth line LW slot.

TJ Galiardi - Paul Stastny - David Jones
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Milan Hejduk
Daniel Winnik - Jay McClement - Chuck Kobasew
Cody McLeod - David Van Der Gulik - Kevin Porter

Shane O'Brien - Erik Johnson
Kyle Quincey - Stefan Elliott
Jan Hejda - Ryan O'Byrne

Jean-Sebastien Giguere
Semyon Varlamov

The Avalanche, coming off a 4-0 win at Chicago Friday, chose not to skate today. Only Varlamov, RW Brandon Yip and D Ryan Wilson were on the ice for the optional. On injured reserve for the Avs include C Matt Duchene (knee) and C Peter Mueller (concussion). Both are out indefinitely. Wilson missed 13 games with a concussion but was taken off IR on Friday. Wilson, Yip and Hunwick are expected to be healthy scratches.
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