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Blues reunite 'STL Line' for Game 1 vs. Sharks

Schwartz, Tarasenko, Lehtera together again for start of Western Conference Final

by Louie Korac / Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues are putting the band back together, and depending on how matchups go, the "STL Line" could stick together in the Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks.

Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko and Jori Lehtera were split up at times during the second round against the Dallas Stars but coach Ken Hitchcock will play them on the top line to start Game 1. They've combined for 30 points in 14 Stanley Cup Playoff games thus far.

"There's always adjustments during the series," said Schwartz, who has three goals and 11 points in the playoffs. "It depends on where you are with matchups and things like that. If that happens, we just have to take it and run with it. The lines are the way they are today and we'll see how they go."

What the line wants is consistency, and if it is able to bring that, it will balance out the scoring among the top three lines.

"Just take it game by game really," Schwartz said. "Make sure we're supporting each other, moving our feet. Teams like to swarm a little bit, especially when [Tarasenko] is in the slot there's usually a couple guys on him or one of us in the corner. So we have to make sure we're coming towards each other, being an option for one another. Whether it's coming through the neutral zone or the D-zone, make sure we have speed and one guy driving the middle and one guy finding a lane."

The Sharks come in with perhaps an extra scouting report on the Blues thanks to defenseman Roman Polak.

Selected by the Blues in the sixth round (No. 180) of the 2004 NHL Draft, Polak spent the first eight seasons of his NHL career in St. Louis before he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs on June 28, 2014. He was acquired by the Sharks with center Nick Spaling from the Maple Leafs on Feb. 22 for second-round draft picks in 2017 and 2018, and forward Raffi Torres.

"I don't think it's going to be different," Polak said. "It's just going to be exciting playing against somebody you know. I think there's going to be lots of chirping on the ice. It's expected, but it's going to be good."

So much has been made of the Sharks potent power play, which is converting at a 31 percent clip in the playoffs, but coach Peter DeBoer is wary of the Blues, who are scoring at 27.5 percent.

"As far as their power play goes, it's dangerous," DeBoer said. "I think our discipline is critical. We've been one of the least penalized teams through the season and in the playoffs, so I think that's going to play into it too."

Video: SAP Round 3 Infographics Series Preview: SJS STL

Here are the projected lineups:


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 (undisclosed injury)

Scratched: Matt Tennyson, Dylan DeMelo, Micheal Haley


Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko

Robby Fabbri - Paul Stastny - Troy Brouwer

Patrik Berglund - Alexander Steen - David Backes

Steve Ott - Kyle Brodziak - Scottie Upshall

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Joel Edmundson - Kevin Shattenkirk

Carl Gunnarsson - Colton Parayko

Brian Elliott

Jake Allen

Injured: None

Scratched: Robert Bortuzzo, Ryan Reaves, Magnus Paajarvi, Dmitrij Jaskin, Petteri Lindbohm, Chris Butler, Peter Harrold, Ty Rattie, Anders Nilsson

Status report: Nieto skated during an optional practice Sunday. DeBoer said he expects Nieto to play at some point but in Game 1. "Getting better," DeBoer said. "I talked to him this morning. I think he's on the ice and he's skating. Good sign. I'm confident he'll be available at some point in this series."... Allen left an optional skate early after taking a puck off the mask but Hitchcock said he was fine. ... Hitchcock said he has six players to choose from regarding a fourth line and will start the series with the way the second round ended, meaning Ott will play a second straight game.

Who's hot: Couture has a four-game point streak (three goals, four assists). … Vlasic has a five-game assist streak (six assists) and Thornton has a four-game assist streak (five assists). ... Stastny has seven points (three goals, four assists) in his past five games. … Brouwer and Backes each have eight points (four goals, four assists) in their past six games.

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