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Nail Yakupov to make Blues debut

No. 1 pick from 2012 Draft will play, Jake Allen to start in goal against Blackhawks

by Brian Hedger / Correspondent

BLUES (0-0-0) at BLACKHAWKS (0-0-0)

8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV

CHICAGO -- Forward Nail Yakupov will make his regular-season debut with the St. Louis Blues when they visit the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center on Wednesday in the season-opening game for each team.

Yakupov, the No.1 pick of the 2012 NHL Draft by the Edmonton Oilers who had eight goals and 23 points in 60 games last season, is looking forward to a fresh start after he was acquired on Friday in a trade with the Oilers.

"It's tough to leave a city where you've been for a long time, especially moving to a different country, and being around different guys," Yakupov said. "So, I'm happy we have a game today, so you're just waiting for it and want to get it started." 

Yakupov, 23, has 50 goals and 61 assists in 252 career games, all with the Oilers.

"For now, I'm really clear on where I am now," he said. "I understand everything. I'm really happy to be part of the Blues and just want to get started and we'll see what happens."

Jake Allen, who sustained a lower-body injury in the Blues' final preseason game against the Blackhawks on Saturday, will be in goal.

Allen practiced Tuesday and took part in the morning skate Wednesday. After splitting time with Brian Elliott last season, he will make his first start as the No. 1 goalie.

"He's going to get the ball, and he's going to be able to keep the ball for an extended period of time," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I don't know if we know [how he'll do] right now, other than that mentally and physically he's ready to handle it."

Allen, 26, who missed one practice after the injury, has had success against the Blackhawks. In six career games against Chicago, he's 4-2-0 with a 2.05 goals-against average and .934 save percentage, including 2-1-0 with a 2.16 GAA and .940 save percentage at United Center.

"[Allen's] ready to handle it from a maturity standpoint," Hitchcock said. "The highs and lows aren't there. A poor outing isn't going to dramatically change what we think or react to. I think he's ready to just grab it, just like (Blackhawks starter Corey) Crawford was here, and then take it from there."

The Blackhawks are looking forward to the rematch against the Blues, who eliminated them from the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs in seven games in the Western Conference First Round. Eight Chicago players didn't play in that series, including defenseman Brian Campbell, forward Jordin Tootoo and six rookies.

"We had individual player meetings with everybody," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "The young guys here, it's 'Make sure you're comfortable out there, play to your strengths … we don't want to be thinking out there every single shift, so trust your instincts and we'll reinforce doing the right things and the good habits as you go along here.'"


Blues projected lineup

Robby Fabbri -- Paul Stastny -- Alexander Steen

David Perron -- Jori Lehtera -- Vladimir Tarasenko

Dmitrij Jaskin -- Patrik Berglund -- Nail Yakupov

Scottie Upshall -- Kyle Brodziak -- Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester -- Alex Pietrangelo

Joel Edmundson -- Kevin Shattenkirk

Robert Bortuzzo -- Colton Parayko

Jake Allen

Carter Hutton

Scratched: Magnus Paajarvi, Ty Rattie, Carl Gunnarsson

Injured: Jaden Schwartz (left elbow)


Blackhawks projected lineup

Richard Panik -- Jonathan Toews -- Marian Hossa

Artemi Panarin -- Artem Anisimov -- Patrick Kane

Tyler Motte -- Marcus Kruger -- Ryan Hartman

Vinnie Hinostroza -- Nick Schmaltz -- Jordin Tootoo

Duncan Keith -- Trevor van Riemsdyk

Michal Kempny -- Brent Seabrook

Gustav Forsling -- Brian Campbell

Corey Crawford

Scott Darling

Scratched: Dennis Rasmussen, Michal Rozsival

Suspended: Niklas Hjalmarsson

Injured: Andrew Desjardins (lower body)


Status report

Hitchcock said Bortuzzo's strong training camp led to him making the roster. … Van Riemsdyk is playing in place of Hjalmarsson, who will serve the final game of a three-game suspension for an illegal hit on Blues forward Ty Rattie in the preseason.


Who's hot

Crawford allowed two goals on 29 shots in 89 minutes during the preseason (1.35 goals-against average). ...Shattenkirk and Jaskin each had three goals in five preseason games.

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