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Blues looking for early intensity against Predators

2013-10-26T14:11:00Z 2013-10-26T15:36:04Z Blues looking for early intensity against PredatorsBy Jeremy Rutherford jrutherford@post-dispatch.com 314-444-7135 stltoday.com

NASHVILLE, Tenn. • How long will it take for the Blues to get back into the their pre-break form?

Some may suggest that it took two periods and that based on the final 20 minutes in Friday's 3-2 overtime loss to Vancouver, they are re-engaged. They rallied from a 2-0 deficit and lost on a power-play goal with 14 seconds left in OT.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said late Friday and again on Saturday morning that he felt the team deserved a better result for its finish against the Canucks. But he also said the Blues may not be through the woods yet as they attempt to recover the zip that led them to a 5-1-1 record before their schedule forced them to take a week off.

The team is in Nashville tonight to take on the Predators at 7 p.m.

"We're not going to come close to winning if we don't get engaged at the start," Hitchcock said. "Hopefully (the Vancouver loss) is a good wake-up call. We're back in the league and playing and we can really get engaged from the start to the end.

"It's going to be a challenge, getting back up to speed. I don't think it's going to happen overnight. I think it's like starting all over again. It's just the way it is, but I think we're real lucky that we've got a game (Saturday) ... we can get going again."

The Blues held an optional practice this morning at Bridgestone Arena. It appeared that about half the players went on the ice. One of them was center Derek Roy, who said the players were trying to overcome the disappointment of their performance against the Canucks. 

"It was tough," Roy said. "We knew not playing for a week that we were going to be a little sluggish, and we wanted to come out real strong. We felt that we didn't come out and strong as we wanted to, but as the game went on, we got better as a team. I think we can take from the second and third period how we played and move that forward into tonight."

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TONIGHT'S PROJECTED LINEUP

Forwards

Alexander Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

Magnus Paajarvi-Vladimir Sobotka-Vladimir Tarasenko

Jaden Schwartz-Patrik Berglund-Chris Stewart

Brenden Morrow-Derek Roy-Ryan Reaves

Defensemen

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk

Jordan Leopold-Roman Polak

Goalie

Jaroslav Halak

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PROJECTED PREDATORS' LINEUP

Forwards

Colin Wilson-Mike Fisher-Patric Hornqvist

Gabriel Bourque-Matt Cullen-Craig Smith

Filip Forsberg-David Legwand-Nick Spaling

Matt Hendricks-Paul Gaustad-Eric Nystrom

Defensemen

Seth Jones-Shea Weber

Mattias Ekholm-Kevin Klein

Victor Bartley-Ryan Ellis

Goalie

Carter Hutton 

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SOBOTKA IS SOLID

Blues forward Vladimir Sobotka saw 16 minutes, 14 seconds of ice time Friday against Vancouver. He finished with a goal, five shots on goal, five missed shots, three hits and was 6-1 in the face-off circle.

The only downside of the night was that he didn't play the other 48:32 of the OT game. Hitchcock would have played Sobotka the entire game if it were possible.

"He was the best player on the ice for both teams," Hitchcock said. "That's why he's moving up the ladder today."

Sobotka started the season on the Blues' fourth line, but Hitchcock said Saturday morning, "enough is enough." The Czech Republic native, as noted above, will center Magnus Paajarvi and Vladimir Tarasenko against the Predators.

"If I start on the fourth line, I'll say, 'You have to earn those minutes on the ice and play good to hopefully get on the second line or third line,'" Sobotka said. "It doesn't really matter. I'm playing 16-17 minutes every night. I don't feel like I'm playing on the fourth line."

Sobotka has now won 47 of 66 face-offs (71.2 percent) this season.

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A LOT TO LIKE ABOUT JONES 

Nashville defenseman Seth Jones, who was the No. 4 overall player taken in last summer's draft, is making quite an impression as a rookie.

He played 28:33 in Thursday's 3-2 overtime win over Winnipeg and is averaging 24:43 per game this season — that's 3:28 more than any other first-year player in the league.

"At 19 years old, I like the fact that he's 6-foot-5, he's 210 pounds and he's very poised," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "He skates very well, plays a mature game and he's mature off the ice. He's only going to get better, so that's what I like about him."

***

ODDS & ENDS 

• The Blues had a season-low 24 shots on goal Friday against Vancouver, including just 12 in the first two periods.

Derek Roy will play in his 600th NHL game tonight against Nashville. "It's a lot of years in this league, a lot of battles," Roy said. "I've had to fight through a lot of things and injuries and everything that comes with it."

• The Blues had their best game of the season on face-offs Friday against Vancouver, winning 61.4 percent of the draws. Tonight, they will be facing the No. 1 face-off team in the NHL in Nashville, which wins 56.7 percent of its draws.

• Blues forward Alexander Steen is tied for second in the NHL with eight goals, trailing Washington's Alex Ovechkin by two. "Right now, everything is going in for him and he is one of the most complete players in the league," Trotz said.

• Roy saw only 11:10 of ice time Friday against Vancouver and his assignment on the fourth line tonight could be seen as a demotion. But Hitchcock said this morning that the Blues are going into tonight's game thinking that they will be constantly rolling four lines against the Predators if the game stays even-strength. 

Jeremy is a reporter at the Post-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @jprutherford.

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