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Hat-tricks are still a big deal, particularly in Blues' system

2014-03-29T10:43:00Z 2014-04-10T20:31:36Z Hat-tricks are still a big deal, particularly in Blues' systemBy Jeremy Rutherford jrutherford@post-dispatch.com 314-444-7135 stltoday.com

Perhaps No. 2 behind scoring the Stanley Cup clinching goal, netting a hat-trick remains a dream for NHL players. 

"Absolutely," Blues captain David Backes said. "It's one of those special things in the game and it's got a special meaning in hockey."

In the past two games, the Blues have had two players turn the trick: Backes against Toronto on Tuesday and teammate T.J. Oshie Thursday against Minnesota.

"It's the second time in eight years for me, and the first time in seven for him, so it's not all that often that it happens," Backes said. "But two back-to-back by good American guys on the same team, it's a good feeling and hopefully we can find someone that pours three in tonight and keep it going."

The last time the Blues had consecutive hat-tricks was in December 2000 when Pavol Demitra and Michal Handzus combined to accomplish the feat.

In today's day and age of tight checking, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said that recording a hat-trick, particularly in his system, is no easy task.  

"I think for a guy to score three goals in a game right now, with the way that we are built, is impressive because we don't allow people to cheat the game to score," Hitchcock said. "Even when you're out there in the last minute of play and you've got two goals, we still want you to play the right way. So I think it's really significant for our team because of the way we kind of demand that the players play.

"We've had a lot of guys that have had very good seasons offensively and the reason they have, quite frankly, is because they've really bought into playing what we consider 'our way' or the right way and their offense and success is a direct reflection of playing the right way."

Can the Blues pick up a third straight hat-trick tonight against the Dallas Stars? If so, who will it be? 

"We'll pick the other guy on the line, Steener," Backes said, picking Alexander Steen, who will be playing in his 600th NHL game tonight.

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BLUES' PROJECTED LINEUP

Forwards

Alexander Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

Patrik Berglund-Vladimir Sobotka-Jaden Schwartz

Brenden Morrow-Derek Roy-Steve Ott

Chris Porter-Maxim Lapierre-Ryan Reaves

Defensemen

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman-Roman Polak

Ian Cole-Kevin Shattenkirk

Goalie

Ryan Miller

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STARS' PROJECTED LINEUP

Forwards

Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin-Valeri Nichushkin

Antoine Roussel-Cody Eakin-Ryan Garbutt

Shawn Horcoff-Vernon Fiddler-Colton Sceviour

Ray Whitney-Dustin Jeffrey-Alex Chiasson

Defensemen

Alex Goligoski-Trevor Daley

Jordie Benn-Brenden Dillon

Aaron Rome-Sergei Gonchar

Goalie

Kari Lehtonen

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LINEUP CHANGES

The Blues are inserting Chris Porter back into the lineup tonight in place of Magnus Paajarvi.

"(Porter) wins all the board battles," Hitchcock said. "The fourth line has got to win a lot more board battles than they're winning right now. It's one and done and it's not good enough. We need to get more play from our fourth line, more sustained pressure."

The club is also making a move on the blueline, swapping in Ian Cole for Carlo Colaiacovo.

As a result of the recent changes in the team's defensive pairs, Cole will get the opportunity to play with Kevin Shattenkirk for the first time in a while.

"It'll be good," Cole said. "Give him the opportunity to jump whenever he wants pretty much and I'll be back there."

Actually, Hitchcock said that he'll be instructing Cole to be more active in transition.

"I think we want to see Cole play more of an offensive role," Hitchcock said. "I think he's underrated from the red line in. He's also going to get power-play time today, not just tokens at the end. We'll see how he looks."

***

BENN IS BENEFICIARY

The last time the Blues faced Dallas, Jamie Benn lifted the Stars to a 3-2 overtime victory, scoring the game-winner with 1:18 left in OT.

It came just a couple of weeks after Benn played for Team Canada, whose practices might have taught the observant forward a few pointers about the Blues' defensive system. Hitchcock, of course, was an assistant on Canada's staff.

"He got information that's going to kill  us for 10 years," Hitchcock said. "I'm impressed that he won a gold medal and he was a great player (for Canada), but I'm a little disappointed that he's going to use it against me as a coach until I retire."

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ODDS & ENDS

• With a win tonight over Dallas, the Blues will match their franchise-record win total of 51. That bar was set in 1999-2000, when the club finished 51-19-11-1. Keep in mind, in those days the league didn't have shootouts. The Blues have 42 wins this season that ended in regulation or overtime and eight that came in the shootout.

• Hitchcock said Friday that Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko, who had hand surgery earlier this month, hasn't been cleared to skate yet, but he's getting close.

• Dallas center Tyler Seguin may not be in the lineup tonight for the Stars. He finished Friday's 7-3 win over Nashville, but was on the ice Saturday morning at Scottrade Center and might be dealing with an injury. "We have a couple of question marks and he's one of them," Dallas coach Lindy Ruff said.

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

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