The Lightning are 5-5-0 over their last 10 games, and have managed fairly well despite the long term loss of sniper Steven Stamkos to injury. Nikita Kucherov has been stringing together an incredible first half, recording 26 points over 22 games. The Blues need to make sure the KUCH can’t get loose. Bishop is likely to get the nod in net for the Bolts tonight - Vasilevskiy is coming off a tough 5-1 loss on Tuesday against the Blue Jackets.
St.Louis has bounced back from a nasty losing streak, winning 6 out of their last 7 games, and improving to an impressive 10-1-2 at home on the season. The Blues are also getting healthy at just the right time, as Joel Edmundson is supposedly close to returning to the lineup, but Bortuzzo is not going quietly into that cold, dark pressbox. ‘Bobo’ turned a lot of heads during the Blues’ win against the Stars, picking up an assist on Fabbri’s goal, and was a +1 with 3 shots on net.
“In five games, Bortuzzo has one goal, one assist and he's a plus-four, while logging an average of 16 minutes, 28 seconds of ice time per night. He's also directed 17 shots at the net, dished out eight hits and blocked 10 shots. His goal came in the Blues' 4-2 win over Boston Nov. 22 and he assisted on Robby Fabbri's tally in Monday's 4-3 overtime win over Dallas.
"He's in control defensively," Hitchcock said. "He's not over-pursuing contact. He's in a really good positional play and foundation and it's led to good play because of it. He's going to be a tough guy to take out of the lineup if he continues to play at this pace right now."
Bortuzzo called it a "comfortability thing."
"The guys around me help," he said. "Definitely feel comfortable out there. I don't know what it is, nothing has changed. Maybe your confidence level. It's nice to hear coaches saying good things about you, you appreciate that. But at the end of the day, it's just knowing your abilities, being confident in your abilities and executing them out there." Bortuzzo is a right-handed shot, but has shown his versatility by playing on the left-side, or his off-side. The Blues had been playing him with Kevin Shattenkirk and putting Carl Gunnarsson with Colton Parayko, leading some to think that Gunnarsson could be the odd-guy out when Edmundson returns. But Gunnarsson was back with Shattenkirk in Monday's game.” [Post-Dispatch]
Steen will return to the lineup tonight (per Tom Timmerman), and the Ty Rattie/Nail Yakupov carousel stops for the time being as both will sit tonight. Hitchcock and Yeo seem to be carving out roughly 6-7 minutes of ice time for Yak or Rattie, and putting together an impressive performance with such a short clock has to be challenging.
Here are your projected lineups:
Robby Fabbri - Alexander Steen - Vladimir Tarasenko
Jaden Schwartz - Paul Stastny - David Perron
Patrik Berglund - Jori Lehtera - Dmitrij Jaskin
Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Carl Gunnarsson - Kevin Shattenkirk
Robert Bortuzzo - Colton Parayko
Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov
Alex Kilorn - Brayden Point - Jonathan Drouin
Vladislav Namestnikov - Valtteri Filppula - Brian Boyle
Ryan Callahan - Cedric Paquette - J.T. Brown
Victor Hedman - Nikita Nesterov
Braydon Coburn - Andrej Sustr
Jason Garrison - Luke Witkowski
By the Numbers: