The Blues hope some line juggling will help boost their offense for Game 5 of the Western Conference Second Round against the Nashville Predators on Friday (7 p.m.; NBCSN, KYKY 98.1-FM).
The Blues held a full practice on Thursday minus Alexander Steen, who continues to skip practices while playing through a lower-body injury. But coach Mike Yeo moved some components around on his top three lines and reunited the fourth line, which was broken up for Game 4, a 2-1 Predators victory to give them a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series.
Vladimir Sobotka was moved to the top line left wing with Paul Stastny and Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz came off the top line to play left wing with Patrik Berglund and the spot when Steen will play, which was held in practice by Dmitrij Jaskin; and the third line was a combination of Magnus Paajarvi and David Perron on wings centered by Jori Lehtera.
Giving Sobotka, who has five points (two goals, three assists) in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a look on the top line is warranted.
"He's had a really strong playoff for us," Yeo said. "He's been very effective and it's not hard to figure out why. You get into playoff hockey and to have success, you want speed, you want skill, but the level of competitiveness goes up. When he plays the way that he does and he gets to the hard areas, he protects the puck, he wins battles offensively, that opens up time and space for other people and creates situations and opportunities for himself as well."
Scoring two goals the past two games can warrant changes where a coach tries to provide a certain spark, especially for a team faced with elimination.
"I think so. Our backs are against the wall here. We have to do something," Stastny said. "I think I said that last game. We had a lot of chances and had to create a lot to score and they didn’t go in. We’re not lacking any confidence. We know that. Just because he switches lines like that, it doesn’t mean much for us. We know something needs to happen. If you lose a couple games in a row obviously you have to shake things up a little bit. This way you just spread it out a little bit.
"You have to find a spark, I think, sometimes this is what happens. If this doesn’t work throughout the game and then we need something, then I’m sure the lines will switch throughout the game. We’re focused on what guys can do individually to help out the guys next to each other. If we give an effort like we did last game where we’re playing for each other and left it all on the line, I think we’ll be happy with what comes out of Game 5."
The fourth line will reunite with center Kyle Brodziak flanked by wings Scottie Upshall and Ryan Reaves. Brodziak was a healthy scratch in Game 4.
"It's tough. This time of year especially, you want to be part of the group," Brodziak said of his benching. "It's tough, but you've got to take out of it what you can and get your game back to the level it needs to be.
"This time of year, you don't ask questions. You put in the work you need. If they don't feel your game's up to the level that it needs to be, then you've got to work on it and get it back where it needs to be. Like I said, it's tough; you want to be a part of it, but hopefully use the last few days to try to get it to the level I know I can play at."
Yeo, who coached Brodziak when both were with the Minnesota Wild together for four seasons from 2011-15, knows his veteran center will bounce back better from past experience.
"He has, absolutely," Yeo said. "When I talked to him two days ago, it was a reset for him with the understanding to take a step back here and we know he'll come out and play a real strong, poised, confident, veteran type game for us tomorrow and that's where we're going to need it the most."
The Blues could use an infusion on the power play; they are 15th of the 16 playoff teams at 8.3 percent (2-for-24 overall, 1-for-9 in the series against Nashville). Only the New York Rangers (7.7 percent) have a worse percentage.
Defenseman Joel Edmundson was getting some looks on the second power-play unit at practice on Thursday manning one of the points with Colton Parayko.
"It's worth a look," Yeo said. "It's worth checking it out in practice and see how it looks."
As for the remaining changes, Yeo was predictably vague with his lineup for Game 5.
"I think as you guys have seen, with 'Steener' not in practice, we've been trying a lot of different things and they don't necessarily translate to the game. It's an opportunity to look at some things and see how it goes."