ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Despite a 1-0 series lead against the Minnesota Wild, the Blues are going with a pair of lineup changes for Game 2 of their first-round series today.
Robert Bortuzzo, who's missed the past six games with an upper-body injury, will return and take the place of Jordan Schmaltz, and it appears that Jori Lehtera will be a healthy scratch for the playoff debut of Zach Sanford.
Bortuzzo, who was injured following a check against the Colorado Avalanche on March 31, will step in and play alongside third-pair partner Carl Gunnarsson.
"Barring any setbacks, we're excited to jump back in there," Bortuzzo said. "Obviously it's going to be a good test tonight. Looking forward to it.
"... It's exciting. It's a fun time of the year. It's almost better if you can jump into an intense situation like that getting into it right away. Looking forward to the challenge and it'll be fun."
Bortuzzo can add some size and a mean streak in his game, something the Blues could perhaps use against a Wild team that will be looking to even the series.
Barbashev gets shot with Tarasenko, Schwartz; Sobotka addition gives Blues options; Brodziak back in Minnesota; Schmaltz to debut in playoffs By LOU KORAC HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Never in his wildest dreams could Blues rookie Ivan Barbashev have felt like he'd be at the center of attention (no pun intended) when the Stanley Cup Playoffs rolled around.
"He was playing really, really well for us when he was in the lineup," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "Since the (Kevin) Shattenkirk trade, obviously his role increased. Big body, veteran guy and he’s got a little nastiness to his game. So obviously in front we know what their game plan is that makes it a little bit difficult, a little bit more challenging to get there, but we said this before, they’ve got guys that can possess the puck, [they’re] strong on the puck, and 'Borts' certainly has the ability to separate some guys down low and make them pay a little bit of a price."
It will be Bortuzzo's 14th playoff game, and after a a series of practices the past couple days, deemed himself good to go.
"Yeah, done everything in terms of preparation to be ready to go and contribute," Bortuzzo said. "Now it's just getting in there and doing such.
"I think we can take away some of their time and space in the O-zone. They cycle a lot of pucks and like to carry it around the offensive zone. If we can put an end to some of those plays, that's kind of when the crowd gets into it. If you can get in and out of your end and not play in your D-zone, it's a huge part of it."
Gunnarsson is happy to have his partner back and feels Bortuzzo brings a certain element, something perhaps missing in Game 1.
"Yeah, it's been a while but happy to get him back," Gunnarsson said. "It was pretty quick, but it's good.
"Physicality, aggressiveness, being a little nasty. That's what he's real good at and I think that will be good tonight. ... A little bit. We could probably be a little more dirty, nasty, a bit more angry out there. Bringing in a body like 'Bobbo,' it's going to be great tonight."
Schmaltz played a team-low 9 minutes, 18 seconds in Game 1, including just six seconds out of 17:42 of overtime.
"I thought he did well," Gunnarsson said of Schmaltz. "A couple plays and he was like, 'You think we can make more plays?' I told him just the way we were playing last game, too, we'll keep it simple right now. Punch it out and we'll build from there. I think the whole team, we defended a lot, and that's probably not the time to try and do something fancy. He just kept it simple and I think he did a good job of that."
As for the forward change, Alexander Steen didn't take the morning skate and in his place was Sanford, but Yeo confirmed Steen will play and didn't say it in so many words, but Lehtera would be the odd-man out tonight.
Steen is expected to center a line with Vladimir Sobotka on the left and Sanford on the right.
Yeo did have an extended conversation with Lehtera after the morning skate, one assumes it is to discuss the change.
"So you’re assuming that we’re … it was a long conversation."
Lehtera played 16:53, the lowest of the center icemen for the Blues in Game 1.
As for other injury updates, Yeo said center Paul Stastny is still day-to-day.
The Blues' projected lineup:
Jaden Schwartz-Ivan Barbashev-Vladimir Tarasenko
Magnus Paajarvi-Patrik Berglund-David Perron
Vladimir Sobotka-Alexander Steen-Zach Sanford
Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Joel Edmundson-Colton Parayko
Carl Gunnarsson-Robert Bortuzzo
Jake Allen will start in goal; Carter Hutton will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Jori Lehtera, Dmitrij Jaskin, Jordan Schmaltz and Luke Opilka. Paul Stastny (lower body), Robby Fabbri (knee) and Nail Yakupov (undisclosed) are out with injuries.
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The Wild's projected lineup:
Nino Niederreiter-Eric Staal-Zach Parise
Erik Haula-Mikko Koivu-Mikael Granlund
Jason Zucker-Martin Hanzal-Charlie Coyle
Chris Stewart-Joel Eriksson Ek-Jason Pominville
Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Marco Scandella-Matt Dumba
Jonas Brodin-Christian Folin
Devan Dubnyk will start in goal; Darcy Kuemper will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Jordan Schroeder, Ryan White and Nate Prosser. Victor Bartley (arm) is on injured-reserve.
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