Injury-Riddled St. Louis Blues Look to Hold Off Buffalo Sabres Thursday


St. Louis Blues Game 20/82: Tuesday, November 17, 7:00 PM vs. Buffalo Sabres

The St. Louis Blues will look to kick things back into gear on Thursday night as they face the perpetually-rebuilding Buffalo Sabres at Scottrade Center. Buffalo, which has not reached the playoffs since Ryan Miller was in his prime back in 2010-11 and has finished in last place in three straight seasons, currently sits in seventh place in the Atlantic Division with a record of 8-9-1.

The Sabres have been fueled most thus far by offseason acquisition Ryan O’Reilly, who leads the team with 15 points (six goals, nine assists) through 18 games. Like the Blues with Colton Parayko, the Sabres have also been lifted by the strong performance of a young defenseman wearing number 55. 21-year-old blueliner Rasmus Ristolainen has four goals and seven assists to start the season, and it’s already a breakout year for the former first-rounder, who had eight goals and 12 assists through 78 games last season.

Buffalo also has a chance to get back forward Evander Kane, who has been dealing with an MCL injury, on Thursday. Kane, the fourth overall pick in 2009 who was traded to Buffalo last year, has failed to live up to expectations thus far due to injuries and general shaky performance, but if he can finally reach his expected potential–or even the form he displayed in 2011-12, when he had 30 goals and 27 assists for the Winnipeg Jets–he’ll provide a major boost to the Sabres.

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The Blues need to step things up considering that they’ve now lost three of their past four and were defeated by the Columbus Blue Jackets, who currently rank 29th among the 30 NHL teams, on Tuesday. Things won’t get easier on Thursday, as defenseman Colton Parayko is expected to miss another game with a lower-body injury, and center Jori Lehtera is also an uncertainty after taking a stick to the throat against Columbus.

The Blues are expected to have a solid compliment of forwards on Thursday, as Lehtera participated in the morning skate and seems good to go against Buffalo. Forward Scottie Upshall, who got off to a strong start with two goals in his first four games this year, is expected to be a healthy scratch on Thursday. Upshall has a minus-3 rating in the past four games and was demoted to the fourth line earlier this week.

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Both Parayko, who missed Tuesday’s game, and Kevin Shattenkirk, who missed Thursday’s morning skate for unknown reasons, are question marks against Buffalo. If the Blues need to summon a defenseman for Thursday’s game, Chris Butler and Petteri Lindbohm would seem to be the most likely possibilities for a call-up from AHL Chicago.

Here’s how the Blues’ lineup is expected to look against the Sabres:

Alexander Steen-David BackesVladimir Tarasenko

Robby FabbriScott GomezDmitrij Jaskin

Magnus PaajarviJori Lehtera-Troy Brouwer

Steve OttKyle BrodziakJeremy Welsh

Jay BouwmeesterAlex Pietrangelo

Carl GunnarssonKevin Shattenkirk

Joel EdmundsonRobert Bortuzzo

Jake Allen

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