O'Reilly chosen as Blues' lone All-Star, Tarasenko on ballot for Last
Man In voting; Kyrou nets AHL honor; Gunnarsson close to returning
By LOU KORACST. LOUIS -- If the Blues were going to get one All-Star among a loaded crop from the Central Division, the choice was pretty obvious.
Center Ryan O'Reilly was selected to the Central Division All-Star Team by the NHL Hockey Operations Department on Wednesday for the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game at SAP Center on Jan. 26.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
O'Reilly, acquired from the Buffalo Sabres on July 1 for a package of forwards Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka and Tage Thompson, a conditional 2019 first-round pick and a second round pick in 2021, leads the Blues in every offensive category with 35 points (15 goals, 20 assists) in 37 games and is among the top faceoff winners in the league at 59.3 percent.
"Obviously there's more important things; we're worrying about winning hockey games and that sort of thing, but I think that's something every guy wants to be, an NHL All-Star," O'Reilly said of the 15-18-4 start to the season.
It will be the second All-Star selection for O'Reilly, who represented the Sabres in 2016 and finished that season with 60 points (21 goals, 39 assists).
"It was two, three years ago in Nashville. I got a chance to do that, which was a cool experience," O'Reilly said. "I think the NHL does a great job putting them on. The 3-on-3, I think, is exciting for fans. It's a cool structure this year too being you get a break either before or after kind of thing. It's not like your break's gone, so you still have a little time. ... It's always a cool event."
Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo along with forward Brayden Schenn represented the Blues last season in Tampa, feels O'Reilly is deserving.
"It's going to be great for him," Pietrangelo said. "It's pretty impressive after coming over after that big trade doing what he's doing."
When the Blues play at Anaheim on Jan. 23, they will not only get the All-Star break but the following week and don't play again until Feb. 2 at Columbus, which makes this time around playing good for O'Reilly, who leads Blues all Blues forwards in time on ice with 20:28 average per game.
"It is kind of a nice recharge," O'Reilly said. "You step away and you get to regroup, and I think it's key with how long the season is. You have to find a way to regroup mentally and come back with that urgency and that excitement. These breaks are key to enjoy it, to see family or getting away from the game a little bit and come back with that hunger."
Arizona Coyotes forward Clayton Keller of Swansea, Ill. was also selected to the game, his first.
Keller leads the Coyoyes with 29 points (eight goals, 21 assists) in 39 games; he's also tops in assists.
Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko could still get in and to do so, he would have to win the fan voting for players from the Central Division.
Voting opens at NHL.com/vote at 11 a.m. Thursday and runs through Jan. 10 at 10:59 p.m. (CT).
Kyrou, 20, had 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in nine games for the Rampage in December and had at least a point in every game for the month.
Kyrou's 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists) are 10th in among AHL rookie scorers; he is currently in an 11-game point streak (eight goals, 11 assists) that dates to Nov. 25. He is one game shy of tying Yanick Lehoux’s franchise record 12-game point streak, achieved in the 2006-07 season.
Kyrou, a second-round pick in 2016, has played in 11 games with the Blues this season and has a goal and a assist.
* Line changes -- Blues interim coach Craig Berube mixed up the forward lines at practice on Wednesday ahead of a home date with the Washington Capitals on Thursday (7 p.m.; FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).
After scoring just twice in a two-game losing streak to end 2018, the Blues will open 2019 with a new look.
"We've got to find some scoring," Berube said. "We can't keep going to the well. It worked for a bit, but it's dried up and we've got to move on and try to create some scoring some other ways."
The Blues have 153 shot attempts the past two games, including 46 blocked and 36 miss the net, so change was inevitable.
Carl Gunnarsson and Jordan Schmaltz skated as the extra d-pair.
"I think early on, they were scoring at a pretty good clip there, but we weren't winning games, and things change," Berube said of the top forwards. "... I'm not going to get into them all, but right now for me, it's a lot of confidence things, I think. When guys don't score, they don't produce the way they want to, it affects them mentally for sure. But they're pros and they've got to get through that and move on and keep working and grind your way out of it. That's basically what it's boiled down to. A lot of them, it comes down to confidence and squeezing their stick too tight right now and things like that. It's not from a lack of try or will. I think they're working hard and they're trying and they're getting opportunities, but they're just not going in."
Tarasenko missed practice on Wednesday, and Fabbri skated in his spot on the top line. Berube called it a maintenance day but word was he was sick.
"Vladi will be alright," Berube said.
* Gunnarsson to return Thursday? -- Gunnarsson could make his second return of the season Thursday after missing the past 20 games with a hand injury.
Even though he was part of the extra D pair on Wednesday, it's possible he will jump into the lineup against the Capitals.
"He's ready to go," Berube said. "We'll make a decision tomorrow on Gunny, maybe getting him in there tomorrow, we'll see, but I'm going to wait until tomorrow."
Gunnarsson, who came off surgery to repair a torn left ACL in the offseason, has played in just seven games this season.
"Now it's up to the guys over there to figure it out, but I'm good, yeah," Gunnarsson said of the coaches. "... When it first happened, I was hoping for a week, whatever and then bounce back, but we figured out that it was a little worse than that and it's just been no timeline. I wish I knew. It's been day-to-day and week-to-week and up and down.
"... It's been tough, coming off two big surgeries and then fighting back, feeling good. It would be one thing if one of those flared up but it was a totally new thing. It was tough mentally to fight back but here we are, feeling good and hopefully back soon."
The Blues assigned defenseman Chris Butler and forward Jordan Nolan to San Antonio after both players cleared waivers.