By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Justin Faulk will make his Blues debut today when they host the Washington Capitals, their opponent in the regular-season opener Wednesday, in the final preseason home game (7 p.m.; ESPN 101.1-FM).
Faulk, 27, was acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday along with a 2020 fifth-round pick for Joel Edmundson, 2018 first-round pick Dominik Bokk and a 2021 seventh-round pick.
"It'll be good. It's been a little bit hectic, I think, the last few days, not too bad, but out there, it's just playing hockey," Faulk said. "It'll be nice to get playing with some of the guys and start to get a feel for this system and how this team plays."
Although Faulk was paired on the left with Alex Pietrangelo during the morning skate line rushes, coach Craig Berube said Pietrangelo will start on the left side and improvise as needed.
"Neither guy's played a lot of left side," Berube said. "We're going to have to take a look and see who's more comfortable there. We have options of they're all playing on right too with three lefties. There's different options, but tonight, Petro will start on the left side.
"When you have three righties like we have, there's going to be times when one of them's going to have to play left. I think it's fine for the guy that feels the most comfortable over on that side. I think that's the way you've got to look at it. It's not going to be all the time, but there's going to be games where one of them's going to be on the left."
With Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko and Faulk -- all right-handers -- playing and being used to over 20-plus minutes a night, it's going to be a challenge to try and get them all in there with the minutes they're used to playing.
"I'm not a magician at how to work numbers and that shuffle to make sure guys play where they need to play and how much they should play," Faulk said. "I just kind of go out there when I'm told and I think coaches will do a good job in handling all that. If that's what's asked of us, between the three of us, I don't think either of us will complain about getting minutes because we've got to go to the left side.
"There will be plenty of times throughout the game where you'll probably end up seeing me on the left side a little bit and us getting switched around and that's the good thing about having two righties or two lefties together. If you get switched around, there's no rush to get back and you can just hold your positions and kind of hold where you're at. He said he's probably played the left a little more than I have. I guess I thought I was playing left until you said that. It's going to get switched around as we go out there anyways. He's a good player and he can handle it and I'm a good player as well.
"That's not really on my mind how many minutes I'm going to be getting or anything like that. We've got a good group, a good team. If the team's playing well, it doesn't even matter. No one really cares too much when the team's having success and obviously that happened here last year. It doesn't matter to me. I'll go out there when I'm told and go from there."
The idea of using two righties as one pair for Berube means he can also try and manage not just their minutes but for all the defensemen with the amount of time and length of last season going to June 12.
"The minutes are obviously important, but also at the same time, winning the Stanley Cup and playing that long into June, managing minutes are important too," Berube said. "When you have the d-corps that we have and the minutes that each of those players can log, it's pretty good to have. It keeps minutes in check a little bit, keeps freshness and it's important. That's going to be important to manage the workload of everybody on our team this year. I think that's one of the good things to have is the d-corps that we have. There's a lot of guys that can play a lot of minutes."
Right now for Faulk, getting acclimated with a new system is his greatest challenge, but one he said isn't really that difficult.
"Honestly, it's not too far off I don't think from what I was doing," Faulk said. "There's maybe some different lingo and stuff's explained a little bit differently. In the end, a lot of it's pretty similar. There's a couple small things that might take a second to get used to, but it's not too far off I don't think. I just had a quick chat and I'm sure I'll learn more and get more into it as I go and get involved here a little bit more. It's been fine so far. I guess I'm going to go out there and try to play well."
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Zach Sanford will play his fifth preseason tonight and it'll be an important one for him.
Much like Sanford's early career, it's been an up-and-down camp for the forward who excelled in the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins but who has also disappeared at times in games.
Berube, who will play Sanford with Nathan Walker and Jordan Nolan tonight, said Sanford needs to bring more and it is an important game.
"It is for sure. Coming into camp, Zach obviously was kind of a player that was up and down last year, up and down in the playoffs and he finished strong obviously in the playoffs playing on the line with [Ryan] O'Reilly, scored a couple big goals, but we just haven't seen that in camp this year so far so it's a big game for him along with other guys too," Berube said. "I think that we need to see more, need to see more. Need to see more intensity, need to see more."
"It's been OK, I think," Sanford said of his camp. "I've done some good things, but I can agree with that, there's a lot more I can do for myself and for the team. That's just all I'm focusing on now the next few days, the next two games here in preseason is getting back to my game and bringing what I can to this team.
"I just think my strength and speed and quickness on plays, I think my feet haven't been moving as great as they can be. Maybe the timing's a little off and maybe just a little behind, but there's still two more games to play and I'm going to get back to the peak.
"This is kind of the first full camp I've been through here. It's been a little different the past two years. I think for a guy like me coming into the season and being able to get a decent amount of games in the preseason I think is important for me."
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Robby Fabbri, who will not play tonight, is also getting assessed and it's been a mixed review as well.
"Fabs is skating well," Berube said. "That's a good thing. He's moving well. I think he's got good jump, but again, I'd just like to see more, some more finish. But again though, it's a big improvement from last year where he's at. He worked hard this summer and he's got himself in good shape, he's got himself faster."
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Klim Kostin, who was originally in the game group, will not play after playing last night, will be replaced by Mackenzie MacEachern. Berube is hopeful to get Kostin, a 2017 first-round pick, into another game. He's leveled off the past two games after he had six points (three goals, three assists) his first three games.
"I think his game's leveled off, but we'll see if maybe we can get him in there one more game and see how he looks," Berube said.
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Robert Thomas made his preseason debut in the Kraft Hockeyville game, a 4-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday.
Berube said he played well and is hopeful of playing him one more game, but it won't be tonight.
"We (saw) the old Robert Thomas last night in the third," Berube said. "He was hanging onto that puck, eluding people and making plays. It was good to see, it was good to see him back on the ice playing. Had to get him through the game and he was fine, so that was a good thing.
"I'm hoping to get him in there Sunday for that game against Columbus, I think it's important to get him in there."
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Goalie Ville Husso will play his third preseason game and play the entire game for the first time.
Husso, who had lingering ankle issues last season but feels healthy now, played the first two periods of the first preseason game at Dallas and the third period and overtime at Winnipeg last Friday.
"I think it's been a good camp, got some action early in the camp and now I will get a full game. I think it's good for me," Husso said. "... It's good opportunity for me and I think I just need to go in there and enjoy the game. There's things I can do still a little bit better, but I think it's been a good camp. It's nice to get some action in good games. It's been a long time since I played a full game, so I'm really happy right now.
"It's always nice to be healthy. Injuries are tough for players, but it's part of the game and need to go through that. Right now, I'm super happy I'm healthy and I can play hockey right now. Everything is perfect."
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Defenseman Andreas Borgman, acquired in an off-season trade from the Toronto Maple Leafs for Jordan Schmaltz, will play his fifth preseason game tonight.
Berube has liked his game thus far.
"He's been really good," Berube said. "We're impressed with his ability to do things well, not great offensively or a flashy player but solid defensively, strong out there, makes pretty good decisions with the puck. Just a first-pass option guy, a steady player, skates well."
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Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo and Carl Gunnarsson will not play tonight, and Berube said Friday morning both guys are a "little banged up" and "nicked up" but didn't believe they would be in jeopardy of missing the season opener Wednesday.
Bortuzzo had an elbow and lower leg wrapped up after the game Tuesday, and Gunnarsson left a little early from practice on Thursday.
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The Blues' projected lineup:
Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko
Ivan Barbashev-Tyler Bozak-Alexander Steen
Zach Sanford-Nathan Walker-Jordan Nolan
Mackenzie MacEachern-Ryan Olsen-Austin Poganski
Alex Pietrangelo-Justin Faulk
Jay Bouwmeester-Mitch Reinke
Niko Mikkola-Andreas Borgman
Ville Husso will get the start and play the whole game; Adam Wilcox will be the backup.
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The Capitals' projected lineup:
Carl Hagelin-Lars Eller-Chandler Stephenson
Beck Malenstyn-Nic Down-Brendan Leipsic
Shane Gersich-Evgeny Kuznetzov-Travis Boyd
Shane O'Brien-Michael Sgarbossa-Brian Pinho
Dmitry Orlov-Nick Jensen
Christian Djoos-Radko Gudas
Martin Fehervary-Tyler Lewington
Braden Holtby is the expected starter; Vitek Vanecek is expected to be the backup.