Wednesday, October 31, 2018


Allen resume practicing, ready to play if called on; Fabbri, Gunnarsson, 
Soshnikov activated off IR; Husso Jerabek assigned to an Antonio

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Jake Allen was back practicing on Wednesday with teammates at the Ice Zone, and is ready to resume action Thursday against the Vegas Golden Knights if called upon when the Blues (3-4-3) resume their schedule after a second four-day break in October.

Allen, who left the Blues' 7-3 win against Chicago last Saturday after a collision with teammate Zach Sanford with 1:01 remaining in the second period with a head injury, got a bit of a scare when he left the ice but said after going through the league's concussion protocol, it was the right decision to remove him from the game.

Allen, who is 3-2-3 with a 3.99 goals-against average and .874 save percentage, took Sunday off before getting in some cardio on the bike Monday, got in a solo session with goalie coach David Alexander on Tuesday before a full workload on Wednesday with his teammates. He's declared himself ready.

"I'm feeling good. I'm ready to go for tomorrow," Allen said. "We'll see what happens tomorrow.

"It was a hard play to the net and I just made a save. It was no one on purpose; it was no one's fault or anything. A tough blow to the side of the head. Definitely really shaken up at the time. It was the right decision to take me out. I know it took me a little bit to gather myself, gather my eyesight. But after that, it was OK. It was the right thing to do at the time.

"It's one of those things where you're sort of not expecting something and something just takes the side of your head and going at that speed and that force definitely shakes you up a little bit. To be honest, I've been very fortunate in my career to now have any injuries related to my head or eyesight or anything like that. When I opened up my eyes and I got up, I know something wasn't right right away, so it was the right thing to do. I remember the time in Dallas where I had to come out of the game, come back in, and it sort of throws you off, you have to do the concussion testing and all the protocol. For me to come out and Chad to seal the job, it was the right thing at the time."

With Allen back at practice in full, the Blues assigned goalie Ville Husso back to San Antonio of the American Hockey League. Husso was recalled on Monday as a precaution.

"We were obviously hoping that it wasn't going to be anything long-term," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "Good to see him back that quickly.

"Good day and talked to him afterwards and he felt good, but we'll announce our starter tomorrow. ... We talked to him yesterday and he got through the first ice session and then talked to him again today and got through that really well. He looks good."

That first day waking up the next morning will on most occasions tell a player whether there are concussion symptoms or not, and Allen got through his fine and told him he'd be OK.

"That night I was definitely a little bit slow, but I actually got a great sleep," Allen said. "I didn't think I was going to. I woke up the next morning and felt pretty much back to myself again. I was just taking it a little bit slow. Took the day off Monday to make sure and got on the ice yesterday with Davey and worked my way back.

"I was fine. It was just the right thing to do at the time."

* Fabbri, Gunnarsson, Soshnikov activated, Jerabek assigned to San Antonio -- After a full day of practice Wednesday, the Blues declared forwards Robby Fabbri and Nikita Soshnikov and defenseman Carl Gunnarsson fit and ready to be activated off injured reserve.

Fabbri, who has not played in an NHL regular-season game since Feb. 4, 2017 following a torn left ACL that he re-injured again the following season in training camp before dealing with a sore back, sore hip and Grade 1 groin strain, Soshnikov (concussion) and Gunnarsson (torn left ACL, hip surgery) had taken conditioning assignments to San Antonio before returning to practice on Monday.

Fabbri was skating on the fourth line with Robert Thomas and Oskar Sundqvist but Yeo wouldn't tip his hand if Fabbri, a 2014 first-round pick, would mark his long-awaited return.

"I'm going to announce our lineup tomorrow, but he's shown me a lot though," Yeo said. "He's shown me a lot ability-wise, play-wise, but more importantly, just in how he's dealt with everything."

Soshnikov and Gunnarsson were extra skaters Wednesday but all have shown enough to be on the active roster.

"I think that they all look good," Yeo said. "I would expect that just given the medical clearance that all these guys are available to us tomorrow."

With the Blues coming off a win, Yeo will be hard-pressed to make many changes but had Fabbri skating in Barbashev's spot on left wing. Barbashev has played well this season.

"You have to judge that," Yeo said regarding making multiple lineup changes after a win. "There's uncertainly, there's some questions, but at the same time, you're not going to know until you get them in. The longer you wait, the harder it gets. I will say first off as a coach, I know that they're not going to be at the level that I remember them or the level I know they're capable of. It's just not fair to expect that. How quickly they can get back there depends on how quickly we can get them back into the lineup and get them acclimated and working with the group and get them playing NHL hockey again."

As far as Jerabek is concerned, the Blues had to put him on waivers Tuesday and he went unclaimed by Wednesday's 11 a.m. deadline.

Jerabek, who played one game (Oct. 11, a 5-3 win against Calgary), was acquired  from Edmonton for depth purposes on Oct. 1 for a conditional 2020 sixth-round pick.

His only game, Jerabek was a minus-3 in 7:52 time on ice.

"It's tough because I don't know that he necessarily got a ton of opportunities obviously," Yeo said of Jerabek. "He got in for the one game and he was the first one to say that it wasn't great, and then we never really got another chance to get him back in. I would say I talked to him a couple times and it was close that he was going to get back in. I thought he was practicing well at the end of it. I'm hoping that he goes down there and get some confidence and stays ready because obviously thing can change in a hurry."

Tuesday, October 30, 2018


Allen skates, status up in the air for Thursday; Fabbri, Gunnarsson, Soshnikov 
inching closer; Jerabek on waivers; Yeo on Kyrou being sent down

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Jake Allen was not on the ice with his teammates for a second straight day Tuesday, but it doesn't mean he was off the ice at all.

Allen did get on the ice at the Ice Zone Tuesday but on his own, a day after getting in some exercise on the bike just days after being removed late in the second period from a 7-3 win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday following a collision with teammate Zach Sanford.

Ville Husso was recalled from San Antonio of the American Hockey League on Monday and was on the ice with Chad Johnson for a second straight day, as the Blues prepare for their next game Thursday against the Vegas Golden Knights.

It's still not been decided if Allen will be deemed ready to play Thursday, but a full practice on Wednesday will be a good indication of whether he is and if he's even a part of it.

"He was on the ice today. Felt pretty good, so it was a good day," Blues coach Mike Yeo said of Allen. "It was a good step anyways. He's feeling better today and we'll see how he feels tomorrow."

* Fabbri, Gunnarsson, Soshnikov on the cusp -- Forwards Robby Fabbri and Nikita Soshnikov and defenseman Carl Gunnarsson are realistic possibilities to each make their season debut on Thursday against Vegas.

All three were on the ice for a fairly populated optional practice and got in a good day of skill work.

Fabbri, who went down to San Antonio on a three-game conditioning stint, has not played in a regular-season NHL game since initially tearing the ACL in his left knee on Feb. 4, 2017 against Pittsburgh.

"I think what we have to find out here is how close is he to 100 percent," Yeo said of Fabbri. "His hundred percent for me is pretty high. That's a pretty high level. That's going back to a level that I saw him play at two years ago. I think that he was showing glimpses of it in training camp and understandably, he shouldn't be there yet. That's pretty high level and he's had to deal with an awful lot. I think that he's made a lot of progress, I think that conditioning-wise, strength-wise, he's in a better spot now than he was at the start of camp. I think that's going to give him a better chance to stay in the lineup when he gets into it. But there's certain things he has that you can't teach. Time away from the rink, not playing hockey games, that has an affect on you, but there's certain qualities that he has, whether it's his skill level, his tenacity that had me excited as a coach that he can get back to that level quickly.

"I would say that we'll use tomorrow's practice as a bit of a gauge for that, yes. Tomorrow's practice is going to be high tempo, there's going to be some battle in there, there's going to be a good opportunity for those guys to get back into the speed and pace and combat level of the NHL."

Gunnarsson, coming off a torn left ACL of his own and a right hip ailment that also required surgery, played in two games with the Rampage and said he feels good enough to go.

"That was the last kind of speed, get to game speed and all that, so a good test, and two pretty good games," Gunnarsson said. "That was the last test, it held up well, I feel good, so green light now it's just up to the coaches.

"It's been a long time, practicing, seeing the boys go out there playing games. Just kind of been waiting for it for a long time, it's time to hopefully come back soon."

The Blues placed defenseman Jakub Jerabek on waivers Tuesday, likely to create a roster spot to activate Gunnarsson off injured reserve.

"We'll talk to [Gunnarsson] here again today, but him going down having the conditioning assignment, that was a good step," Yeo said. "I'd like to get him into a good, hard practice tomorrow. A lot of 5 on 5 work, a lot of team work and see how he's doing after that."

* Kyrou's assignment not performance-based -- Jordan Kyrou's assignment to the Rampage on Monday was not because of poor performance, according to Yeo.

"No, not at all. Not at all," Yeo said. "Obviously we still have 14 forwards on our roster right now. With the play of a lot of our guys up front right now, it's hard to find more opportunity for him. This is a good chance for him to go down and gain some experience, gain some confidence, gain some ice time and just keep moving himself along and keep pushing himself forward."

The Blues are going to need roster space with Fabbri and Soshnikov on the horizon, and with Kyrou, who did not require waivers in order for the 35th pick of the 2016 NHL Draft go down, he was a logical choice.

Plus, add in the fact that Kyrou, who had one assist in nine games this season, can go to the Rampage and get a higher volume of minutes than the 8:29, 7:03 and 7:01 he got in his past three games.

"We want him to be an NHL player, but we want him to maximize his potential and a big part of that for young players, if they're not getting the ice time, they're not getting the confidence up here, we want them developing into a high-powered offensive player," Yeo said. "Sometimes guys need to shoot pucks in the net and create and make plays, so he'll get a chance to do that.

"... He feels like it's a demotion and of course, that's understandable. But there's a lot of positives for him coming into camp, making the team out of training camp when he wasn't expected to. That was a win for him the way that he's performed and played. The confidence that he's gained from us as a coaching staff, that was a win for him. Obviously we've got a healthy group now, it's tough, we have to make some decisions and he finds himself going down, but he's got to go down with a positive attitude and in my eyes, he's much further along than probably what I expected him to be at this point in his career. Just real excited about his potential and what he's going to do for us in his future. We don't know when that is, but just make sure that y you're ready, make sure that you take advantage of your time down there, go down, dominate, get lots of ice time and get lots of confidence."

* Steen returns -- Forward Alexander Steen was back on the ice Tuesday after skipping out on Monday's full practice with what Yeo called neck tightness.

Monday, October 29, 2018


Allen day to day, Steen held off; Husso recalled; Fabbri, Gunnarsson, 
Soshnikov return from conditioning assignments; Barbashev's first fight

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- It was a new look for the Blues as they hit the ice Monday at the Ice Zone.

From Saturday's injury to Jake Allen, to the recalls of four players from San Antonio of the American Hockey League, coach Mike Yeo was working in a new set of skaters before the Blues (3-4-3) play a meaningful game again on Thursday.

Goalie Jake Allen, who left Saturday's 7-3 win against Chicago with 1 minute 1 second left in the second period after colliding with teammate Zach Sanford after making a terrific save on Chicago's Brandon Saad, did not skate and is considered day to day with an undisclosed injury, presumably being monitored for concussion-related symptoms or some sort of neck injury.

"I don't have much of an update," Yeo said. "He's not on the ice today. I think he is feeling better. He got on the bike there this morning and we'll just see how he's doing tomorrow.

"In talking to Ray [Barile] this morning, it was Jake was not going on the ice. We were going to give him a bike ride and see how he goes with that."

Backup goalie Chad Johnson, who finished off Saturday's win stopping all five shots he faced, said he's prepared for the game Thursday when the Blues resume their season-long seven-game homestand against the Vegas Golden Knights.

"I go into kind of every day expecting to play," Johnson said. "I'm prepared for Thursday's game. ... I've worked hard and I've been in these kinds of situations. I've played a lot of games and done different roles, to tandems, to backing up and starting throughout a period of time throughout a season. I want to play and that's why we all play the game is to play it. I look forward to getting in there and trying to help the team get two points.

"... I talked to Jake this morning. He's feeling good. I think it's just day by day and I think everybody's going off how he feels."

As an insurance policy, the Blues recalled goalie Ville Husso from San Antonio, and he was able to arrive in St. Louis late Sunday night.

"I actually watched the game and I saw right away that something happened," Husso said. "Our AHL head coach [Jeff Bannister] text me. The plan was I was supposed to play yesterday and [Jordan] Binnington play yesterday and I was getting ready for here."

Husso said he is only here as long as the Blues need him, whether it be in the interim or for a while.

"They didn't say anything actually," Husso said. "I just focus every day in practice and go like day to day.

"Hopefully I will get some game time. I just need to be ready when the time comes. At the same time, I just need to enjoy it."

And what did Husso pack?

"Just a little bag," he said.

And if he's needed longer?

"Then I need to go buy some new stuff," he laughed.

Husso is 1-6-0 with a 3.19 goals-against average and .887 save percentage with the Rampage. Not exactly blowing up the stat sheet in a good way, but it's indicative of how things have gone as a team thus far with San Antonio's 2-8-0 record.

"A couple bad goals, but otherwise, there are little things good in my game," Husso said. "... It's just a part of the game. The team is not winning and goalies not have good numbers, but I feel comfortable right now."

Yeo said the Blues had the chance to see Husso and the rest of the Rampage play on their trip to Winnipeg when the Rampage played Winnipeg's farm team, the Manitoba Moose.

"We got to watch the one game," Yeo said. "He gave up four or five in Winnipeg and don't really feel like he gave up a bad goal. It was one of those games where maybe he didn't steal the game, but there were some big chances in that game and so I didn't leave that game feeling that he was bad, but probably not at the same level we saw in training camp. Sounds like his last outing was a good one. He didn't get the win, but it was a real unfortunate bounce that caused that. Sounds to be like things have been going the right way for the most part. But I'm also going off my memory of what he did in training camp and I was real happy with that.

"Well obviously with Jake out, we needed a goalie here. 'Huus' had a real good training camp. It's good that he's got a chance to come up and get this experience."

If Johnson does go Thursday, the Blues are prepared and confident.

"That's why we brought him here," Yeo said. "He's a guy that's got experience. I know he's hungry for that opportunity."

* Fabbri, Gunnarsson, Soshnikov back from conditioning assignments -- Forwards Robby Fabbri and Nikita Soshnikov and defenseman Carl Gunnarsson all returned the Blues Monday following conditioning assignments with the Rampage.

Fabbri played in three games and scored a shorthanded goal, Gunnarsson played in two games and was a plus-1 and Soshnikov had a goal in his five-game stint but all three appear ready to return at any time now.

"It's good and bad," Yeo said on the reports he got on the three. "First off, I think there was a lot of good, but I think sometimes those guys go down and I think they want to make sure they get called back up. That's in their mind. I don't want to say they're not fully invested, but it's they're down there with the intention of playing just those games and they get caught with half a mind of being up here. I think there was some good and some that probably wasn't quite as good as what they will be. But otherwise, everything else seems to be coming along. The timing's good, the conditioning's good, all that kind of stuff. I think in the end, it'll end up being real good for those guys."

Fabbri, who hasn't played in an NHL regular-season game since initially tearing the ACL in his left knee on Feb. 4, 2017, has a shot and realistic chance at making his long-awaited return.

"Yeah, I feel I'm ready now and it's up to the coaches," Fabbri said. "I played a lot down there, about 19 minutes a game. I felt good after the games, which was nice to get through. I got that out of my head after that I can play a game and not feel sore after. Felt good again today at practice."

I would say he's definitely an option," Yeo said of Fabbri. "That's a decision we have to make now."

One of those decisions was made to clear a roster spot when the Blues assigned Jordan Kyrou to the Rampage late Monday afternoon.

Kyrou had one assist in in nine games and was a minus-3 but did not need waivers to be sent down.

There is a realistic chance for Gunnarsson and Soshnikov to be cleared as well.

"We've got to get through the week and see how they respond to practice and all that stuff," Yeo said. "But obviously they're getting close, let's put it that way."

Fabbri was skating on a line Monday with Tyler Bozak and Pat Maroon in place of Alexander Steen, who did not practice and afterwards, Yeo said Steen had some neck tightness and they just decided to hold him off the ice.

Fabbri has been dealing with general soreness related to getting his hockey conditioning up to speed, and injuries included a sore back, sore hip and Grade 1 groin strain.

But the knee is holding up perfectly well after two surgeries and there are no mental issues there.

"I've been at that point for a while," Fabbri said. "Coming in, my knees were never the problem. I've felt good with my knees for a while. It was just the little soft tissue stuff and getting back into the game-like situations. The knees feel good."

* Barbashev the "barbed wire" -- Blues forward Ivan Barbashev was front and center inside the Blues locker room Monday with media members talking about his first NHL fight with Chicago's Brent Seabrook.

It came with 1:22 remaining in the game when Seabrook gave Barbashev a slash after the Blues' forward gave the Blackhawks defenseman a pop heading up the ice.

Barbashev took exception to the slash and got in a couple lefts with one of the linesmen trying to break up any full-blown tilt.

"I kind of hit him and then I just got a slash," Barbashev said. "I just saw he was coming at me and I just kind of lost my mind out there.

"I didn't know (he left hand) was that fast."

Barbashev said he got a number of high-fives from teammates for sticking up for himself, and doing so against a veteran player.

"They probably didn't expect that from me, but everyone was really excited about it," Barbashev said. "I got a lot of high fives after the game.

Especially when you play against the Blackhawks, especially at home and in front of our fans, it was a good thing to do."

Yeo said Barbashev is more consistent when he makes his physical presence more felt.

"I feel like it's been more consistent," Yeo said. "I always felt when he was playing his best hockey, he was playing physical, he was finishing checks, he was competitive in his battles and when that starts to slip, I find his game starts to slip. But what I would say is that he's doing that more consistently now. I think he's got a better picture of what his best game looks like and a better picture of how to get to it."

"I would say like my last couple games was not the best, but I thought the game against Chicago was pretty good," said Barbashev, who last fought two years ago with the Chicago Wolves in the AHL two seasons ago and got in three fights in the QMJHL. "I played physical and with that situation at the end, it's probably just going to help me. I feel more confident out there."

* Four days to prep -- For the second time in October, the Blues will have four days between games.

It's not ideal; they'd prefer the extra time off in February or even in March, but with no game until Thursday, the Blues are using this week accordingly.

"Today was a work day," Yeo said. "There was a lot of conditioning built into the practice today, a lot of execution built into the practice today. That was the focus for today. Tomorrow, likely what we'll do is some guys will probably need off-ice work and we'll get them that, some guys need to go on the ice and they'll do skill work, and then we'll have a real competitive team focused practice on Wednesday. It's tough to just have three practices three days in a row just because at the end of that mentally you're just kind of fried and you're stale going into your game. We want to make sure we build up to it. This is the focus we've got this week."

Today's lineup looked like this:





Kyrou and Sundqvist were the extra forwards before Kyrou was sent down





Johnson and Husso

Allen and Steen did not participate in practice, and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo is out of the lineup for another week or so with a lower-body injury.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Blues respond dull result by pounding Blackhawks 7-3

Sanford, O'Reilly, Pietrangelo each get one goal, two assists; 
Tarasenko scores twice; Allen leaves game in second after collision

ST. LOUIS -- After they emerged from a 23-minute closed-door meeting following a discouraging loss on Thursday, the Blues said they weren't going to make excuses, they said they weren't going to look for any, and they said they needed to play better, plain and simple.

It's only one game, but it has to start somewhere, and a 7-3 statement win on Saturday night against the rival Chicago Blackhawks was certainly a good place to begin moving forward.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Zach Sanford (second from left) is congratulated by teammates David Perron
(left), Colton Parayko (third from left) and Ryan O'Reilly after scoring on
Saturday in a 7-3 Blues win over the Blackhawks.

The Blues (3-4-3) weren't perfect by any stretch, but they were able to play with a purpose and do it for a sustained period of time.

Zach Sanford, who was called up on Oct. 15 from San Antonio of the American Hockey League, led the charge with a goal and two assists and got the Bobby Plager Gloves as selected by the players as the player of the game.

Sanford and linemates Ryan O'Reilly, who also had a goal and two assists, and David Perron (one assist) have been scorching hot, and the trio paved the way for the Blues in the second of a seven-game homestand and quieted the doubters at least for one night, and quiet those that want coach Mike Yeo fired.

"It was nice. We played a much more complete game," said O'Reilly, who extended his point streak to five games (three goals, seven assists). "When they gained momentum, we didn't break. We stuck with it. Obviously they're trying to score, too, and weathered their storm. We stuck with it tonight. It's nice to see and I thought we played a much more complete game, that's for sure."

The Blues got a goal and two assists from Alex Pietrangelo, Vladimir Tarasenko, one of the outspoken players after Thursday's 7-4 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, scored twice in the Blues' best offensive output since a 7-2 win at the Los Angeles Kings on March 10, 2018.

"This is really emotional for us," Tarasenko said. "Everyone understands how important this game was. The most important thing now is don't think it's over. It's not the end of the season, so now we have stuff to build on. I told you two days ago guys are going to put 100 percent out there [Saturday]."

The Blues did get 16 saves on 19 shots from Jake Allen, including a clutch right pad save on Brandon Saad with 1:01 remaining in the second period, but Allen collided with Sanford on the play and after a few moments of laying on the ice, Allen would leave the game in favor of Chad Johnson, who stopped all five shots he would face the rest of the game.

"It's part of the game. Injuries happen," Johnson said. "I'm just trying to be ready throughout the game. Stuff like that can happen pretty quick. Sometimes when a guy gets pulled for the score, you can prepare a little bit more. You can see it a little bit, but this one was a surprise. Jake made a big save and a little bit of traffic hit him. Just part of the game.

"It was a tight game, a big game really for us, too. I got in the game a couple days ago, which was nice. I felt more comfortable than I did a couple nights ago. I felt a lot better and obviously the guys battled and competed. We got the result we wanted."

Sanford, who lost all of last season in the NHL (he did play 20 games with San Antonio) because of a shoulder injury sustained in training camp with ex-teammate Dmitrij Jaskin and missed a week of camp this season with the sudden and tragic death of his father Michael, has seemed to find his comfort zone. He has six points (three goals, three assists) in five games since his recall.

"I didn't know exactly how it would go," Sanford said. "I came in and tried to play with confidence. I got a great opportunity and I think I've done a pretty good job of taking advantage of it for now. My linemates have been a great help, the whole team as well. Hopefully, I can keep playing this way.

"Last year was pretty tough being out. The older guys helped with that a lot giving me the motivation, keeping me focused on how to get back. Coming back in this year, I felt great. I still feel really good, so I feel happy about that."

Tarasenko gave the Blues a 3-2 lead at 1:39 of the second period on the power play when he used Pat Maroon as a pylon in front of Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, and Tyler Bozak made it 4-2 at 5:14, scoring into an open net from the slot after a good forecheck.

But the Tarasenko goal was created by Sanford, who picked off a Brent Seabrook pass at the blue line, sent O'Reilly in alone before O'Reilly drew a hooking penalty on Erik Gustafsson.

"I knew he was going to try and pinch me off," Sanford said of Seabrook. "He had his stick the other way, so I figured I'd try and cut back. I didn't have as much speed as 'O'Ry' so it was great support from him. A great chance and a penalty call and we end up scoring, which was huge for us.

"That's another thing our team's been talking about, blocking shots, good changes, no turnovers. It's the little things like that, drawing penalties. Those are what helps us win these type of games."

The Blues have allowed a league-worst 18 goals in the third period, so something needed to change on that end, and with a 4-3 lead, fans were nervous with every opportunity coming at them. But the Blues stayed on their toes and continued to attack.

Tarasenko scored at 15:40 of the third period to make it 5-3 on a rebound in front by crashing the net on a Pietrangelo shot from the point, and Pietrangelo scored an empty-net goal at 18:02 to extend the lead to 6-3. Jay Bouwmeester got an assist on Pietrangelo's goal to give him 400 points in the NHL and 100 with the Blues.

Alexander Steen scored a power-play goal with 15.4 seconds remaining on a one-timer from the slot to make it 7-3.

"We had questions about this before last game on how [Tarasenko] needs to score more goals from different areas and I think he understands that," Yeo said. "He's buying into that. He scored one below the goal line last game and tonight he gets one from an area that we all know that he's very dangerous from with great net front on that goal and then he scores another one from in front of the net. That's important and he's going to continue to have success if he continues to do those things."

The Blues outscored the Blackhawks (6-3-2) 3-0 in the third period.

"It'd been addressed and it wasn't deviated," O'Reilly said. "We wanted to come out focused. We were taking it shift by shift and just kind of winning the next battle, just making the next play. They had some good chances, but we didn't panic. We kept talking, we kept moving our feet. Some guys won some huge battles that gave us a chance to win that."

The Blues outshot the Blackhawks 14-5 in the third.

"I think it was just the competitiveness," Johnson said. "I think at the end of the night, the team that out-competes the other team for the majority of the game, especially in the third period usually wins the game. I think tonight you saw that competitiveness." 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues center Ryan O'Reilly is being pursued by Blackhawks center Jonathan
Toews in  battle for the puck Saturday at Enterprise Center.

O'Reilly gave the Blues a 1-0 lead 18 seconds into the game on a redirection off a cross-ice pass from Sanford and after a Patrick Kane goal, Sanford scored to make it 2-1 at 5:28 off a great pass from O'Reilly to Perron, who fed Sanford with a wide open cage.

The win felt good for the Blues.

"The players really responded today," Yeo said. "We're still in the process of building our game. I don't think we can play one game and just say, 'OK, now we're there.' I would probably expect that we have a couple other peaks and valleys in the next few weeks, but we're getting closer. I still believe that. We have a much better idea of what our game looks like. We've got more guys playing it more consistently and so we have to stay on that."

Saturday, October 27, 2018

(10-27-18) Blackhawks-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Sitting for four games is never fun, especially for a younger player looking to gain confidence, but rookie Robert Thomas will get another opportunity when the Blues (2-4-3) take on the Chicago Blackhawks (6-2-2) for the third time this season today at 7 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM) at Enterprise Center.

Thomas, who has one assist in five games, will draw back into the lineup and center the fourth line presumably with Ivan Barbashev and Oskar Sundqvist, but Thomas, who gets to play in nine games before the Blues can decide whether to keep their 2017 first-round pick here or send him back to the Ontario Hockey League.

"It's obviously tough when you sit for four straight," Thomas said. "That's a little bit tough, but for me, I think it's a good learning experience. You try and take the positives out of everything. For me, I was able to watch the good and the bad. We had a really good game in Toronto, first two periods in Winnipeg, I was able to watch 'Schenner', 'Bozie', 'O'Ry' and all the good things that they're doing and what's working. We've had a couple tough periods and I was able to see what those were like. From up there, you can clearly see all that stuff and it's a good learning experience and something that can help my game.

"It does help. It's tough going through the whole thing, but I think when you look at it now, I think it was a good learning experience for me."

Thomas was able to sit and watch games from the press box and get a coaching perspective from assistant Steve Ott.

"We had him sit with 'Otter' for a couple games," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "Sometimes it's just taking a step back, sometimes it's just realizing you have a little more time and space out there than what you might think. Things seem to happen quickly for younger players. More than anything else, I think it's the opportunity to, especially when you're keying in on certain players, players that would play a similar game to you and a good role model. and just how hard they work. At this level, to have success both offensively and defensively, there is a work ethic that has to be extremely high when you're going against the best night after night.

"He's had a good week of practice and seemed to be in a real good spot there yesterday talking to him. I thought he had a really good practice. I'm looking forward to him coming in and contributing."

Thomas said that in order to make plays he's comfortable making, he just has display the confidence to do so.

"We didn't pull him out because we didn't think that he wasn't good enough," Yeo said. "That's not the case. We do think there's another level to his game and we're going to keep pushing him and trying to pull him along, whatever we can do to help him get there. But we're talking about a very young player. It's difficult because you don't want to take away his confidence, but at the same time, you also want to make sure that he's getting the coaching he needs to so we've tried to walk that line. But him coming back in here tonight is a good opportunity and I think you're going to see an excited, rejuvenated player tonight."

Thomas is expected to go in for 2016 second-round pick Jordan Kyrou, who has one assist in nine games, although he and veteran Pat Maroon were on the ice late after the morning skate.

"I'm not going to say what our fourth line's going to be tonight," Yeo said. "I'll just say that Thomas is in tonight."

Thomas said he's been through this experience before despite being counted on heavily on most teams he's played for, including the Hamilton Bulldogs last season.

"I went through the same thing my first year in London," Thomas said, referring the OHL's Knights. "I look at the team we had there and how much skill and talent we had there. I kind of went through the same thing, sort of in and out of the lineup and and had to work your way up. I'd say it's at a totally different level here, but just that little extra experience from before and how it turned out, I can use it as a positive."

- - -

Zach Sanford will get another game with veterans Ryan O'Reilly and David Perron tonight, and the opportunity is deserving.

Since being recalled from San Antonio of the American Hockey League, Sanford has three points two goals, one assist) in four games and seems to have fit in nicely playing with the aforementioned duo.

"The results aren't what we want right now, but personally, it's going pretty well," Sanford said. "I'm just trying to stay hard and play smart and trying to bring as much energy as I can. Hopefully we can all do that tonight and get back on board.

"You learn new stuff every shift, I think it's good for me to be able to play with them and spend some time with them, especially in practice. Just little drills here and there, stick skills and positioning and that. It's good for a younger player to play with older guys in any instance. I think playing with these guys, I've definitely got a lot out of it."

Sanford has been termed the grit and sandpaper guy on the line, but feels like all three play a similar game.

"They're both pretty gritty too," Sanford said. "I think we kind of work well as a three-man unit in that sense. 'O'Ry' is always down low grinding and getting pucks out of scrums and Perry is along the walls and down low with the pucks. I'm just trying to mimic what they're doing and bring some speed and some size."

Yeo said Sanford, acquired in the trade that sent Kevin Shattenkirk to Washington in 2017, showed himself well even before a shoulder injury in training camp last year that all but set him back all of last season.

"This goes back to training camp last year. I thought he had a chance to make our team," Yeo said. "Going back three years ago when we made the trade, he came in and I thought he did a very nice job for us. He showed that he can play up and down the lineup, he showed he can play with different players. He's a smart player. Last year was a real tough injury for him, it was a tough injury for our team to be honest with you because we thought he had a really good chance to be a contributing factor for us. Lost a little bit of time development-wise there and with what happened in training camp this year, it was a tough situation for him. With all this, he's just kept pushing forward. He's got the right attitude, he's got the right demeanor, he's a little bit older, which really helps a little bit. He's had to deal with some of that adversity and he's had to be down in the minors, which probably helps a little bit in the sense that he's able to deal with some of these things. More than anything for me, it's his hockey sense. To play with good players, you need a skill level and you need to be able to skate and keep up with the play but you need to be able to read off of them and you need to be responsible because quite often, you're on the ice against other teams' best players and he's done a nice job with all those things."

- - -

O’Reilly has seven points (two goals, five assists) in a four-game point streak.

Jake Allen will get the start in goal, his ninth start in the first 10 games this season.

The Blues and Blackhawks have already played twice this season, with Chicago winning both in overtime, 5-4 on Oct. 6 here and 4-3 on Oct. 13 in Chicago. The teams will play again in Chicago on Nov. 14, meaning the Blues will have played 25 percent of their games of the first 16 against the Blackhawks.

Perron has five points (one goal, four assists) the past four games.

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko

Zach Sanford-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Pat Maroon-Tyler Bozak-Alexander Steen

Ivan Barbashev-Robert Thomas-Oskar Sundqvist

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Joel Edmundson-Colton Parayko

Vince Dunn-Jordan Schmaltz

Jake Allen will start in goal; Chad Johnson will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Jordan Kyrou and Jakub Jerabek. Robert Bortuzzo (lower body) is out.

- - -

The Blackhawks' projected lineup:

Alex DeBrincat-Jonathan Toews-Dominik Kahun

Brandon Saad-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane

Alexandre Fortin-Luke Johnson-Nick Schmaltz

Chris Kunitz-Marcus Kruger-John Hayden

Duncan Keith-Henri Jokiharju

Erik Gustafsson-Brent Seabrook

Brandon Manning-Jan Rutta

Corey Crawford will start in goal; Cam Ward will be the backup. 

Healthy scratches include Andreas Martinsen, David Kampf and Brandon DavidsonConnor Murphy (back) is out.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Building from the back out will help solve Blues' woes

Focus to their identity, which is playing shutdown 
defense, key to figuring surprising early-season woes  

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- If Thursday's 7-4 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets was rock bottom for the Blues to what has been a disastrous start to the season, then there should be brighter times ahead.

That's part of the attitude players took after an intense practice Friday at St. Louis Mills on the heels of another blown game, blown points in the bank off a blown game in which the Blues (2-4-3) led 2-0, only to somehow be on the losing end of it at the end.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Jake Allen said enough  of the talk. Team has to get it going
or "we're toast." 

Players are frustrated, coaches are frustrated, management is frustrated and fans certainly are frustrated to what amounts to be a wasted month of October and a start to a season filled with so much promise.

Talk is cheap anymore, and the Blues, who host the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday in the second game of a season-long seven-game homestand, know fans don't want to hear excuses of it anymore.

"I don't think it really needs to be said anymore, to be honest," said goalie Jake Allen, who was pulled Thursday after allowing four goals on 21 shots. "Everyone knows we have to get it going. If we don't, we're toast. But we just have to focus on ourselves."

The two wins through nine games is the fewest for the Blues since that ill-fated 2005-06 season, a year after the lockout in which they were 2-5-2 through nine games before finishing with the worst record in the NHL at 21-46-15. But that team was stripped of much of its talent, and this Blues team was loaded up in the offseason by general manager Doug Armstrong. So much so, that the Blues are at the top of the cap with no excuses available.

"I just think we need some urgency, some desperation right now," said forward Pat Maroon, one of four free agent signings by Armstrong in the offseason. "We know what we're capable of and we talk about it and we always talk about it with the media, but I think it's just time to go out there and do it. Just pretty desperate hockey. We can't worry about the outcome right now. We just have to worry about getting back to being ourselves and going out there and being a hungry team and being a desperate team. Obviously we have the skill set up front but giving up four goals, five goals a game is not going to win hockey games. I'd rather win a 1-0 game than a 5-4 game. We have to learn to play defense and help our goaltending out. We haven't given them the chance to be their best. As a collective group, everyone has to figure out their task and focus on the task at hand and I think we'll be OK."

To win that 1-0 game, the Blues have to build their game from the back out, a staple in their systems for years upon years that has brought them great success. 

But the Blues are tied with Los Angeles and Calgary for the most goals allowed in the Western Conference with 36 goals and only trail Philadelphia (40) and Detroit (39) in the league.

"Hopefully, this is the turning point that does it for us," said Blues coach Mike Yeo, who is on the hot seat in the early going with just the two wins in nine games. "It's going to be a tough challenge tomorrow. Just because we say, 'OK, let's go do it,' doesn't mean that it's just going to come together. There's a lack of confidence right now or trust or belief, but that's not going to just be given back to us. We've got to earn that back. The only way to do that is shift after shift, guy after guy goes out there, does their job and does things the right way. We're big boys now. It's time to get to work and man up to the situation and find a way."

Until the Blues figure out they're not the run-and-gun Edmonton team from the 1980's or the current version of the Pittsburgh Penguins or Toronto Maple Leafs, these kinds of results will become quite common.

"It's not about winning 5-4, 6-5," Maroon said. "It's about winning the 1-0, 2-0 games. We're not doing that now. We're giving up too many chances and it's not even chances that are coming from outside shots that are going in. It's tic-tac-toe plays that could be solved there. We're giving up too many Grade A opportunities that are costing us right now. It's one lapse after another lapse. I think if we fix that and nip that in the bud and be committed to playing good defense, I think everything's going to fall into place offensively. We just can't get too excited when we're down. If we're down tomorrow, we can't think we have to jump off and score a goal. We have to keep playing the way we're playing and find ways to be committed. It's a long year.. Now we just have to take it one game at a time. We can't focus on the outcome tomorrow. We have to focus on the task at hand."

Center Ryan O'Reilly agreed.

"You look around the league, you see all these high-scoring games and I think we all want to put up points and do good," O'Reilly said. "It doesn't matter. It sucks losing. We have to win and the identity that has been established before that we got away from is that hard to play against is that tough, every day mentality, and that's what we're going to get back to and I know we will. It's going to be tough, it's going to be hard, but I have faith that we're going to turn it around and get back that identity and defend well. It starts from our own end out because our goatending has been great. We're giving up these Grade A opportunities. If we're playing harder, every shift, every guy, they're not going to get as many of those.

"... We all had much higher expectations of ourselves. We got away from our identity and we have to build that back up. That's our focus right now. We've got all the tools in here. We see it when you look at our best games, we play Toronto and we defended well. We know what we can do. We know we can play and beat anyone. We have to establish our identity and we got away from it. We had a good practice today, we're focused, and we have a big challenge tomorrow."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues forward Pat Maroon (left) feels that the way for the Blues to get this
2-4-3 funk out of the way is to play with some urgency and desperation.

Allen, who is 2-2-3 with a 3.93 goals-against average and .876 save percentage in eight games, knows he's the start to building the game on out

"We're playing some good good players out there, but from myself on out, we've got to be better defensively," Allen said. "No question. It's harped on a lot. We've got to tighten up Every team's got to play well defensively. It's more than that. We've just got to pull our full game together now. There's not a whole lot to be said anymore, to be honest. I've tried to come up with words, but I think we all know deep down what we have to do individually, collectively, as a group, as an organization to take that step and we've got to figure it out soon here. It's tough going out there over the last seven or eight games in losing games the way we are. We're right there, we're not that far off. If we can pull it together, we'll turn this thing around."

Blues booed off after discouraging 7-4 loss to Blue Jackets to open homestand

Team closes doors for 23 minutes after allowing another 2-0 
lead slip away, fall further into basement of Central Division

ST. LOUIS -- At the end of an ugly 7-4 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on home ice Thursday that brought their record to 2-4-3, the Blues were sequestered inside the locker room for 23 minutes.

And when the doors opened, leadership was left to try and explain another uncharacteristically ugly loss in front of 17,068 Enterprise Center faithful that booed the Blues off the ice.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (right) had some pointed comments
after a 7-4 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday.

Questions from frustrated fans again began to abound. Is coach Mike Yeo's job safe? Can the captaincy of Alex Pietrangelo be stripped? Why isn't this player doing this? Why isn't this player doing that? How can this be happening for a team that loaded up in the offseason and became a cap team struggling like this out of the gates?

Using the "it's early" terminology worked for the first few weeks, and it was justifiable for a team incorporating at least eight or more players into the roster, but when it's the end of October, and the same glaring mistakes -- many being made by veteran players making a lot of money -- are so obvious over and over during the course of a game, something has to come to a head.

For the third time in nine games, the Blues lost a game in which they led 2-0, but the bottom began to drop out, a version of pond hockey began to unfold, and the Blues -- particularly their goalies -- began to fall fast. 

And when the players emerged to speak to the media, Vladimir Tarasenko had some of the harshest words.

"It sucks. I don't know the words," said Tarasenko, who scored his third goal of the season to make it 1-0. "It feels like shit to do this in front of our fans. This is not the most fun time in our lives and in my life personally.

"... You can suck more and more and then you can never get out of it. But we don't need to try to create something beautiful right away. You just have to go step-by-step like small plays. And have a belief in ourselves again, so we can play good hockey and we can outplay teams. Not only winning on accident, but completely outplay teams. I just want to say sorry for our fans who support us. I feel like shit now after games like this."

And rightfully so. 

The Blues were outworked by a more determined Blue Jackets team that scored three times in the second period to chase Jake Allen after allowing four goals on 21 shots, and the mistakes leading to the goals were so glaring, the grumbles from the seats could be heard begrudgingly.

"We know we need to be better," said captain Alex Pietrangelo, who was minus-3 in 20 minutes 33 seconds of ice time. "I'm tired of having these conversations. We need to be better.

"We're just not good in small aspects of our game. We're giving up odd-man rushes. We're giving up chances that are uncharacteristic of this group. Small things make a difference in the game now, especially the way every team is built, every team can score. We've got to take care of our end. I'm tired of leaving our goalie out to dry."

And even when the Blues made a push late in the second, getting a goal from Alexander Steen at 11:30 and nearly tying the game on three separate occasions but didn't because of clutch saves from Joonas Korpisalo, to set up for a big push in the third -- like they got in Winnipeg on Monday -- they faltered badly again.

"Yeah, it's frustrating for sure," Steen said. "I don't know what to say. It's not good enough obviously. We're going to get back to work tomorrow. We can't feel sorry for ourselves. 

"I've said it before when we've gone through times like this, there's no easy fix, but the problems that are happening right now are easy to fix. But the work ethic part of it has to be there more consistently."

Does that fall on the players or the coach?

"As a coach, what you have to do is you lead the way obviously," Yeo said. "It's emotional right now, so I need some time to think about it again here tonight. How we approach tomorrow, obviously push the guys a lot, challenge the guys a lot. Bottom line is, is the only way that we all come out of this is together. Whatever that is to get the group, to get the players to believe in themselves and to want to do things and to want to play for your teammates more than anything. Then that becomes contagious, then you become a team that's so tight and so strong. Obviously no team's going to win every night, but you build confidence in your game and you build confidence in your game around you. Mistakes happen, someone's going to cover up for you. Goals might go in, but we're going to answer back, whatever the case is. We have to build that right now."

Character question come into play here, and Tarasenko vehemently denied that's a problem.

"I don't see any guy here who don't care," Tarasenko said. "It's maybe because everybody tries to do (more) than they can do. Now we need to figure out just what our jobs are and just do our job. Worry about whatever your play (is), don't worry about overall and not try to create something that's special but just go grind, you need to grind sometimes. You need to do small stuff. There is not other way to get out of this one. But usually teams that can find away from this become strong teams. I personally believe in every guy in this locker room. I believe in our goalies. Our goalies are perfect, first of all.

"I don't blame (fans for booing us), it's just all on us. You know some fans can say this. But trust me, we feel like shit right now. But we believe in our group, and we believe we can break (out of this) and become a great team."

The Blues started a season-long seven-game homestand hoping to make strides in a big way. This was not what they had in mind.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Vince Dunn (left) and goalie Jake Allen (34) look to work
over Columbus' Markus Hannikainen during action Thursday night.

"I'm sure the guys had a lot of good thing to say tonight," Yeo said. "It's an emotional loss, there's no question. It sucks to have a game like that in front of our fans. It's kind of where we're at, looking at the start to our season. I think everyone's frustrated and disappointed. Questions to start to get asked, but the way that I see it, maybe this is a point for us that's something that we can really look at. It needs to be. Bottom line. It needs to be sort of a let's look in the mirror, what are we going to be and how are we going to do it because it was a tough one tonight for sure."

When asked if the players supported Yeo, the answers were unanimous.

"Yeah. Everybody supports our coaching staff," Tarasenko said. "Everybody supports our GM and coaching staff and people who work here. There is no question anyone thinking he doesn't deserve to be here. We support him. We believe in him. That's why he's our coach right now and we will (bleeping) play for him so hard. So there's no questions about team don't believe in the coach or something like this."

Thursday, October 25, 2018

(10-25-18) Blue Jackets-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- It's not the ideal start to a season, but the Blues (2-3-3) will hope to take advantage of a big opportunity when they open a season-long seven-game homestand beginning today against the Columbus Blue Jackets (7 p.m.; FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM) at Enterprise Center.

The Blues have not had a seven-game homestand since Jan. 8-30, 2015 when they went 6-0-1 in that run, and a similar run might be just what the doctor ordered for a team that has been close in a number of games but allowed a number of them to slip away, particularly in the third period.

"I think you have to get a little bit of swagger back," defenseman Colton Parayko said. "At home, seven games, good opportunity to get a lot of points, start putting some in the bank and obviously making sure we take care of home ice."

The Blues are 1-2-1 on home ice, and when this seven-game stretch is done, they will have gone through more than 25 percent of their home schedule for the season, so jumping on this will be imperative.

"I just look at tonight, that's what we have to do," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "Obviously at the end of it, we want to say we took advantage of this homestand. Playing in front of our crowd, having the last change, all of these things, they can definitely be beneficial. We have to make sure that we continue to build. 

"We didn't get the win, but getting three out of four points against the two teams we played was pretty good. We should have had four, we should have had five out of six points, maybe even six out of six points, but more importantly our game is starting to look right and it's starting to look right for longer periods of time. If we continue to do that, through this homestand, then we'll like the result."

- - -

The Blues will get center Oskar Sundqvist back in the lineup, and he will make his season debut centering the fourth line with Ivan Barbashev and Jordan Kyrou.

Sundqvist is coming off a third concussion when he was blasted with a hit during a preseason game on Sept. 30 against the Washington Capitals that netted Tom Wilson a 20-game suspension.

"Yeah, I feel good enough to start playing," Sundqvist said. "I'm really excited to be back out on the ice.

"... Everything is good. Just excited to get out there tonight and play hockey again."

Sundqvist has nine points (two goals, seven assists) in 70 NHL games, including a goal and five assists in 42 games with the Blues.

He will go in tonight instead of rookie Robert Thomas, who will be a healthy scratch for the fourth straight game.

"He had a really good camp," Yeo said of Sundqvist. "A really tough injury, obviously, but he had a really strong training camp for us. For me, last year was his first year in the league, spending the majority of the year in the league. Another young guy for us coming in. To me, what he looked like in training camp this year, one, he looked like he was faster, and No. 2, he looked like he was ready to take another step as a player. Sort of the evolution of a young player. He looked like he was ready to really come in and demand a spot. 

"I look at last year, I look at 'Sunny's game, he was a really valuable player for us and really effective player for us, playing as high as our third line. Early in the season, we were winning games, he wasn't creating offense but he was helping us to win games, helping us to close games, obviously has been an issue for us so far. His penalty killing, his defensive play. He wasn't scoring goals, our team stopped scoring goals so we were forced with the decision to take him out of the lineup and the rest of his season wasn't the same. Real responsible player, really good playing against any player defensively, he's real solid, penalty kill wise he's real solid and I believe he's a guy that can help you close games but he does have more jump, more pace to his game and I think there's another step to his offensive game too."

As for Thomas, Yeo said it's coming. "We want to get him back in but we just felt today wasn't the day."

- - -

Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo was placed on injured reserve with a lower-body injury, and defenseman Carl Gunnarsson was assigned to San Antonio of the American Hockey League on a conditioning assignment.

Bortuzzo will be reevaluated in two weeks after having a series of tests on an injury that Yeo said Wednesday is something that popped up during training camp.

"I would say the appointment was fairly encouraging," Yeo said. "We'll give him a couple weeks here and hopefully things flare down a little bit. He's feeling better so we'll re-evaluate after that."

For the time being, there is no surgery imminent.

"Not right now," Yeo said. "I'm not real good with the medical readings and all that kind of stuff, but the information I've got right now is he won't need surgery and we'll get him back. We'll see how he reacts after a little bit of time off here."

- - -

Parayko has had some time to digest and hopefully forget the costly mistake a week ago Wednesday made at Montreal with 11 seconds remaining that wound up costing the Blues at least a point, maybe two in a 3-2 loss.

Parayko was skating backwards in his zone along the boards and tried to whip a pass through the middle of the ice to partner Joel Edmundson but would up whiffing on it, the Canadiens picked up the puck and scored on Jake Allen in a game that should have went into overtime at that point.

But with the help of teammates and coaches, it's something a player has to get over fast.

"Yeah, pretty quickly," Parayko said. "Credit to my teammates, they helped me out obviously with that one. They were really good about it. That's probably one of the worst feelings I've had so far since I've been here. But that's just part of hockey, that's part of being a defenseman. You just learn to live with the mistake obviously. You want those points and that's the thing that killed me the most, where we're at in the season and how we were doing so far, just giving up one like that was tough obviously. But it still sticks with you. It still kinda sucks even now today, but we've played two games since then. When we're playing in a Game 7 or we're battling for a playoff spot or we're in the playoffs, it's not going to be hopefully that big of an issue and hopefully we can overcome it.

"... It almost happened the exact same way in Winnipeg actually on my goal. I got the puck and it flipped up on its side and I wanted to pass it over, so it was almost the exact same thing, which was kind of scary, but then I ended up getting it and taking a shot."

The puck was on edge, but with the play happening so quickly, Parayko said it's a play he makes 999 times out of 1,000.

"I knew it was spinning for sure, which obviously I should have ... you get those when they're spinning in practice and you still seem to be able to fire it over," he said. "It's just one of those things, where you grab it and it comes off. It's one of those where you shouldn't even have to look at your stick. It's just automatic. Obviously that time it must have just spun on my stick a little or something like that."

- - -

Being a healthy scratch is something no player wants to endure, and defenseman Vince Dunn certainly took it to heart.

Dunn, who was scratched for games against Calgary on Oct. 11 and Chicago on Oct. 13, has returned and played four games since and seems to be getting his game back in order.

Dunn has two goals and an assist the past four games, including a goal and assist in Monday's 5-4 overtime loss at Winnipeg.

Has he been playing with a chip on his shoulder? Perhaps, but the second-year defenseman has learned that doing what you can control is all he can try to accomplish.

"I think obviously it's not easy watching from up top," Dunn said. "Not that I have any problems in here, but I really didn't understand why and I really didn't get a reason why. Sometimes you just don't at this age. I think it's just a part of the coaching process. Sometimes it's hard to get the message that maybe they're trying to get to you. When the team's not winning, there's going to be changes made. You hope that it's not you, but sometimes it might be. I didn't come with a chip on my shoulder and try to prove anyone wrong. More than anything, I just learned that I can control what I can control. Obviously if I'm in, I can control what I'm doing on the ice and if I'm not, I can't control getting myself back in any other way than just working hard and making sire I'm consistent. I think the biggest thing is just learning that this is a business and things might not happen the way you want it to, but just control what you can control. Right now by my game play, I think I'm just learning to stay within myself and not let any outside factors affect me.

"It's hard to kind of say how you handle it. Obviously it's not a good position either way when you're not playing. We have a competitive team and a competitive league. Anything can happen at any time. I think it's just learning that when you're in there, come in with a good attitude, be a young guy who can bring energy to the room and making sure that I'm doing my part as a young guy. Just control what you can control. What you're doing is what got you here. Don't try to think anything more, don't try to ask yourself questions when maybe there's not questions to be asked.

"I'm just trying to do me right now. I'm not trying to do other people's jobs or trying to wonder why things are happening the way they are or maybe why we're losing games. The bottom line is only I can do what I can do. If I can do that to the best I can, that'll give the team the best chance."

Dunn is getting the chance to play on the top pairing with Alex Pietrangelo, and although the minutes aren't where Pietrangelo's arem the two seem to complement each other well.

"That's amazing," Dunn said. "Having a guy like that, he's a leader in the dressing room, he's a leader on the ice. He's always talking to me, whether it's stuff at or away from the rink. It's just cool that I can have someone I can trust by me, someone that's been part of this organization and been a big piece over the last so many years. Not that we compete with each other out there, but we both have confidence in each other and I think we both push each other. I think he tries to get me better than I am. That's helping me."

Dunn is known as an offensive defenseman, but in order for him to get the trust of the coaching staff, being a defensive-minded player too will get him those minutes desired.

"That's what I'm embracing this year," Dunn said. "I'm not trying to put myself in positions that maybe might fire back. I'm trying to take advantage of the opportunities when I'm on the ice and making sure that obviously I can play defense too. Playing a simple, fats game, I think that's what Blues hockey is. We're not a fancy east-west team. We're a north team. We have great forwards too. If I can get the puck in their hands, the results will come my way too."

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Blues center Ryan O'Reilly has six points (two goals, four assists) during a three-game point streak and leads the team with 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in eight games.

Blues right wing David Perron has nine points (five goals, four assists) in the past six games after starting the season with no points in two games.

The Blues will avoid Blue Jackets No. 1 goalie Sergei Bobrovsky tonight. Backup Joonas Korpisalo will make his third start of the season and first since Oct. 11.

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The Blues' projected lineup:

Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko

Zach Sanford-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Pat Maroon-Tyler Bozak-Alexander Steen

Ivan Barbashev-Oskar Sundqvist-Jordan Kyrou

Vince Dunn-Alex Pietrangelo

Joel Edmundson-Colton Parayko

Jay Bouwmeester-Jordan Schmaltz

Jake Allen will start in goal; Chad Johnson will be the backup. 

Robert Thomas and Jakub Jerabek are the healthy scratches. Robert Bortuzzo (lower body) is out. 

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The Blue Jackets' projected lineup:

Artemi Panarin-Pierre-Luc Dubois-Cam Atkinson

Oliver Bjorkstrand-Alexander Wennberg-Anthony Duclair

Boone Jenner-Nick Foligno-Josh Anderson

Lukas Sedlak-Riley Nash-Markus Hannikainen

Zach Werenski-Seth Jones

Ryan Murray-Markus Nutivaara

Scott Harrington-David Savard

Joonas Korpisalo will start in goal; Sergei Bobrovsky will be the backup. 

Healthy scratches include Adam Clendening, Dean Kukan and Sonny Milano. Brandon Dubinsky (oblique strain) is out.