By LOU KORAC
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Craig Berube will stand behind a bench as an NHL boss for the first time since April 11, 2015 when the Blues (7-9-3) begin a gauntlet of a three-day schedule with the first of a back-to-back against the Nashville Predators (15-5-1) at 7 p.m. today (FS-MW; KMOX 1120-AM) at Bridgestone Arena.
Berube, who replaced Mike Yeo as coach on an interim basis when Yeo was fired following a 2-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Monday, will hope to infuse some energy and life into a Blues squad that has been shut out in three of four games and carry a shutout drought of 142 minutes 48 seconds into the game.
The franchise record is 187:44 established Feb. 8-March 2, 2014.
"This is an exciting game, to be honest with you," said Berube, who coached the Flyers from 2013-15 and Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League for the 2016-17 season. "Our guys need to be energized and be excited about the game. Focus on the process. Don't focus on wins and losses. We need to go out and play a hard game, be energized and get after it.
"We need to have energy and life. You're in the NHL playing. You should have a good time, you should be energized, you should be happy and the team just needs to find some confidence by doing things right and playing for each other and doing things hard and aggressive. That's how you find confidence and it feeds."
The Blues will have off for Thanksgiving before hosting the Predators Friday and Winnipeg Jets on Saturday.
"We have a lot of hockey coming up and lots of opportunities to turn this thing around," center Ryan O'Reilly said. "We don't want to get ahead of ourselves. We've got to take it one game at a time. We might not get the results right away, but we've got to find our game and establish something and that's what we're focused on. Getting into that process and finding a way to find a spark and show ourselves that we are a good team and we can do good things and we can turn this thing around."
The subtleties Berube will bring to the bench will obviously differ from that of Yeo.
"There's little things. For myself, it's just focus on my game and bringing more and doing what I can to get us back going," said O'Reilly, who leads the Blues in goals (10), assists (13) and points (23). "That's something that we've all had to do here. We're not in a good spot and changes were made, but we have to demand more from ourselves."
Berube said it won't be difficult to jump back into the head coaching foray.
"In-game decisions and stuff, I haven't made those for a little bit of time going back a couple years," he said. "It'll come back, it's all there. It's like getting on a bike for me, it's not a big deal."
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O'Reilly will play tonight after taking Tuesday, Berube's first practice, off.
He was joined on the ice by Alexander Steen (upper-body, day-to-day), Pat Maroon (upper-body, on injured reserve and eligible to come off in time for Friday's game) and Carl Gunnarsson (upper-body, out through the weekend games).
O'Reilly got a maintenance day.
"I just needed a day. A lot of hockey there in the last little bit and just needed a day.
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With a vacancy on the bench from the departure of Yeo, Berube will have a familiar and strong presence with him.
Hall of Famer Larry Robinson, who has been with the Blues in a consulting role since last season, will get a more prominent role for the time being, at least for the next three weeks to a month.
Robinson, a former head coach with the New Jersey Devils, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks, gives Berube a strong set of eyes and voice.
And it's never a bad idea to have someone with the pedigree of nine Stanlet Cups (six as a player with the Montreal Canadiens and three as an assistant coach/head coach with the New Jersey Devils).
"Tons of experience obviously," Berube said. "As a coach and being around the game as long as he has. Great man and looking forward to working with him. Just all his knowledge will definitely help me and the team out."
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The Blues have no choice but to be prepared for tonight's opponent, which leads the NHL with 31 points.
Berube was asked what challenges Nashville will pose.
"Where do you want me to start? They're a very good hockey team and we know that," Berube said. "They've been a good hockey team for a few years now. They're pretty solid all the way around. We need a good 200-foot game for sure tonight."
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Some subtle lineup changes will see Zach Sanford jump up and play with O'Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko, and Robert Thomas play the wing for the first time this season. He will play with Brayden Schenn and Robby Fabbri.
"He's got really good hands," Berube said of Sanford. "He's real strong down low on the puck. I thought in the L.A. game, he did some good things with those guys down low. I love his hands and his net presence. With 'Vladi' shooting the puck and O'Reilly working down there getting him the puck, we need somebody that goes to the net and has good hands."
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Jake Allen will get the start in goal tonight.
Allen has stopped 75 of 78 shots, allowed one goal in each of his past three starts, and has a goals-against average of 1.02 and a save percentage of .962.
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The Blues' projected lineup:
Zach Sanford-Ryan O'Reilly-Vladimir Tarasenko
Robby Fabbri-Brayden Schenn-Robert Thomas
David Perron-Tyler Bozak-Sammy Blais
Nikita Soshnikov-Ivan Barbashev-Oskar Sundqvist
Vince Dunn-Alex Pietrangelo
Joel Edmundson-Colton Parayko
Jay Bouwmeester-Jordan Schmaltz
Jake Allen will start in goal; Chad Johnson will be the backup.
The Blues have no healthy scratches. Alexander Steen (upper body) remains day to day, Carl Gunnarsson (upper body) and Jaden Schwartz (upper body) are out through the weekend; Pat Maroon (upper body) is eligible to come off IR Thursday and Robert Bortuzzo (lower body) remains out.
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The Predators' projected lineup:
Filip Forsberg-Ryan Johansen-Craig Smith
Calle Jarnkrok-Kyle Turris-Ryan Hartman
Colton Sissons-Nick Bonino-Austin Watson
Miikka Salomaki-Frederick Gaudreau-Kevin Fiala
Roman Josi-Ryan Ellis
Dan Hamhuis-Mattias Ekholm
Anthony Bitetto-Yannick Weber
Pekka Rinne will start in goal; Juuse Saros will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Matt Irwin and Zac Rinaldo. Viktor Arvidsson (broken thumb) is out 6-8 weeks and P.K. Subban (upper body) day to day.
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