Schenn questionable for Tuesday; Bortuzzo to miss more time; Yeo mixes
up lines trying to get spark; Blues' numbers alarmingly high in goals-against
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The Blues were mixing and matching groups at practice Monday with one obvious omission.
Center Brayden Schenn was absent from Monday's practice after leaving Saturday's 5-1 loss to Minnesota with what coach Mike Yeo called Monday an upper-body injury.
Yeo said after the game that Schenn was "sore" which resulted in him missing the entire third period.
"He was too sore today to practice," Yeo said of Schenn. "So obviously he'll be a question mark for tomorrow."
Schenn, who has nine points (three goals, six assists) in 12 games, didn't miss a game last season in racking up 70 points (28 goals, 42 assists), so his loss would certainly be felt.
In his place at practice today was rookie Robert Thomas centering a line between Robby Fabbri and David Perron.
The forward lines Yeo ran today included:
Jaden Schwartz-Ryan O'Reilly-Vladimir Tarasenko
Robby Fabbri-Robert Thomas-David Perron
Zach Sanford-Tyler Bozak-Alexander Steen
Pat Maroon-Ivan Barbashev-Oskar Sundqvist
extra: NIkita Soshnikov
"We're looking to get a good feel," Yeo said. "It's one thing to just kind of tell the players to go in and play with more confidence, go in and be more assertive, whatever the question is. Sometimes we have to try to help them through that as well. So I think the lines we had today made sense."
With Schenn out of the mix Monday and possibly for the game Tuesday, Ryan O'Reilly stepped into Schenn's spot between Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko.
O'Reilly has a seven-game point streak (four goals, eight assists).
"'O'Ry' has been one of the biggest positives, his play," Yeo said. "He's very quietly just going about his business. Every day he comes to the rink, he's very prepared and mentally, he's got the right frame of mind going onto the ice, that's why he's having success. Certainly being around that is not going to hurt him now."
Ivan Barbashev appears set to return following a two-game stretch of being a healthy scratch.
"We want to get him back in," Yeo said of Barbashev, who has a goal and two assists in 10 games. "We want to get him back in for the penalty kill. I thought that his game slipped a little bit, but the last game before we took him out (Oct. 27 against Chicago), he actually played pretty well. So get him back in and I think that he's going to bring some good energy to our group."
The defense pairs were a bit more jumbled up, but they included:
Carl Gunnarsson-Alex Pietrangelo
Vince Dunn-Colton Parayko
Joel Edmundson/Jay Bouwmeester-Jordan Schmaltz
That last trio was shifting around so it would be unclear at this point who would sit, but it would be hard-pressed to think Edmundson would sit, so if Schmaltz enters the lineup, Bouwmeester, who had an egregious turnover that led to the Wild's goal late in the third to make it a 3-1 game, would be the logical choice to be scratched.
* Bortuzzo update -- Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo is coming up on his two-week re-evaluation period that the Blues set when they decided to shut him down with a lower-body injury.
Yeo shed a little light on it that it looks like it'll be a bit longer than the original minimum of two weeks.
"He's not skating right now so I would still say he's a ways away here," Yeo said.
* Establishing the defense again -- When looking up stats on a regular basis, one would find the Blues among the league leaders in goals-against.
Last season, the Blues were sixth in the NHL in goals-against at 222, or 2.71 per game.
Through 12 games, the Blues have allowed a whopping 47 goals, or 3.92 per game; 34 of them have alarmingly come on home ice.
What's causing such a shortcoming?
It's everything from attention to detail, not being connected on the ice, poor marking, turnovers that lead to odd-man rushes, and the last line of defense (goaltending) hasn't been stealing saves to bail out teammates' mistakes on a regular basis.
Last season, the Blues didn't allow their 47th goal until the 19th game, or Nov. 13.
"We've got to limit the second opportunities," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "Jake [Allen's] making the save and we've got to find a way to limit those opportunities because when we get to those rebounds and those shots that are sitting there and we start transitioning, we're a tough team to handle. Right now, we're not quick enough or aggressive enough in our d-zone and that's resulting in more time in our end. It's tough to go down and score when you're in your end for 15 or 20 seconds.
"We've got to stay connected. It's working for each other, trying to create a little more space for each other. One, in terms of setting picks and moving and talk. Our transition game, we've got to be more connected."
The Blues' goal scoring is up, 42 goals in 12 games, or 3.50 per game, but it seems like more guys are focused on creating more offense and it's sacrificing the staple of this team's identity, its defense.
"I think we need to be more aggressive defensively and get on guys quicker, be in lanes, better sticks," forward Jaden Schwartz said. "Teams are getting too many cracks. Guys are open in the middle of the slot. That's the most dangerous spot on the ice and they're getting way too many shots from there. Guys' sticks are loose in front of the net, too. They're tipping a lot of pucks. We make adjustments, we talk about it, but we made a couple adjustments today in the d-zone. Hopefully it'll translate to tomorrow, but we're giving up rush chances too. There's different areas we need to be better in."
Added defenseman Colton Parayko: "There's been a lot of off-the-rush attacks and opportunities against. I think that we're giving up a lot of good, quality scoring chances against. I think our goaltenders have kept us in a lot of games. ... We've obviously got to tighten up and be a five-man unit out there. I think when we're a five-man unit, it's tough. ... Just staying together, connected as a team with the same mentality.
"That's kind of what our team has been built around over the years, especially since I've been here, is defense first. We would win games 2-1, 3-2, whatever. Win one-goal games every week. That's just the way it was, it's those close games. That's what we're good at. If we can get back to that, we're going to be real good. Just take care of the defense and offense will take care of itself and the results will take care of themselves and points and all the rest will be good. ... A 2-1 win is the same as a 7-1 win. Two points is two points."
Steen mentioned after the loss Saturday players were too spaced out and it creates those unnecessary gaps that allow the opposition to jump plays and get odd-man rushes.
"That comes down to being aggressive and having the confidence," Schwartz said. "Even with the puck, I think we're too far away from each other. Certainly off the puck, I don't think our support's there. That communication plays a factor in that too. It hasn't been bad every game, but certainly too many games we're giving up too many quality scoring chances."
Bottom line is the opposition is getting too many Grade A scoring chances.
"You can't give up quality chances and expect to win hockey games," Yeo said. "I think there's a mindset that when we're on, we're very good, we're hard to play against, we're hard to come through, it's hard to get to our zone and we're good in our zone and when we're not, we're easy to play against. It's making sure mentally, physically, emotionally, we are prepared to go into the game. We understand how hard it is, how hard we have to play, and we're ready, willing and able to do it for 60 minutes. We get every guy doing that, we get every guy at the end of the night feeling good about the attitude and the effort that they brought, we're going to like where we're at."
"It's going to be a process, it really is," said Allen, who is 43-3 with a high 3.99 goals-against average and .879 save percentage. "We've put ourselves in a spot where we're really going to have to grind away and get points, whether it's a point or two points, and try to fix this. It's a really, really complicated math problem and we've just got to find a way to study and get into it and get out of it. Honestly, I know it's the same answers you guys have probably been hearing. It's the ones we really need to look ourselves in the mirror and get done."
If they don't start looking in the mirror, the Blues will continue to get booed off the ice like they have in two of the past four home games.
"It's obviously frustrating and we're not happy about it. It's our job to fix it," Schwartz said. "There's ups and downs during the season. Last year, there were a lot of a good starts and bad finishes. This year we're looking at turning the script a little bit. It's on us. I think our starts have to be better. We have to get a good start for some momentum. I think we're getting little lapses in games. There's 10 minutes or 15 minutes and then the rest of the game is good. We've just got to consistently be better the whole 60 minutes."