By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- One of the hardest games the Blues (11-14-4) have played this season was their 3-2 overtime win against the Colorado Avalanche on Nov. 30.
The Blues won that night on a spectacular individual effort by defenseman Colton Parayko, who scored one-handed after an end-to-end rush in the OT.
Tonight should be no different when the Blues and Avalanche (17-9-5) play for the secone time this season at Enterprise Center (7 p.m.; FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).
"They come at you," Blues interim coach Craig Berube said of the Avalanche, which has lost two in a row. "They're a hard team to play against. Obviously that big line, but their whole team, with their mindset, they're very aggressive. They're a physical team. It's going to be a hard game. We have to be prepared for that."
That "big line" Berube is referring to is that of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog, which has combined for 137 points (52 goals, 85 assists) in 31 games this season, an average of 4.42 points per game.
Rantanen leads the NHL with 52 points and 39 assists; he's on a 12-game point streak with 23 points (seven goals, 16 assists). MacKinnon has 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) the past 12 games and Landeskog has 10 points (four goals, six assists) in a five-game point streak.
So how does one even attempt to neutralize that group?
"One is managing the puck and doing a good job with the puck," Berube said. "If we can keep the puck in the offensive zone from them, offensive zone time against that line is important and when you don't have it, we need five guys being really aware on the ice and taking time and space from them as quick as you can because they have great speed and obviously great playmaking ability and if you give them too much time and space, they'll find somebody. That's how they capitalize on you."
Against the Blues, Rantanen had a goal but MacKinnon and Landeskog were held without a point.
"I think we could have defended our blue line a little bit better against them, but we defended inside our blue line very well against them is what we did," Berube said.
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Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson will be a gametime decision tonight.
Edmundson missed Tuesday's 4-3 win over Florida with an apparent hand injury sustained in a 6-1 loss against Vancouver when he was struck on the hand by Brock Boeser's stick on a follow-through of a shot with 3 minutes 55 seconds remaining in the game.
Edmundson took part in the morning skate, but stayed on the ice late. It was his first practice since the injury.
"He'll be a gametime decision," Berube said. "He's getting better, he looks pretty good, so we'll see."
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Blues rookie Robert Thomas will be in the lineup and playing once again with Tyler Bozak and Pat Maroon playing right wing.
A natural center, Thomas said playing the wing, which he admitted he hasn't done in five or six years, has been a challenge but a worthy one.
"I think it's definitely a pretty big adjustment," said Thomas, who has nine points (two goals, seven assists) in 24 games this season. "I know for myself, there's a couple spots that I don't think I was very good at, like along the wall battles and things like that. And that just takes time to get used to. I feel like last three games, I've been really good on the walls and started to get a little more comfortable with that kind of stuff. I haven't played wing in like five, six years. It took a little bit of an adjustment period, but I think now I'm starting to get better and better and I think it'll just continue.
"You don't get as many puck touches when you're on the wing as centers, so I think that was an adjustment for me. I think on the wing, it's also what area you get into to find those pucks. I think that part of my game's actually come a long way. It's something I've been talking with 'Otter' about. Everyone knows I'm not winger. I'll be back at center sometime. I think this is a great learning experience to me and just adds more to my game."
Berube has liked Thomas on the wing.
"I think he's fine," the coach said. "He's getting better and better. His game is improving game to game for me.
"The one thing on the wing, he's not down low battling in his own end as much so he's fresher and he's done a good job offensively gaining the blue line, gaining open ice and making delay plays and things like that. He's finding people. He's really good at finding people and creating space for himself."
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The Blues, take their record for what it's worth, are 5-0-0 in Friday games this season.
Bozak has 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in 13 career games against the Avalanche.
Defenseman Carl Gunnarsson (wrist) will miss his 13th straight game, but Berube said he's getting better, improving day to day but isn't ready to return.
Blues center Brayden Schenn has four points (two goals, two assists) the past four games.
Blues center Ryan O’Reilly has just two assists the past six games, and right wing Vladimir Tarasenko has gone without a point the past five games.
Blues forward Robby Fabbri (separated shoulder) took part in the optional skate Friday, his first practice with the team since injuring his shoulder Dec. 1 at Arizona.
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The Blues' projected lineup:
Alexander Steen-Ryan O'Reilly-Vladimir Tarasenko
Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-David Perron
Pat Maroon-Tyler Bozak-Robert Thomas
Jordan Nolan-Ivan Barbashev-Oskar Sundqvist
Jay Bouwmeester-Colton Parayko
Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo
Chris Butler-Jordan Schmaltz
Jake Allen will start in goal; Jordan Binnington will be the backup.
The healthy scratch will be Zach Sanford. Alex Pietrangelo (hand/wrist), Robby Fabbri (shoulder) and Carl Gunnarsson (wrist) are out. Joel Edmundson (upper body) is a game time decision.
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The Avalanche's projected lineup:
Gabriel Landeskog-Nathan MacKinnon-Mikko Rantanen
Tyson Jost-J.T. Compher-Sven Andrighetto
Matt Nieto-Carl Soderberg-Matt Calvert
A.J. Greer-Colin Wilson-Gabriel Bourque
Samuel Girard-Erik Johnson
Ian Cole-Tyson Barrie
Patrik Nemeth-Nikita Zadorov
Philipp Grubauer will start in goal; Semyon Varlamov will be the backup.
The healthy scratch will be Mark Alt. Mark Barberio (upper body), Vladislav Kamenev (shoulder) and Alexander Kerfoot (upper body) are all out.