Saturday, December 8, 2018

(12-9-18) Canucks-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- It's happened before, multiples times as a matter of fact, when the Blues have teased their fan base this season with statement wins, only to follow them up with head-scratching losses.

The Blues (10-13-4) will get another opportunity today when they host the Vancouver Canucks (12-16-2), who have lost 12 of 14 (2-10-2), at 2 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).

The Blues are coming off a solid 1-0 win at Winnipeg on Friday, highlighted by Jake Allen's 26-save effort for his 17th NHL shutout -- all with the Blues -- which puts him in sole possession of third on the franchise all-time list past Glenn Hall

But this isn't the first time the Blues have been down this road. 

A 5-3 win against Calgary on Oct. 11 was followed up by a 4-3 overtime loss at Chicago two nights later. A solid road win, 4-1 at Toronto on Oct. 20, was followed up with a 5-4 loss at Winnipeg two nights later when the Blues coughed up a 3-1 lead entering the third period. A 5-3 win on home ice over Vegas on Nov. 1 was followed up by a poor 5-1 loss to Minnesota two nights later. A solid 4-0 shutout win over San Jose on Nov. 9 was followed up again with a 3-2 loss to the Wild two days later against a team playing its third game in three and a half days. Another win over Vegas, 4-1 on the road on Nov. 16, was followed up 24 hours later with another lackluster performance loss, 4-0 at San Jose. The most impressive win, 6-2 at home against Nashville the day after Thanksgiving was followed up 24 hours later with another thud, 8-4 at home against the Jets with Patrik Laine carving up the Blues for five goals. A 3-2 overtime win at Colorado Nov. 30 was followed up yet again with what looked like a disinterested group the following night in a 6-1 loss at Arizona.

Sounds like a broken record, right? Well, it sure feels like it, and it has been a sore spot.

"It has been," said Blues defenseman Colton Parayko, who scored the lone goal Friday. "I think it's been a little bit of a trend for sure. It's one of those things where you want to learn obviously. We've had too many of these. We have to understand that yes, we're good enough to beat the top of the league, but we also have to be good enough to beat the other guys that might not necessarily be at the top of the standings. You've got to play a full game in this league to win. You can't play a good team and play really well and then kind of bring your game down a bit to necessarily match the other team. Everyone's good in this league and everyone can make things happen. I think you've got to bring your best game every night and just be consistent with it. That's going to change a lot of things. We've just got to be good tomorrow. Don't look at last game and how the next game is going to go. Just focus on the next game coming at us, whoever the opponent is. Worry about what we can control."

So how do the Blues follow up this performance from Friday?

"We have to get back and win a game," Blues center Ryan O'Reilly said. "... If it wasn't for 'Jakey' that last game, it could have been very different. We have to regroup. It's nice to come in in the morning and you got a good win. A lot of guys contributed, but it's back to work with a good team coming in. They've got some good players and we have to make a statement and throw another one together here. It has been an issue for us, having that consistency and following a game up well. It's a big opportunity for us here. We need to establish our game."

The Blues have to figure out why they haven't been able to sustain winning streaks. They've only had two two-game winning streaks, thus the reason they're under .500 and only have 10 wins through 27 games. So what will it take?

"I think it's preparation and knowing that it's going to be work," O'Reilly said. "You can see we do win a game. A lot of times the focus going into it, we know exactly what the little details of that opponent going into it and we're aware of. It's nice with a 2 o'clock game, we do have a few meetings [Saturday], have an insight into them. That gets us in the mindset of, 'OK, let's go get another game to worry about.' 

"We feel confident. We got a win, but still, we have to respond with a really good game."

Blues interim coach Craig Berube said "it's a process. We've got to come out and have the same mindset. You've got to come out and you've got to play hard, compete hard and do things right."

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Blues forward David Perron was skating with extra forwards on Saturday, and will be a healthy scratch Sunday. 

Perron has 16 points (eight goals, eight assists) in 27 games but has had a rash of penalties in games recently that has the coaches wanting him to take a step back and reassert himself.

"Just his play recently, some penalties, some stuff like that," Berube said.

Perron has at least a penalty in five of the past eight games and he took a holding penalty in the third period against the Jets that had the coaches visibly upset.

That conversation between a coach and a veteran player can he a tough one but necessary at times.

"It's tough, we need more, we need better, he knows that," Berube said. "It's tough, but it's part of the game. We need guys to play better."

Perron was skating with Sammy Blais and the injured Jaden Schwartz. Jordan Kyrou stepped into Perron's spot on the line with O'Reilly and Zach Sanford.

"We'll get him in here," Berube said of Kyrou, who has one assist in 10 games in his rookie season.

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Allen is expected to get the nod in goal again after his 26-save performance Friday. 

The start of the season didn't provide the kind of numbers that jump out, but in his past nine starts, Allen has stopped 245 out of 261 shots, good for a 1.78 goals-against average and .939 save percentage.

Allen has allowed two or fewer goals in seven of those nine starts.

"He's been playing outstanding," O'Reilly said. "He's confident back there. He's making saves at key times. For us, we want to limit those as much as possible. We have to be better in front of him, but when he does make those huge saves, you want to play harder for that guy."

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Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo arguably played his best game as a Blue when he played 21 minutes 4 seconds, the most he's played since he played 21:39 on Jan. 21, 2015 against Chicago.

Bortuzzo blocked four shots, including a one-timer from Laine on the penalty kill and set the tone early when he played Laine hard early in the first period.

"He defends hard, he's got good sticks," Berube said. "He's aggressive, blocks shots and he plays a hard game. He's played a lot of good games, but he played a real good game last night.

"He's an in-your-face player and I thought that Jordan Nolan's hit (on Laine) early on in the game was good. To me, it was a bad call. That's a good hit."

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The Blues have won five in a row against the Canucks and are 8-0-1 against them the past nine games.

Blues penalty killing has been exceptional against Vancouver, killing off 31 of the past 32 attempts.

Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in his past 11 games against the Canucks.

Allen is 6-0-2 with a 2.24 GAA and .913 save percentage in his past eight games against the Canucks.

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The Blues' projected lineup:

Zach Sanford-Ryan O'Reilly-Jordan Kyrou

Alexander Steen-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko

Pat Maroon-Tyler Bozak-Robert Thomas

Jordan Nolan-Ivan Barbashev-Oskar Sundqvist

Joel Edmundson-Colton Parayko

Jay Bouwmeester-Robert Bortuzzo

Vince Dunn-Chris Butler

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

Healthy scratches include David Perron, Jordan Schmaltz and Sammy Blais. Jaden Schwartz (hand), Alex Pietrangelo (hand/wrist), Robby Fabbri (shoulder), Carl Gunnarsson (wrist) are all out.

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The Canucks' projected lineup:

Nikolay Goldobin-Bo Horvat-Jake Virtanen

Josh Leivo-Elias Pettersson-Brock Boeser

Antoine Roussel-Adam Gaudette-Loui Eriksson

Markus Granlund-Jay Beagle-Tyler Motte

Alexander Edler-Christopher Tanev

Ben Hutton-Erik Gudbranson

Derrick Pouliot-Troy Stecher

Jacob Markstrom will start in goal; Anders Nilsson will be the backup.

Healthy scratches are expected to be Tim Schaller, Michael Del Zotto and Alex Biega. Brandon Sutter (shoulder) and Sven Baertschi (concussion) are out.

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