Thursday, January 31, 2019


Blues back, ready to endure grind after break; Perron to IR; Thomas returns; 
MacEachern recalled; O'Reilly's all-star experience; Blues, ESPN partner up

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The Blues were back at the rink Thursday afternoon ready to hit the ground running after their week-long plus break that included the All-Star Game last weekend.

The Blues, who are in the middle of five straight games on the road, including one Saturday at Columbus before hitting Florida for their annual dads trip to play the Panthers Tuesday and Tampa Bay next Thursday, have not played since a 5-1 win at Anaheim on Jan. 23. That means they will have gone nine days off before their next game.

But at 22-22-5, and starting Thursday just three points out of a wildcard in the Western Conference, Blues players feel both mentally and physically that the break was good, but it can also stunt the progress one made, like the Blues had, while going good, and it also compresses the remaining games a team has like the Blues, who have played the fewest games in the West and only one team (Florida, 48) has played fewer.

"We have today and tomorrow, so we don't have to play until the next day, which is a good thing for us," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "We play a lot of games because of the break, but if you use it the right way, which everyone in here does, it gives you an opportunity to make sure you're both refreshed physically and mentally here. We play a stretch of, what, (14) games this month? We've got to make sure we're ready for that.

"We're going to be on the road a lot here now, so it's a good time for guys to stay home and spend time with family and take a break and kind of get away from the game for a bit. This month is going to be grind, it's going to be tough, but it's good that we get this kind of reset."

The Blues will play their remaining 33 games in nine week's time, so the sacrifice of playing those games in a compressed time seems worth it for them to get this extra time off. Management and coaches may not like it, but the players do, and they know it's tough.

"No question it is," goalie Jake Allen said. "Every team has to go through it though. For us, I think it's as much as we can the first game, even the first period, try to salvage a solid first period. We know it's not going to be great right out of the gate. We'd love for it to be, but I think we can get our feet under us quick enough in the first and then keep building throughout that game and hopefully end in a good result. That's sort of the way you have to attack it. You have to attack the practices like the games and make sure we're ready to go at puck drop by Saturday, especially against a team that's already played a couple times.

"The break adds more back-to-backs, adds more flights, adds a little more late nights to our schedule, but that's the way the league's going right now. No question, we all enjoy the time off, but at the same time, if you don't have a huge cushion and we're grinding for every point like we are, it's definitely a little more demanding. That's the way it is, that's what we're dealt with."

Coach Craig Berube put the Blues through what he called a brisk 45-minute practice that seemed much longer. There was a dry scrape between sessions that was intense.

"Forty-five minutes, right? It was good, 20-25 minutes of a good, crisp flow, skating, passing, pace and then I wanted to get them some scrimmage in there to just kind of get them back on their toes and thinking about a game-like situation. Spent about 15-20 minutes on that," Berube said. "... I thought they worked hard, I thought the pace was good. Skating was there. They looked good to me. Obviously the passing and puck skills are a little off from time being away and not on the ice. Overall, we were happy with practice."

It's been a tough climb for the Blues, who had such high hopes coming out of the gate this season, just to get to .500, but they feel like things are coming together at the right time and they're ready to make a push.

"It's been really tough starting the season, things going on around the team," forward Vladimir Tarasenko said. "Now things are getting more positive. Guys start enjoy being here. It's nice now, I'm not going to lie. A lot of stuff, but we just work for each other and this helps us out to get out of the spot where we was, but still not in the playoffs so we have a lot of things to do.

"Nice to get away for a little bit but now we're back here, time to get back to work and time to make a push. Guys feel ready and excited to get together again and wait for game [Saturday]."

When asked why it was so tough earlier in the season, Tarasenko, who has started to heat up himself with points in eight of his past 11 games, didn't want to look back.

"We have to stop worrying about what was in the past," he said. "We have, 30 games left? Every game now is like playoffs for us. I don't want to discuss the start of the year. It's happened already. We need to be focused on our goal and make it happen.

"If we play for each other, I think we can beat any team in this league and we prove it this year. We have to think about the next game and not look too far ahead and just prepare for Columbus right now."

* Perron to IR -- The Blues were hoping to have David Perron back on the ice after an extended break. Perron hasn't played since Jan. 17 at Boston dealing with upper-body injury believed to be concussion-related, and the Blues placed the forward on injured-reserve.

Perron will miss his fourth straight game when the Blues travel to Columbus on Saturday but is essentially day-to-day.

"I think it's up in the air, but he's not going to come with us at the start, that's for sure," Berube said of Perron. "We'll see how he's doing and if he feels like he can come on the trip, he can join us on the trip."

Perron has played in 45 games this season and ranks second on the Blues with 35 points (17 goals, 18 assists), including a 13-game point streak (six goals, 10 assists).

* Thomas back, ready to return to lineup? -- Rookie Robert Thomas was back skating at practice again Thursday, and it appears the forward is ready to jump back into the lineup Saturday after missing the past seven games with a left shoulder injury.

Thomas, who has 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 37 games, was injured when he lost his footing and crashed hard into the offensive zone boards against the Montreal Canadiens on Jan. 10 in a 4-1 win.

"I'm feeling a lot better," Thomas said. "I think the break was good, good recovery. Things are feeling good.

"I think that's the way everyone's feeling is I have a chance to play. Everything's coming along and I feel a lot better. ... Today was the first one for regular contact. I felt good out there. I think it'll be a decision to be made over the next couple days."

Thomas was skating on the fourth line with Ivan Barbashev, Mackenzie MacEachern and Robby Fabbri and was playing arguably his best hockey before the injury.

"I liked it a lot," Berube said. "His playmaking ability, his vision for the game is high. He was just feeling more comfortable going along, playing with better players, being put in better spots. He was producing and he was doing the job.

"We had him on a line today. He looked good out there. He'll get more of that tomorrow. We'll do some drills in practice and see how he feels with the contact."

Perhaps moving Thomas, a natural center, to the wing helped him get more acclimated.

"A young player like that, he's played center ice most of his career, but a young player like that, being put in the middle of the ice, it's hard," Berube said. 'It's a tough game down in your own end and you've got to have good reads and you've got to be strong. It's easier for him to be on a wing, but that doesn't mean he won't be at center. I had him at center when he got hurt. I thought he earned that to be put in that spot and I wouldn't count on him not being there again."

* All-Star experience good for O'Reilly -- Center Ryan O'Reilly, who was the lone representative from the Blues in San Jose last weekend, made his second all-star appearance one to remember.

Although the Central Division fell 10-5 in the final against the Metropolitan Division after the Central blitzed the Pacific Division 10-3 to start, O'Reilly made the most of his time with seven points (two goals, five assists) in the two games of 3-on-3 hockey.

"It was good. It was fun," O'Reilly said. "It would have been nice to win the games, but still, it was a good time. Get to see a lot of guys and it was nice going to California and get some sunshine there. The NHL did a great job."

O'Reilly was the one player who didn't get the full amount that rest of his Blues teammates did, but he did get to rub elbows with the game's best. Blues fans may not like his choice, but O'Reilly was glad to be on the same side for once with that of Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane.

"It's pretty casual at those events, but just to kind of be on the same team as him, watching Patrick Kane, that was pretty impressive," O'Reilly said. "You can see when he gets the puck, especially 3-on-3, nobody can get him off of it. It's his puck, he's doing what he wants with it. I was on the ice a few times with him and it's just amazing the plays that he can make. Seeing it from the other end was a lot nicer."

O'Reilly leads the Blues, his first season in St. Louis, in goals (18), assists (32) and points (50) in 49 games this season.

* MacEachern recalled -- Forward Mackenzie MacEachern was recalled from San Antonio earlier in the day on Thursday.

MacEachern, who scored his first NHL goal Jan. 21 at Los Angeles and had his first NHL assist two nights later in Anaheim, has those two points in his six NHL games. The 2012 third-round pick out of Michigan State has impressed in his early stint in the NHL and warranted a return following the break.

"He's played really well," Berube said. "I thought the games he's been up here, he's been effective. His skating is really noticeable for me, being on the puck, physical play. He gets chances too. Last game, he had four shots on net, a couple real good opportunities, but what I like is his ability to get on top of people quickly with his skating and being physical."

* Blues, 101 ESPN partner up -- The Blues are leaving the 'Mighty Mox' after a 12-year run.

The team announced on Thursday they will be leaving KMOX 1120-AM after this season and moving to ESPN 101.1-FM after a four-year term with an option for a fifth year was announced beginning with the 2019-20 season.

"We are excited to enter into a partnership with 101 ESPN to broadcast our games and to create exciting new Blues and hockey-related content for our fans," Blues executive vice president and chief revenue officer Steve Chapman said in a statement. "This partnership will allow us and 101 ESPN to reach new audiences and create numerous content opportunities that will help meet the demands of our loyal fan base. We are excited about what the future holds. As we move forward, our organization would also like to thank the entire KMOX team for both their commitment and partnership to the Blues and fans throughout the region."

Broadcasters Chris Kerber and Joey Vitale are expected to remain in their current roles moving forward, and the Blues and the station will announce more content moving forward.

"It has always been a dream to partner with the St. Louis Blues organization," Hubbard St. Louis vice president and market manager John Kijowski said in a statement. "The Blues management team is a class act and their fans are the best in professional hockey."

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Blues don't crack again, top Senators 3-2 on Gunnarsson goal

Binnington makes 28 saves to remain unbeaten in regulation; 
Tarasenko, Dunn score to give St. Louis fifth win in eight games

ST. LOUIS -- The bad outcome at the start of the third period would have bit the Blues badly, especially on home ice.

Leading by a goal and on the power play looking to, for all intents and purposes, put the finishing touches on another much-needed win, the Blues succumbed and allowed the Ottawa Senators to score a shorthanded goal, and by old friend Magnus Paajarvi.

But the Blues of late have been finding ways to overcome adverse situations, and Carl Gunnarsson came to the rescue.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Vladimir Tarasenko (right) moves the puck towards the Ottawa goal in
action Saturday at Enterprise Center during St. Louis' 3-2 win.

Gunnarsson's second goal in as many games, the first time he's done that in nearly seven seasons proved to be the difference for the Blues in a 3-2 win over the Senators on Saturday at Enterprise Center.

When Paajarvi, who the Blues put on waivers last season before the Senators claimed him, guided in Zack Smith's centering pass past Jordan Binnington one minute into the period to tie the game 2-2, there was a bit of unease before the 17,690 in attendance. Sort of that, 'Oh, no, not again' feeling.

"That was tough," Blues interim coach Craig Berube said. "They responded well though. The first shift 5-on-5 after that was good."

The Blues (21-21-5) did respond, and they did it with a workmanlike effort of forwards Ryan O'Reilly, Vladimir Tarasenko and Pat Maroon, a line reunited after getting to play together at the start of the season.

The trio worked the puck around the Senators goal and around goalie Craig Anderson, and after Maroon was able to pry a puck out from underneath the glove of Anderson, O'Reilly came around the back of the goal and fed Gunnarsson coming in. His fluttering shot went in over Anderson's shoulder with 7:44 remaining and the Blues held on in the end.

"Good shift all over," Gunnarsson said. "The forwards were working down low and it just kind of got jammed up in front of the net, saw my chance and got a little lucky on that shot and it went in. We'll take it. ... It kind of fluttered a little bit, but it went in. We'll take them any way. 

"... I got a little worried there when they were reviewing it. But good job. The forwards were reaching for pucks down there like crazy and that kind of made their team kind of sink in there and open it up."

The Senators challenged for goalie interference, something Ottawa coach Guy Boucher felt was his only chance of getting it overturned. He was adamant that the play should have been blown dead.

"A hundred fifty percent. This is a dead play," Boucher said. "I don’t know how much a goalie can make more of a save than that than putting his hand on it and it’s clear.

"That’s the only thing I can do. That’s the only thing I can do there. It is what it is and our players have no control over it. Our goalie did everything he could and that’s a clear, clear, clear, clear save."

Anderson didn't feel there was goalie interference but felt the whistle should have blown. Replays show Anderson tried to cover the puck with Maroon's stick already on the ground, which was the reason he was able to wedge it loose. 

"I don’t think it was goalie interference at all," Anderson said. "I think the play was covered in my opinion but the referee was on the other side of the ice and didn’t see it so there’s nothing you can do about it so you have to move on. 

"I think the indication was that most everyone on the ice stopped playing. It was probably the best indication that everyone thought it was dead except for the couple of guys whacking it."

Vladimir Tarasenko and Vince Dunn also scored for the Blues, and Jordan Binnington remained undefeated in regulation through his first five NHL starts, improving to 4-0-1 with a 28-save effort.

"It felt great. It wasn't a perfect game. We fought it out," Gunnarsson said. "Binnington was great back there and we found a way. Two points. That's all that matters right now."

The Blues played the game without forward David Perron, who missed the game because of an upper-body injury and ended his career-best and current NHL-leading 13-game point streak (six goals, 10 assists). Berube said after the game that Perron will probably not travel to the two games in California leading up to the All-Star break.

Alexander Steen did return after missing six games with a left shoulder injury, but with how hot Perron was playing with linemate Ryan O'Reilly, who had two assists Saturday giving him 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) the past 13 games, the Blues were in need of an infusion. 

Enter Tarasenko and Maroon, and for Maroon, it was arguably his best game as a Blue. He finished with a season-high 19:26 on the ice and was engaging on almost every shift and made his presence felt.

"He played a real good game, all around," Berube said. "Controlled the puck in the offensive zone, every time he was out there, strong on it, did a good job."

Dunn put the Blues ahead 2-1 with 2:32 remaining in the second period. His slapper from the top of the left circle beat Anderson high glove after an extended shift in the Senators zone that culminated with Dunn keeping a puck in after Brayden Schenn almost lost it with an errant play on a drop pass to Dunn. 

"Yeah, I almost turned it over there a little bit," Schenn said. "I got lucky and they weren't able to get the puck out. Tried 'em again, and obviously a good screen by Nolly [Jordan Nolan] and a great shot by Dunn."

Tarasenko tied it 1-1 for the Blues at 7:50 of the first period after Nick Paul's first goal of the season made it 1-0 at 4:34.

"He's shooting it quicker and he looks a lot more confident right now," Berube said of Tarasenko. "He's got the puck a lot, hanging on to it, he's being strong with it. He looks like a threat a lot of times he's out there now."

Defenseman Colton Parayko came to the rescue for the third time in the four games when he swiped a puck off the goal line that had sure goal written on it for native St. Louisan Brady Tkachuk.

 A puck had gotten behind Binnington, but Parayko was there to swipe it out as Tkachuk, playing in his hometown for the first time as an NHL player, was ready to tap it in.

The two exchanged pleasantries afterwards.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues forward Pat Maroon (7) tried to win a puck battle with Ottawa's Ryan
Dzingel during St. Louis' 3-2 win on Saturday at Enterprise Center.

"He just said he needed that one. I just kind of laughed," Parayko said. "I know where the play was, usually the puck's coming towards the net so I wanted to make sure I had my guy. As soon as you kind of see the puck there, I didn't see it at the beginning, but you kind of have a feel that he's going to throw it that way. So once it's kind of sitting there, it's just do everything you can to get it out of the crease and clear it out."

The Blues have won two in a row at home and climbed within one game of .500 here (12-13-2).

"We won the last one here too. It was a few games ago," Berube said. "That's two in a row at home. That's a winning streak.

"It's important to win your games at home. I've said it for a while, you have to have a good home record. It's important to be a real good team at home."

(1-19-19) Senators-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues got some unexpected news Saturday morning when it was disclosed that David Perron would miss Saturday's home game against the Ottawa Senators (6 p.m.; FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM) with an upper-body injury.

Perron came in with a 13-game point streak (six goals, 10 assists), which was the longest of his career, but that will come to an end with the unfortunate absence tonight, an injury interim coach Craig Berube called day-to-day.

"It's a tough loss," Berube said. "He's been playing well."

Perron was on the ice and played 22 minutes 28 seconds, a season-high, in a 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins on Thursday, and Berube said he didn't know when it happened.

In Perron's absence, the Blues juggled their forward lines around, and it will be Pat Maroon playing alongside Ryan O'Reilly, who has 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) the past 12 games, and Vladimir Tarasenko, who had been playing with Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz.

"Planned on doing that anyhow, even if Perron was playing," Berube said. "Getting Patty up there and just with [Zach] Sanford being out, we've used him up there. [Alexander] Steen, we've used him up there."

- - -

The Blues put Sanford (concussion) on injured-reserve, which opens a roster spot for them to activate Steen, who's missed the past six games with a left shoulder injury sustained Jan. 7 at Philadelphia.

Berube called Steen a game-time decision, and Steen didn't commit to whether he was playing; he did skate on a line with Schenn and Schwartz while working on the second power-play unit.

"Progressing. I don't know, every day's new," Steen said. "You try to get it to move forward every day. Obviously I just stepped off the ice, so we'll go in and chat again, go over some stuff, rehabbing and all that good stuff."

If Steen can't go, look for Robby Fabbri, who is projected as a healthy scratch, to get in the lineup.

- - -

Center Tyler Bozak (concussion) skated for the first time since Jan. 9 and gives himself a chance to play, perhaps one or both games of the two-game trip to California before the All-Star break.

Bozak has missed the past seven games after injuring himself at the end of the 4-3 loss to the New York Islanders on Jan. 5.

"I kind of got slew-footed off the draw, just a battle for the puck and fell backwards," Bozak said. "I couldn't really brace for the fall and just hit my head off the back of the ice, felt a little weird after that. I thought I was going to be alright and then flew to Philadelphia and just didn't feel good after that flight.

"... Obviously with concussions and stuff, you don't know how long it's going to be or you might feel good one day and then feel bad the next, but I've been taking strides in the right direction. It's really nice to get on the ice with the guys. It's the first time I've done that. I'm starting to feel really good, so I'm hoping to get into a game here before the break. Hopefully just keep progressing and obviously not something I'm going to rush back. Sometimes like that with kids and stuff makes you think extra about it and make sure I'm ready. Hopefully it's in the next couple games.

"I skated once like a week ago and didn't feel too good, so I took a couple days off and skated lightly yesterday and felt good, so ramped it up today. I feel good again today. The big test is kind of today and tomorrow the day after you skate pretty hard to see how you recover and see how you feel. Hoping for good things."

- - -

Jordan Binnington gets the nod in goal for the Blues tonight. He is 3-0-1 with a 0.99 goals-against average, a .960 save percentage and one shutout in his four NHL starts, allowing only four goals. 

With going back to the traditional 12 forwards and six defensemen, Joel Edmundson will be the healthy scratch tonight.

Edmundson has played the past seven games but was a healthy scratch on Jan. 5.

"We have seven healthy 'D' so I have to make a decision," Berube said. "I make a decision and it's not easy.

"I'd rather have seven healthy 'D' than six. There's things that happen and you need a lot of defense because if something happens here and there and you're losing 'D', that's tough because they're important players and it's nice to have seven good healthy NHL defensemen."

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Pat Maroon-Ryan O'Reilly-Vladimir Tarasenko

Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Alexander Steen

Sammy Blais-Oskar Sundqvist-Jordan Kyrou

Mackenzie MacEachern-Ivan Barbashev-Jordan Nolan

Carl Gunnarsson-Alex Pietrangelo 

Jay Bouwmeeser-Colton Parayko

Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo

Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Jake Allen will be the backup. 

Healthy Scratches include Joel Edmundson and Robby Fabbri. David Perron (upper body), Tyler Bozak (concussion), Robert Thomas (shoulder) and Zach Sanford (concussion) are all out.

- - -

The Senators' projected lineup:

Brady Tkachuk-Chris Tierney-Mark Stone

Ryan Dzingel-Matt Duchene-Bobby Ryan

Rudolfs Balcers-Jean-Gabriel Pageau-Mikkel Boedker

Magnus Paajarvi-Nick Paul-Zack Smith

Thomas Chabot-Dylan DeMelo

Ben Harpur-Cody Ceci

Christian Wolanin-Christian Jaros

Craig Anderson will start in goal; Anders Nilsson will be the backup. 

The healthy scratch is projected to be Maxime Lajoie. Justin Falk (upper body), Mike Condon (hip), Colin White (upper body) and Mark Borowiecki (lower body) are all out.

Friday, January 18, 2019


Blues back in playoff conversation; goalies to keep splitting 
games; injury updates; Berglund opens up to Swedish newspaper

ST. LOUIS -- When the Blues departed for their trip a week ago Friday, there was still a glaring separation between them and the teams they needed to catch in order to get back into the playoff conversation again.

After going 2-1-1 and picking up five points and seeing a majority of the pack slide back to them, the Blues are back in the playoff conversation again, putting themselves among a handful or so teams that feel they're there.

Entering Friday's games, the Blues (20-21-5) were four points behind Minnesota for the second wildcard in the Western Conference with a game in hand, five behind Dallas for the first wildcard with two games in hand and five points behind Colorado for third in the Central Division with a game in hand. 

Needless to say, games that seemed fruitless two weeks ago, perhaps sending the Blues into a seller's mode moving forward and still could do so with the NHL trade deadline Feb. 25, but all of the sudden, games are meaningful ... as long as the Blues keep themselves relevant.

"Obviously we have something to look forward to," defenseman Vince Dunn said. "We kind of see ourselves getting close to that playoff spot.

"The attitude is a lot better in this dressing room now I think with the wins. It helps with the confidence of everyone. I think now you can kind of see even when things aren't going too well, we can turn around and pick each other up."

Despite the clunker in Boston Thursday, a 5-2 loss in a game that was 2-2 after two periods, the Blues come home for a cameo appearance on Saturday to host Ottawa, which had to play Friday at Carolina, before another five-game trip that's broken up because of the All-Star break.

"It's obviously better when you close it," Blues interim coach Craig Berube said. "Players are all watching it to see where we're at. They all keep believing we can keep winning and get in, so there's a good feel around here, for sure."

The Blues were looking for a five-game point streak and had the chance with 20 minutes to go in Boston, but couldn't finish the job with some sloppy play that negated a good performance in goal from Jake Allen, who gave the Blues a chance with a solid game.

"Could have been better," Dunn said. "I think we obviously wanted to end it on a better note, but overall, I think we've been pretty good on the road and I think that last trip, those were some important points that we got.

"We can't really control what's going to happen with other games that are being played. We can only control what we can do. Winning games on the road, that's big for us, but coming back home, we need to have a better home record. We need to take advantage of our home ice, especially when we're playing teams in our own division and conference. Those are games that we need to win."

The Senators were tied with Chicago for the fewest points in the league, but with the Blues' poor showing on home ice, something that has to be much better down the stretch, there's no gimmes for them.

"We have three games before the break and we need points here going into there," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said.

"We've really showed up to play against some of these top teams," Dunn said. "When we kind of play the bottom level teams, we're not really ready for the start of the game. No matter who's coming in, we need to be ready, we need to treat everyone with respect and we need to be ready for whoever we're coming up against. It doesn't matter where they are in the standings. Every team is able to win if they're on their game. We need to be able to match that, if not do better."

* Allen, Binnington to keep splitting games -- At least for the time being, Allen and Jordan Binnington will continue to split games with the Blues pushing forward.

Allen has been a better goalie on the road than he has been on home ice, and went 1-1-0 on the trip, while Binnington was 1-0-1 on the trip, including his first loss, a 2-1 overtime setback against the New York Islanders on Tuesday.

Binnington is the projected starter for Saturday, and Berube said for the time being, both will get a fair amount of work.

"As of right now, it is; I would say so," Berube said. "I'm going to use both of them right now. I truly believe that's the way to go. I know there's a break coming up and then it gets really busy again. We'll need both of them ready.

"... I thought they both played well (on the road trip). We need both of them to play well and they gave us a chance to win every game, that's what we're looking for."

* Injury updates -- Alexander Steen (shoulder) was the only injured skater among the 10 that took part in practice on Friday.

Steen has not played since injuring his left shoulder Jan. 7 at Philadelphia and has missed the past six games. 

As for Robert Thomas (shoulder), who has missed the past four games but skated on his own Friday, Tyler Bozak (concussion), who's missed seven games and Zach Sanford (concussion), who was injured Tuesday against New York, all are progressing in the right direction but without a specific timetable.

"They're making progress, all of them," Berube said. "We'll find out a little more information on Bozak and Sanford today. Robby Thomas is making good progress, not ready to go. Steen skated today and we'll know on him, like a real good idea if he can play here soon or not."

Berube said not to count the others out on the horizon either but didn't know any specifics.

* Berglund speaks -- Former Blues first round pick and forward Patrik Berglund spoke for the first time since his contract was terminated by the Buffalo Sabres on Dec. 15 for failing to report to the team.

Berglund, who was picked in the 2006 NHL Draft by the Blues and spent 10 seasons in St. Louis before being traded to the Sabres on July 1 in a package that brought Ryan O'Reilly to St. Louis, spoke to the local newspaper VLT in his hometown of Vasteras, Sweden that his love for hockey was gone.

Here are some of the comments Berglund made, as translated by editor in chief Uffe Bodin, to VLT reporter Pasi Hiirikoski:

"When you feel as bad as I did, and feel what I feel today ... I really feel I've taken the right decision," Berglund told the newspaper. "Money is the last thing that means something to me right now.

"Why skate around and do something I don't like anymore, show a facade that everything is all good when I really feel like shit?"

Berglund was in the third year of a five-year contract originally signed with the Blues that paid him an average annual value of $3.85 million. He walked away from roughly $10 million but the toll of leaving St. Louis, which became his second home and top home in North America, was too much to digest and overcome.

"I want to say that I'm really sorry about leaving and letting Buffalo down as a team," Berglund said to the newspaper. "The players were wonderful and I wish the players and the organization nothing but the best in the future. They have not done anything wrong."

As for hockey this season, it is all over for Berglund, who has 326 points (170 goals, 156 assists) in 717 NHL games.

"This season is completely done," Berglund said. "There won't be any more hockey for me this season. Right now I need a lot of help and a chance to get away from hockey."

As for the future?

"I don't want to say that this is the end for me, I hope I can find the joy to play again," Berglund, who is 30, said. "Right now, I can't tell whether I will play again or not. I'm in the process of healing."

Friday, January 11, 2019


Thomas to miss time, joining Bozak, Steen 
on shelf; Steen will travel; Blues hit the road

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- As expected, Blues rookie forward Robert Thomas will miss some time.

Thomas was injured midway through the first period of a 4-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens with what interim coach Craig Berube called an upper-body injury, but Thomas injured his left shoulder crashing into the offensive zone boards.

Thomas, who scored a power-play goal 1 minute 56 seconds into the game, has 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 37 games this season and has really been coming into his own.

"He'll be out for a little bit, upper body. Won't be available on this trip," Berube said. "Yeah, it is (a tough blow). It's a tough blow for the team too because he's an important player on our team. He was coming around, he was getting more ice, power play time, scored a power-play goal. It's unfortunate that happened."

Thomas joins veteran forwards Alexander Steen (shoulder) and Tyler Bozak (concussion) on the shelf. 

Bozak, who has missed the past three games, will not accommodate the Blues on a four-game trip that begins Saturday in Dallas and goes through Washington (Monday), the New York Islanders (Tuesday) and Boston (Thursday), but Steen will travel and could play sooner than expected.

"A little closer, yeah," Berube said after a limited optional practice. "... Bozak will stay back. Steen will come on the trip, I believe."

The Blues only had one extra forward [Pat Maroon] available Thursday, and now with Thomas, Steen and Bozak all ailing, it's likely the Blues will call a forward up to have an extra body. In doing that, they can place Bozak on injured-reserve retroactive to last Saturday, or even put Thomas on IR now since he will not be available for at least the next four games.

"We'll talk about about that, maybe get somebody up here," Berube said.

What it's also going to do is give more responsibility to other younger players and players that perhaps had lesser roles, such as Oskar Sundqvist, who played 19:02 on Thursday, and Sammy Blais, Zach Sanford, Ivan Barbashev and Mackenzie MacEachern, recalled on Thursday from San Antonio.

"They're up here and they need to do the job," Berube said. "They get put in the lineup and you have a job to do. It's accountability that they're in the lineup and they're playing, they've got to do the job.

"They know what their role is. They know how we want them to play. They're young, aggressive players. We want to be an aggressive team. They can skate, get up the ice and that's important."

* On the road again -- The next nine weeks will see the Blues predominantly living out of their suitcases, and given how poor their home record is (11-12-2) and the decent run they've had on the road (7-7-2 overall but 5-2-0 the past seven), it might not be a bad idea.

Beginning Saturday at Dallas, the Blues play nine of the next 10 away from Enterprise Center and a whopping 22 of the next 30 games away from home, which accounts for 73 percent of their games through March 17.

But first thing's first: the next four games are on the road and in some tough buildings.

"Exactly, obviously it's a big road trip for us," Berube said. "We've played well on the road. We're going to continue to, I believe. We're playing good hockey. 

"The key here is you're on the road all the time, you've got to be smart. You've got to be simple and find ways to win games."

The Blues and Stars will play for the second time in five days. The Stars took a 3-1 decision in St. Louis on Tuesday. 

"We've got Dallas here tomorrow night in Dallas, it's going to be a tough game, so you've got to play really well. It's a feel thing," Berube said. "We need to get that next one and then move on from there and look to Washington. We kind of just focus on one game at a time. It's the best way, I believe, rather than looking ahead. Keep a short focus."

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Binnington, young guys star for Blues in 4-1 win over Canadiens

Goalie allows one goal in second NHL start following 
shutout, Blais, Sundqvist, Thomas get goals in home win

ST. LOUIS -- With each passing save made by Jordan Binnington and with each crowd roar, it's apparent that the Blues' goalie thrust onto the scene is taking the NHL by storm.

And the 88th overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft doesn't appear that he wants to go anywhere else. 

Two starts, two wins for Binnington, and the only goal he allowed in a 4-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens Thursday at Enterprise Center came off the skate of his teammate.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Jordan Binnington makes a breakaway save on Montreal's
Phillip Danault in the first period of a 4-1 St. Louis win Thursday.

Binnington made 28 saves to follow up on his shutout Monday in a 3-0 win at Philadelphia and with the help of some younger Blues (Robert Thomas, Oskar Sundqvist and Sammy Blais each scored), Binnington is 2-for-2 and poised to get the Blues (18-20-4) back to relevance, and standing toe-to-toe and beating Carey Price in the process.

"I'm happy with that one," Binnington said. "Yeah, it's pretty cool. At the same time, it's my first start at home. I'm pretty excited about that. It was an exciting game, entertaining. We're happy with that outcome."

Jake Allen has competition again, and the calm demeanor Binnington has brought may be just what the doctor ordered for an underachieving team that also got a boost from the NHL debut of Mackenzie MacEachern.

"He's done great," Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said of Binnington. "The first couple games, when he got thrown in it's a tough situation, but the starts, he's been lights out. That's awesome."

Binnington has played in four games, and the relief appearances coming in for Allen? Scrap them. They are obviously nothing compared to when a goalie knows he's going to be the guy, and Binnington has exhibited that quite well.

"It's always different when you start the game," Binnington said. "You can dictate from the start and it's your game. I've said that before. It's better when you get the start, I'd say."

Blues interim coach Craig Berube is playing it cool with the goaltending situation but knows he's got one that looks like wants in for the long haul.

"Yeah, listen, he’s played two games and he’s played well," Berube said. "And we’ve played well in front of him.

"(But) solid again. Unlucky on the one goal. It goes off our guy [Alex Pietrangelo], but you know, made big saves at big times. He looked really confident in net to me."

Confident. Something the Blues haven't displayed on a consistent basis. But Binnington is giving it to them with the timely saves.

"I think everyone feels like, 'OK, he stepped up made a big save. He kept us in this game,'" Sundqvist said. "And now we just keep going with this momentum that he gets for us with that save.

"I think the whole bench was standing up there after (one) save."

Take your pick, which one? 

Two of Binnington's biggest saves came off a 2-on-1 against Montreal defenseman Victor Mete with 16:17 remaining in the third period and another on Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin, who came into the Blues zone with speed and split the defenseman before coming in alone with 6:06 remaining.

"I got a piece of it and I felt it pop up," Binnington said of the save on Mete. "You kind of just hope for the best and hope the d-man was there to kind of block the goal line too. It was a fortunate play.

"I think I liked that Drouin save where he kind of came in past the d-man. I liked that one."

By then, the game was in hand, and thanks to two strikes in the first period, the Blues led 2-0.

Thomas scored a power-play goal 1:56 into the game to make it 1-0 after Ryan O'Reilly followed up with a couple rebounds of Vladimir Tarasenko's shot, and Thomas was on the doorstep to pop a second chance past Price.

Unfortunately for the Blues, they lost Thomas midway through the period to an upper-body injury when he slid hard with his left shoulder into the offensive zone boards.

Thomas stayed on the bench for a bit but went to the locker room and never returned.

"I'll find out more tomorrow when he gets evaluated by doctors and stuff like that," Berube said of Thomas. "... He's been really good for a while now. It's unfortunate … so we hope that it’s not too bad and he's OK."

Sundqvist's shorthanded goal was a thing of beauty, especially the pass O'Reilly, who has 10 points (three goals, seven assists) the past eight games), feathered to Sundqvist off a 2-on-1.

Sundqvist was able to go forehand, backhand and slide a shot past Price's left skate at 16:24 of the first to make it 2-0.

"I don't know how I got the puck, but Carl [Gunnarsson] kind of swung it and it just ended up in my skates," Sundqvist said. "I saw right away that we were going to have a 2-on-1. Obviously O'Reilly's a way better passer than me, so I was just trying to give it to him as quick as possible.

"I didn't think a lot. That was the first thing that came to my mind."

Bouwmeester got in on the act and scored on a 2-on-1 at 6:04 of the second to make it 3-0. 

The Blues were doing a good job of turning Montreal over and transitioning the puck from defense to offense well, and Bouwmeester took a Robby Fabbri pass to snap it over Price's right shoulder.

"An odd man rush is usually off turnovers," Bouwmeester said. "The product of ... and not giving them a big gap but sometimes that's just on the other team. Overall, I think we played pretty good, moved it good, didn't spend a ton of time in our end. That's what we wanted.

"I haven't had a breakaway in a while. I get the odd one in practice. It was good."

Binnington proved to be mortal. He was beaten when Brendan Gallagher's pass attempt on a Montreal power play caromed off Pietrangelo's skate and past him at 9:02 of the second to make it 3-1.

The crowd showed its appreciation by cheering his shutout streak end at 105:24 in the NHL and 151:00 including the AHL where he also had a shutout. He's allowed that lone goal in his past 136:24 in the NHL.

"He said he was sorry," Binnington said of Pietrangelo. "He didn't mean to do it. You can't really apologize."

While Binnington was doing his part to keep it 3-1, Blais was scoring his first goal this season and second NHL goal a 9:19 on a beautifully outletting puck from defense to offense. Pietrangelo transitioned it to Sundqvist, who gave Blais a puck in stride and he was able to split a pair of defensemen with speed and snipe one over Price.

"Yeah, that's how we want to play," Sundqvist said. "And when we do it, we're a tough team to beat and we're creating a lot of scoring chances. So that's the mindset we're gonna have to have every game.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues forward Robert Thomas (18) scores on a rebound past Canadiens
goalie Carey Price in a 4-1 St. Louis win.

"... Just coming with a lot of speed. And even in the forecheck and stuff like that, we're making them turn the puck over. As you said, we had a lot of odd-man rushes and we should score a couple more goals."

So now as the Blues embark on a road trip that will have them away from home for the next four, nine of 10 and 22 of the next 30, which way will Berube go Saturday in Dallas? Binnington doesn't care.

"I'm not really thinking about it," Binnington said. "Jake's playing great too. If it's him or it's me, I'm happy to be here. Hopefully the team keeps winning."

(1-10-19) Canadiens-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Mackenzie MacEachern will make his NHL debut today when the Blues (17-20-4) host the Montreal Canadiens (23-16-5) at Enterprise Center (7 p.m.; FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).

MacEachern, who will play with Sammy Blais and Ivan Barbashev on the fourth line tonight, is a 2012 third round pick (67th overall) out of Michigan State; he was recalled from San Antonio of the American Hockey League Thursday morning where he had 15 points (nine goals, six assists) in 31 games, but since returning from an upper-body injury, he had eight points (five goals, three assists) the past seven games, including two multi-goal games, after missing six with the injury.

"I'm excited," MacEachern said. "You dream about it as a kid, to play in the NHL. I got my first chance here. It's going to be easier playing with Sammy and Barby. I played with them my first two years pro, so it's going to be good to have some familiar faces with me.

"... It's nerve-racking coming in and playing your first game, but being familiar with faces, it's going to be a lot easier. I think we all played together at some point in our professional career, so I think we know each other's games and that's going to help going forward."

MacEachern, who played for Blues interim coach Craig Berube with the Chicago Wolves, adds an element Berube said can help the Blues, who have lost four of their past six games.

"He's been doing well," Berube said. "Good skater, big kid, scored two goals last night in San Antonio, so he's doing really well. He's got good speed, so it's good to get some speed up here and some size.

"... Just a guy that's been playing really well. He'll be good on the fourth line, a guy we can use out there to get on the forecheck and be physical, get to the net, get pucks to the net. We like his size and his speed."

MacEachern will get to play with one of his best friends in Blais, and the two of them will get that chance to skate in an NHL game together for the first time.

"He's one of my best buddies in San Antonio, so it's nice to see him play his first game tonight," Blais said. "... He works really hard, he's good on the forecheck. He's a big boy, so he likes to play physical. He's had some success lately in the 'A'. It's good to see him get a chance tonight."

With Blais and Zach Sanford in the lineup, that's three forwards that were in San Antonio at the start of 2019.

"Obviously that's awesome for him," Sanford said of MacEachern. "He's a pretty solid player all around, he's good in his own zone, he's strong on the puck, he's got a pretty quick release there. A few games I got to play with him down there this year, he's been pretty dominant. A coupel goals here, a couple goals there. You're going to expect to see him hard on the puck, making those little plays and getting to the net hard. He plays a game like that."

It's already been a rather long day for MacEachern, 24, who caught a flight out of San Antonio at 5:40 a.m. and arrived in St. Louis at 7:40.

"I got here, landed at 7:40, think got here at 8, got a quick stretch, get the bus legs out of me, go from there," MacEachern said. "... Long day but I'm running on adrenaline at this point so I'm taking it all in.

"After the game yesterday. We finished the game and I got called in the office and flew in this morning. ... That's a good night. There wasn't much sleep. I was pretty excited, obviously. Trying to make the most of it."

With MacEachern in the lineup, veteran Pat Maroon will be a healthy scratch for the second time in four games.

- - -

Jordan Binnington will make his first home start tonight, getting the nod in goal.

Binnington is coming off a 25-save shutout Monday in a 3-0 win against the Philadelphia Flyers, his first NHL start; he became the 35th goalie in NHL history to win via shutout in his first start and second Blue behind Rich Parent, who blanked San Jose on Jan. 25, 1999.

"It'll be good to play in front of the fans," Binnington said. "Hopefully it's a good atmosphere tonight and hopefully get the fans a win and the team plays together nicely.

"It's just one game, right? You've got to take the same approach and continue to work hard and try to worry about your own job and give your team a chance to win."

Jake Allen, who started the past two home games, allowed seven goals on 32 shots total but those seven goals came on 19 shots and Berube wants to reward Binnington, a 2011 third round pick, with another start.

"He had a great game in Philadelphia and we're going back with him tonight, see what he can do," Berube said. "... I think he deserves another look. We went back with Jake last game, I'm just going to go with 'Binner' tonight."

Binnington will get the chance to go against Carey Price, arguably one of the best goalies in the league.

"That's pretty cool, but at the same time, it's just another game and trying to move in the right direction," Binnington said. "No one really cares about (Monday) anymore, right? It's just another game and like I said, hopefully we get a win here tonight."

Binnington has certainly injected some life into a lineup in need of it.

"He was calm back there," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said of Binnington. "Moved the puck well, was simple in his saves. It was fun to watch. It was fun to see a guy come in with that kind of confidence and play that way. I think we did a good job, too, if eliminating those second opportunities, which we have done. It's good to see a young guy succeed like that."

- - -

Regular fourth-liner Oskar Sundqvist will move up to the third line with Robby Fabbri and Robert Thomas.

"We like what we're seeing and also it adds size and some grit and speed to that line with Fabbri and Thomas," Berube said of Sundqvist. "Hopefully it will be a good fit."

And the Blues' power-play, which is 4-for-45 going back to Nov. 30 against Colorado, will get a look at some younger guys on it including Sanford, Fabbri and Thomas.

"I think a lot of ties back to what I said before," Sanford said. "We've all kind of waited for our chance. Tonight's a chance to show what I can do on the power play a little bit. I just have to stick to my game the same way, be harder around the net and be right out front, be making plays. Hopefully we'll be able to be clicking tonight."

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko

Zach Sanford-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Robby Fabbri-Robert Thomas-Oskar Sundqvist

Mackenzie MacEachern-Ivan Barbashev-Sammy Blais

Carl Gunnarsson-Alex Pietrangelo

Jay Bouwmeester-Colton Parayko

Joel Edmundson-Robert Bortuzzo

Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Jake Allen will be the backup. 

The healthy scratch will be Pat Maroon. Tyler Bozak (upper body), Alexander Steen (shoulder) and Vince Dunn (lower body) are out.

- - -

The Canadiens' projected lineup: 

Jonathan Drouin-Max Domi-Joel Armia

Tomas Tatar-Phillip Danault-Brendan Gallagher

Artturi Lehkonen-Jesperi Kotkaniemi-Paul Byron

Kenny Agostino-Michael Chaput-Nicolas Deslauriers

Victor Mete-Shea Weber

Karl Alzner-Jeff Petry

Brett Kulak-Jordie Benn

Carey Price will start in goal; Antti Niemi will be the backup. 

Healthy scratches include Mike Reilly, Charles Hudon and Matthew Peca. Andrew Shaw (neck) and David Schlemko (upper body) are out.