Thursday, February 28, 2019


Steen to return; Perron not ready; Schenn questionable; Blues set for another 
back-to-back, OK with Canes victory skits, just not Friday; plan for Del Zotto

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- It was another day of skating for three Blues forwards -- and one defenseman -- who haven't been in the lineup.

David Perron and Brayden Schenn, each out with upper-body injuries related to concussions, took part in an optional skate prior to the team boarding a flight for a road game at Carolina on Friday. Also on the ice among the 10 skaters, including goalies Jake Allen and Jordan Binnington, were Alexander Steen, who missed Tuesday's 2-0 win over Nashville because of sickness, and Carl Gunnarsson, who is nursing an upper-body injury.

None of the injured spoke on Thursday, but all appear to be continuing towards a trek towards returning to the lineup.

Steen actually will return to the lineup with the corresponding move of Sammy Blais getting reassigned back to San Antonio of the American Hockey League earlier in the day. Blais was recalled on an emergency basis with Steen being out sick, so he was sent back down.

"Yeah, he's good to go," Blues interim coach Craig Berube said of Steen.

Perron did not make the trip to Carolina, so he will miss his 18th straight game, but Berube was not sure after the skate whether Schenn would make it. The Blues have back-to-back games Friday and Saturday at home against the Dallas Stars.

"Like I said yesterday, they feel good on the ice," Berube said. "They looked good to me, but it's how they feel. They want to feel the right way and I don't blame them. It's important. When they feel like they're ready, they'll let us know."

Berube said he feels like the flu bug that hit the Blues here the last week or so has subsided.

"I believe it has, yeah," he said. 

* Playing a formidable opponent -- The Blues (34-23-6, 74 points), who are 13-1-1 their past 15 games going back to Jan. 23, are chasing both Nashville (79 points) and Winnipeg (78 points) in the Central Division while trying to maintain its hold on third place over Minnesota and Colorado (six points behind) and Dallas (seven points back). 

They'll run into a hot team in the Hurricanes, who hold the same identical record as the Blues and have won 12 of 16 (12-4-0).

"They're a good team," Berube said of the Hurricanes. "Watching them play, they've got good skill, they play a fast game, they skate. [Sebastian] Aho's a good player. Good leadership with Justin Williams there as the captain of that team. They're playing all around pretty well, pretty good hockey and they're getting some good goaltending at the same time."

As for the goalie plan, this weekend, the best guess is Allen plays against the Hurricanes and Binnington will go against the Stars.

"We'll see," Berube said when asked if Allen starts on Friday. "I've still got to think about that one."

Healthy bodies seem to be rounding into form, and for the first time since Feb. 3-4, the Blues had two days off in between games.

"Yeah, everybody else is good," Berube said. "We wanted to just have an optional today. Rest is important. We'll have a morning skate tomorrow. We've got back-to-back games this weekend. I think with everything that's gone on around here and the schedule, I think it's important to get a day in and rest.

"... We're so used to going every other day and back-to-back. We're going to hit back-to-back starting again here tomorrow. It seem different for sure."

* No need to see victory celebration -- The Hurricanes have been the subject (a lot of good, some bad) of their postgame victory celebrations on home ice, in which they pick a different skit to perform at center ice.

It drew the ire of longtime NHL commentator on CBC Don Cherry, who called the players "a bunch of jerks," which Carolina has thrived off of with t-shirts and introductions upon entering the ice pregame.

A lot of the old-school hockey people think it's disrespectful to the game, but it has connected the fans in the Carolina region to the hockey team.

Berube was asked about it Thursday.

"It's good," he said. "Whatever they've got to do, right? That's their choice of what they want to do. I don't really weigh into it too much."

Blues rookie Robert Thomas said he notices the fans get into it.

"I've only seen a couple of those celebrations," Thomas said. "I haven't seen enough to give my thoughts on it, but it looks like their fans are loving it, so good for them.

"I've seen the bowling one, the baseball one. I want to know who's coming up with those things. They're doing a pretty good job. It's a good way for them to connect with their fan base."

What he doesn't want happening is seeing and hearing about one at the Blues' expense.

"We don't plan on letting them have it," Thomas said. "Hopefully we come out on top so we don't have to see that on Instagram later."

* Plan for Del Zotto -- New Blues defenseman Michael Del Zotto, acquired in a trade deadline move Monday for a 2019 sixth-round pick, skated for a second straight day Thursday.

Del Zotto was acquired as depth, according to general manager Doug Armstrong, with the uncertainty of Gunnarsson's return, but Berube said there is a time when Del Zotto will make his Blues debut.

"We want to get him in," Berube said. "I think it's important to get him in and get him acclimated and keep guys going. We don't want guys sitting out too long. I think it's important that everybody plays at some point."

Wednesday, February 27, 2019


Perron, Schenn, Steen all skate, could be available for 
Friday; getting under Subban's skin; Blais' unique travel day; 

HAZELWOOD, Mo -- If you were in attendance at the Ice Zone inside the St. Louis Outlet Mall on Wednesday, you may have seen an abundance of players on the ice.

Including those that weren't on the ice for a convincing 2-0 win against Nashville on home ice.

David Perron, Brayden Schenn and Alexander Steen were all on the ice for practice Wednesday making for a crowded ice sheet, but a happy one after the Blues closed out February just like they started it -- by winning.

Perron and Schenn have missed with upper-body injuries believed to be concussion-related, and Steen missed Tuesday's win over Nashville with illness.

Perron, who has missed the past 17 games and Schenn, who has missed four games, could conceivably return as early as Friday against Carolina.

"Yeah, there is a chance," Blues interim coach Craig Berube said. "We'll have to wait and see tomorrow.

"They're still day to day. They both looked good out there today. I thought they both practiced well. They look fine to me, but it's about how they feel."

The lines remained unchanged from Tuesday's win, but the fifth line consisted of Perron-Schenn-Steen, which could match up against many teams' No. 1 units.

The good indications came from the fact that all three were pushing the pace during drills without any restrictions.

That's the decision the players ultimately make with assistance from coaches and medical staffers.

"We talk to them about it, training staff and coaches, but ultimately it's up to them," Berube said. "When they feel ready to play, they're ready to play.

"I think they both (Perron and Schenn) are pushing, but again, you've got to be careful, they want to be careful. I don't blame them."

* Pesky MacEachern -- Count rookie Mackenzie MacEachern among those that have drawn the attention of Nashville's P.K. Subban.

During much of the game on Tuesday, the Blues were doing whatever they could to get under the skin of the Predators defenseman, including MacEachern, Oskar Sundqvist, Ivan Barbashev and even Robert Thomas.

There was a scrum during the second period in which Subban took exception to MacEachern skating into the crease that ensued with tempers flaring up.

"He's obviously one of their better defensemen," MacEachern said. "We want to get him off his game as much as we can because the more off his game, the less effective he is. I think if we continue to do that, it will bode well for us going forward."

Based off Tuesday, consider it mission accomplished.

The Blues were able to get in a real practice with everyone on board for the first time in what seemed like an eternity.

"I thought it was good," Berube said. "We haven't had one for a while. It was a good opportunity to get one in, a good 25 minutes out there. Guys had good energy."

* Blais unique travel itinerary -- The travel day for Sammy Blais isn't what a normal person would consider, well, normal.

It's not often one hops on a plane, flies West for two hours, only to get off a plane, turn around and come right back.

But that's precisely what Blais did when he was assigned to San Antonio of the American Hockey League on Monday, flew into Denver on Tuesday to meet the team for a game against the Colorado Eagles but was called back to St. Louis under emergency conditions when Steen fell ill.

"My plane was at 7:30 in the morning and when I got to Denver after my flight, I opened my phone and I was told to come back here for the game because I was in the lineup because Steener was sick," Blais said. "I came back here at 2:30, got a light 15-minute nap and came to the rink and played a decent game."

A little more than a decent game.

Blais finished with 11 minutes 30 seconds of ice time with two hits, including a crunching delivery to Nashville's Frederick Gaudreau, and a nifty pass to MacEachern that created a high danger chance.

"The first game when I came back against, it was against Boston, I didn't play in like a week and I had to get back to the speed level of the NHL, but I think in Minnesota and last game, I think I played really good," Blais said.

"Yeah, he performed really well," Berube said. "I thought he had a great game. He was physical, skated, hard on the puck. He did a good job. It's not easy flying and traveling around, but he's done a good job. He's been a good pro."

Blais has a path carved out between San Antonio and St. Louis. Not just St. Louis and San Antonio, but Chicago to St. Louis and back, too. From the moment Blais signed his three-year, entry level contract Nov. 13, 2015, he has been recalled and assigned back to the AHL 12 times, including five recalls this season alone.

"You just always have to be ready and I think yesterday was the first time it happened to me that I had to do that," Blais said. "I was just prepared. I came to the rink and I wanted to play good. I think it worked out pretty well.

"... I just tried to (stay in the moment). But it's always fun to come back here even if I have to make a lot of travel. It's the NHL, so I have nothing to say."

That's the positive outlook Berube hopes Blais maintains.

"It's tough for sure," Berube said. "I'm sure he's a little frustrated with it, but Sammy's got a good attitude. The other side of it, he understands the situation and what's going on. Look, he's made drastic improvements. You've got to look at it that he's in the NHL. You go down to the minors, you play some games and you're back up again, you're in the NHL. You can look at it a couple different ways. The way I look at it is Sammy Blais is improving and he's in the NHL."

So Blais continues to live out of a suitcase, out of his buddy Vince Dunn's residence and in the long run, hopefully have a permanent residence in St. Louis.

"We were on a 21-day road trip with San Antonio, so I had a lot of stuff," Blais said. "I just did some laundry at Dunner's and that's it. (Otherwise), you just pack a couple suits and a couple boxers. That's about it. You're at the rink almost every day,  so you don't need much more than suits and boxers. 

"I stay with [Dunn] at his place. I like it because he's one of my best buddies and we've been roommates before so it's nice to get back with him.

"Last week, I've made a lot of travel. I was in California, then came down here and I was in Denver and came back here. It's part of the business and I'm just happy to come back here any time."

* Division up for grabs, Blues coming in fast -- Their 19-5-2 run has not only vaulted the Blues into third place in the Central Division, but it's also thrust them into sight of not only second place but first as well.

For the first time since October, the Blues sit just four points behind Winnipeg for second (Each team has played 63 games) and five behind the Predators for first place with three games in hand.

If you think the players aren't aware, think again.

"We're right there," defenseman Colton Parayko said. "If you look, we have three games in hand I believe on Nashville. If we win those, we'll jump in front of them. Winnipeg, we're right there, four behind. I was kind of looking at it yesterday and we're right there. It's just the way things have been going. If we continue to press, if we continue to play the way we're doing, we're not going to win every game obviously, but I think if we continue to put our best game forward, we're going to be in a good spot come season's end. Hopefully that's have home ice advantage throughout the playoffs."

Blues dominate Predators 2-0, inch close to first in Central

Without Perron, Schenn, Steen, Gunnarsson, Blues outplay 
division rivals in all facets; Binnington nets fifth shutout in 18th NHL start

ST. LOUIS -- That was impressive.

Mighty impressive.

What the Blues did to their rivals to the Southeast, the Nashville Predators, minus three of their top forwards (Brayden Schenn, David Perron and Alexander Steen), outshooting them 44-19 and suffocating a Nashville team that thrives off the off of transition and speed, the Blues were as dominant as they've been all season in a 2-0 win on Tuesday at Enterprise Center, their seventh straight win on home ice, which is the longest stretch since Dec. 28, 2001-Jan. 19, 2002.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues players (from left to right) Ryan O'Reilly, Tyler Bozak, Vladimir
Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz and Alex Pietrangelo celebrate Bozak's goal in
the third period as Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm watches.

Never mind that Jordan 'Winnington' continues his, what general manager Doug Armstrong called on Tuesday morning, Cinderella Story with a 19-save shutout, his fifth in the NHL in his 18th start, this Blues win, their 12th of the month to tie a franchise record for most wins in a month (tying April, 2013 at 12-3-0), this was a combined effort that everyone deserved to be a part of, and contributed to.

"We were good tonight right off the bat, hot start," Binnington said. "A couple chances didn't go our way, we didn't get it home, but we stayed with it the whole game and finally in the end there, 'Bozie' put one home, so yeah, it was a good finish for us."

Call it gratitude, call it appreciation, but when Armstrong decided that he wasn't going to tinker with this lineup, one filled with first-year players that will find out soon enough what playoff hockey is all about and what competing for a Stanley Cup really feels like, the players seemed to have taken it to heart, and took it out on another top-tiered team like the Predators, who the Blues went 4-1-0 against, including three wins against them the past 18 days.

"You guys know where we was. At start of January was in last place," said Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko, who assisted on Tyler Bozak's goal in the third period to break a 0-0 tie. "We find a way altogether to get out of it. It think it shows confidence in us. Really excited what we're building here and really excited to keep the same squad the rest of the year and we try to reach our goals."

Binnington, who has five shutouts and is 15-2-1 this season, is the fourth goalie in NHL history to win in each of his first seven regular-season home starts. He joins Frank McCool of the Toronto Maple Leafs (8-0-0, 1944-45), Ken Dryden of the Montreal Canadiens (8-0-0, 1970-71) and Wayne Thomas of the Canadiens from (7-0-0, 1972-73).

Binnington's five shutouts are the most by a Blues rookie goalie and he became the second goalie in the NHL's modern era (since 1943-44) to get five shutouts through his first 18 NHL starts.

And this one may have been the easiest of them all.

"It's definitely nice. You want it down there (on the other end) and your team playing hard and playing for each other," Binnington said. The bench is excited. You could feel it coming. I have a good seat for that."

Binnington, who is giving mad props to The Cheshire Inn, where he's staying, once again was his joking self with a straight face when asked if it will be another good night at the lodging spot.

"Yeah, the The Fox & Hounds (Tavern) too," Binnington said of the libation spot inside the hotel.

For a little postgame meal?

"Yeah, need a little pop-in," Binnington said.

Binnington has looked so calm, cool and collected in this run, but don't ask him about the tension of the games.

"Do I look nervous," Binnington asked.

When told no ... "There's your answer. ... Just enjoy it. You don't have to ask these questions."

And there's that.

Alex Pietrangelo had a goal and an assist, and Bozak scored for St. Louis (34-23-5), which is 13-1-1 in its past 15 games and , if you can believe this, four points behind the Winnipeg Jets for second and five behind Nashville for first in the division.

When the calender turned to 2019, who saw this coming?

Well, the Blues obviously did.

"Guys competed hard," Blues interim coach Craig Berube said. "You play Nashville, you've got to compete. They're a competitive hockey team. Right from the drop of the puck, we looked dialed in right away, which is a good thing."

Mixed into this run was the franchise-record 11-game winning streak.

"There was enough confidence here with the winning streak," Tarasenko said. "It's more about we try to chase (teams) in the standings."

The only reason this game was hanging in the balance late was Nashville goalie Juuse Saros, who made 42 saves for the Predators (37-24-5) in the unsuccessful debut of Wayne Simmonds, who made his Predators debut after he was acquired in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers for forward Ryan Hartman and a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft on Monday. He had two shots in 15:46 of ice time.

Mikael Granlund, who was acquired by the Predators in a trade with the Minnesota Wild for forward Kevin Fiala on Monday, did not play because of the birth of his child.

Bozak gave the Blues a 1-0 lead at 12:35 of the third period, scoring five-hole on Saros from the right circle six seconds after a penalty to Ryan Johansen had expired.

"We worked hard getting pucks back that whole power play," Bozak said. "Obviously 'Vladi' made a great play to me through the seam, I just tried to shoot it quick. I knew we had bodies at the net. I knew there was a chance I could score. I was hoping it goes in or there's a rebound for someone else. Luckily it found a hole."

The play was the continuation of what was solid zone time from a power-play that had Ryan Johansen in the box for unsportsmanlike conduct. 

Tarasenko was able to make a key play by keeping a P.K. Subban clearing attempt in the zone before he made a seam pass to Bozak, who beat Saros between the legs.

"It's an accident," Tarasenko said of the keep-in. "I try to hit the puck. It's good when you have luck in this game, so it was kind of luck too. It was a big goal for us.

"Petro do a great job, putting guys in the lane, then just move it to me. Bozie keep good position, I get two guys on me, so Bozie was wide open and he shot."

The Blues weren't threatened much more but Binnington had to make a couple saves in the game himself. The Blues outshot the Predators 20-5 in the third.

"That was fun," Bozak said. "Obviously, playing those guys, always a tough game, they're a great team. We knew they were on a back-to-back so we wanted to get on them and get pucks deep and kind of wear them down. Their top four D play a lot of minutes. We wanted to get on those guys. I thought we did a really good job of getting pucks to the net, getting a lot of opportunities and limiting their chances.

"It shows the depth we have. I've said that from the start, the most important thing is your depth. There's going to be injuries throughout a season no matter what, no matter what team you're on. There's always going to be guys that need to step in and fill roles and everyone's been doing a really good job of that."

What gave the Blues ample time to do things was their sustained zone time and ability to seemingly have the puck on a string and keep it away from the Nashville skaters.

Case in point, the fourth line of Mackenzie MacEachern, Ivan Barbashev, who arguably played his best game in the NHL, and Sammy Blais, who was assigned to San Antonio, flew into Denver and got back on a plane to St. Louis and was recalled on emergency conditions when Steen came down sick, were setting the tone throughout.

"Obviously I just want to wish fast recovery to the guys. We miss them there, but young guys came in and it was impressive," Tarasenko said. "They're not scared of Nashville. They have really good players, world class players. Our young guys just go out there and play them in the o-zone, try to get a body every time and get a lot of emotions and help our team win a lot."

"They were effective," Berube said. "They were physical. They really get on the other team's defense, banging. They did a good job. I thought they had an outstanding game.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues forward Sammy Blais (9) lays a hard check on Nashville's Frederick
Gaudreau on Tuesday in a 2-0 St. Louis win at Enterprise Center.

"He was excellent. To fly, and then fly back, it's a little concerning with your legs and how you feel. I thought he was great tonight. Very happy with his game."

Pietrangelo scored into an empty net on the power play at 19:56 to make it 2-0 after Subban was in the box for interfence on Oskar Sundqvist, who would have been able to skate a puck into an empty-net had he not been pulled down.

"I don't think you can take anything more from this game than other games," Berube said. "We've been competing hard and playing hard. We're playing our game, night in and night out I think pretty good. We want to continue to do that. We got a lot of games and it's tight. You gotta stay competitive and focused on the task at hand. We got Carolina (next), They're a good team right now. They're winning a lot of games. It's gonna be a tough game."

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

(2-26-19) Predators-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- While many were making moves Monday to bolster their rosters for the stretch run of the 2018-19 season, the Blues made just a small move, a depth move, but relatively stood pat.

And that's OK with general manager Doug Armstrong. It's OK with interim coach Craig Berube, and it's certainly OK with the players, who have developed a strong chemistry in the Blues' 11-1-1 run since Jan. 23.

Armstrong spoke Tuesday before the Blues (33-23-6) faced a critical game against the Nashville Predators (37-23-5) on the acquisition of defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who the Blues picked up for a 2019 sixth-round pick, and why they chose to stand pat.

It's simple: they didn't want to mess with the chemistry and Armstrong didn't feel a move/moves would significantly increase the Blues' chances of becoming favorites.

"Going into the deadline, we were content with our group the way it was," Armstrong said. "If we could make trades where we thought we could add players we thought could be here for multiple years, we were looking at doing that. That really didn't come up in our discussions. We did get the news that [CarlGunnarsson was going to be out another few weeks at a minimum made us want to add some depth on the back end. We were able to do that. We poked on a couple guys that would have been unrestricted free agents with [Brayden] Schenn and [David] Perron's situation, but we're comfortable they're going to be back sooner than later and we felt that it wasn't an area where we really had to go.

"I think the guys have done a really good job really since the new year or before that playing well, they've earned the right to stay together. We didn't want to disrupt the chemistry. They've earned the right to stay together. But also what we didn't want to do was stagnate the growth of a [Mackenzie] MacEachern or a [Sammy] Blais or [Jordan] Kyrou. If they're needed, they can come up here and play for us. By adding another layer or two up front eliminates the option for those guys. We felt last summer we were starting a new window, what it's called in the NHL, and we want to make sure we're giving these guys the proper opportunity to play both on the back end and up front."

The comfort level the Blues feel that Perron and Schenn, out with what are listed as upper-body injuries dealing with what's believed to be concussions, will return makes this a more solidified feeling, and ones the players are perfectly fine with.

"He sees what we have here and he sees it's finally starting to come together," forward Pat Maroon said of Armstrong. "I think what he did in the off-season basically sums up making deals at the trade deadline. Now it's just coming together, guys are starting to play good and the team's really jelling at the right time. You can see the chemistry's building, the friendships we're building and how close this team's really getting. It's fun to see, everyone's supporting each other and everyone's building each other up. Obviously when things were bad, everyone was sticking together. That's how a team is built through the hard times. What we went through the first three months of the year, we went through some hard times. To see where we're at now says it a lot."

Added center Ryan O'Reilly: "Over the summer, I think those were the big changes with the personnel we added. Look how long it took us to find that rhythm that we're starting to find now. We've got some injuries right now and waiting for guys to get healthy, but we've found the staples of our game and we've come together. It's something we're just going to continue to build with and it's something that there's the confidence in us like that.

"... [Armstrong] knows what he's doing. He knows better than anyone, and he did a lot of his work in the summer. He brought us together and it took us awhile to find that. Bringing in a lot of new faces can be tough. It depends who you bring in and that sort of thing, but we added a little bit of depth. I like where we're at. We've came together, we've found a way that guys are working together, working for each other. We've played some good hockey."

Berube agreed.

"Obviously I think everybody's happy, players included," Berube said. "We like our team, they like each other and they feel like we're a good hockey team, and they should feel that way. They've played really good hockey here for a while now. I know there's some injuries going on right now, but every team deals with that. They're still competing, playing hard and working for each other. That's important. I think that everybody's good with what went on yesterday at the deadline."

A good number of players went for draft picks on Monday, and that's a price Armstrong wasn't willing to pay.

"We don't have a first round pick this year. Those players, I don't want to speak who you're talking about, I didn't think that was a big enough difference that was going to make us favorites against these teams that we're playing," Armstrong said. "We have belief in some of these younger players, and the only way you get to see these younger players do it is to give them opportunity. Sammy Blais is going to get recalled today on emergency conditions. Alexander Steen's under the weather, so it's going to be another opportunity for him to play. We want to give these young guys a look. That was really the reasoning. I think maybe if we have a solid season next year, we'll be maybe where some of these teams are now, a little bit closer to using our assets because maybe that one player will push us over the top. 

"I go back to when we acquired [Jay] Bouwmeester, when we acquired [Ryan] Miller, we acquired different guys we thought were the missing piece to put us over the top. We obviously haven't won a Stanley Cup. That was the logic at that time. We're just not in that position right now."

It's been reported in this space a number of times that Armstrong likely wasn't in the market for rental players and only interested in making "hockey" trades, meaning perhaps on a grander scale of player for player multiple players.

At this time of year, those are difficult to make.

"You look, there weren't many made yesterday, so it's not something ... I think if you're a non-playoff team, you're not focused on hockey trades," Armstrong said. "You're focused on maximizing your rentals assets. In the manager's position, what you do is a lot of deals were set up to talk about at the draft yesterday over the last week on what players you have, what are you going to be looking to do in the future. That's usually the first step and now we go to the general manager's meeting next week. Those will continue to grow and that's what really sets up what happens at the draft."

- - -

Del Zotto, 28, arrived from Vancouver on Tuesday morning. He's anxious and eager to get started, getting a refreshed feeling of joining a team in the playoff chase. But there was also the sense of realizing something would happen with an expiring contract.

"I had an idea," said Del Zotto, who is in the final year of a contract that pays a $2.25 million average annual value. "Being in the business now 10 years and knowing my contract was up and knowing what was going on in Anaheim, probably not making the playoffs there, I had an idea. You never know. I kept checking my phone, it was like 11:20 before I went on the ice for the morning skate. Everything was fine, got off the ice and I got the call pretty much right on the deadline and found out and was very excited. Obviously this team is playing great hockey right now. I know a bunch of guys from home in Toronto, [Alex] Pietrangelo I grew up with, so some familiar faces here. Grateful for the opportunity and excited to get started.

"Whatever the coaching staff wants from me. Being in the business, understanding what it takes to win, it's been a while since I played playoff hockey so I'm excited to be in meaningful games at this time of year,so whatever position I'm put in I'm going to do the best of my ability to help the team win."

Del Zotto was a teammate of Pietrangelo in midgets and played for Berube with the Philadelphia Flyers when Del Zotto had 10 goals and 22 assists during the 2014-15 season.

"He's a good pro," Berube said. "He's been around a while obviously. He did a good job of really getting up in the rush. I think he scored 10 goals that year for us on the back end. Pretty good puck mover and competitor. Skates well."

Armstrong mentioned above that the uncertainty of Gunnarsson, who is out with an upper-body injury and will not be available for a couple weeks, there was a need for a depth defenseman.

"It was because of the Gunnarsson situation and we gave up a sixth-round pick, there's a value in every pick but we didn't have to go into the second or third round to get a guy," Armstrong said. "He's got experience. Craig knows him, Craig's worked with him before. Pietrangelo and he played a lot as youth together. I think they're good friends, so it was an easy fit for a guy that just wants to come in and be part of a group of seven."

With his arrival today, Del Zotto will not play against the Predators.

- - -

The grind of the Blues' schedule will come to an end tonight -- sort of.

After playing Nashville, the Blues will finally have multiple off-days for the first time since the beginning of February.

Tonight's game will mark their 13th game in 22 days since Feb. 5, and Berube feels like they've handled it well.

"I think pretty good," he said. "We got three out of four point there on the weekend, which I thought was good character points to be honest with you with everything that was going on with the schedule, the flu bug going around and stuff like that. I think our guys are battling, they're competing hard and we need the same thing tonight. We're playing a very competitive team in Nashville. They're a hard team to play against, so we're really going to have to play competitive tonight and be ready."

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Jaden Schwartz-Ryan O'Reilly-Vladimir Tarasenko

Robby Fabbri-Tyler Bozak-Pat Maroon

Zach Sanford-Oskar Sundqvist-Robert Thomas 

Mackenzie MacEachern-Ivan Barbashev-Sammy Blais

Joel Edmundson-Alex Pietrangelo

Jay Bouwmeester-Colton Parayko

Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo

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

The healthy scratch will be Michael Del Zotto. Brayden Schenn (upper body), David Perron (upper body), Carl Gunnarsson (upper body) and Alexander Steen (illness) are all out.

- - -

The Predators' projected lineup:

Filip Forsberg-Ryan Johansen-Viktor Arvidsson

Calle Jarnkrok-Kyle Turris-Wayne Simmonds 

Brian Boyle-Nick Bonino-Colton Sissons 

Cody McLeod-Frederick Gaudreau-Rocco Grimaldi 

Roman Josi-Ryan Ellis

Mattias Ekholm-P.K. Subban

Matt Irwin-Yannick Weber

Juuse Saros will start in goal; Pekka Rinne will be the backup. 

Healthy scratches will be Mikael Granlund and Matt Donovan. Craig Smith (lower body), Dan Hamhuis (lower body) and Zac Rinaldo (shoulder) are all out. Austin Watson is suspended.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Blues acquire depth on defense at deadline

Team deals 2019 sixth-round pick to Ducks for veteran Del Zotto

ST. LOUIS -- Trade deadline day nearly came and went without a whimper for the Blues until they were able to add veteran depth to their blue line as the 2 p.m. hit.

The Blues acquired left-handed defenseman Michael Del Zotto from the Anaheim Ducks for a 2019 sixth-round pick. 
Michael Del Zotto

The 28-year-old is playing out the final year of a two-year contract signed in 2017 that carries a $2.25 million cap hit after the Vancouver Canucks traded Del Zotto to the Ducks on Jan. 16 for, coincidentally, Brayden Schenn's brother Luke Schenn. 

Del Zotto, who is in his 10th NHL season after being drafted by the New York Rangers with the 20th pick in the 2008 NHL Draft, has also played for the Philadelphia Flyers (and was Brayden Schenn's teammate) and Nashville Predators.

He comes in as a depth defenseman from the left side. The Blues must have concerns about Carl Gunnarsson, who is shelved again currently with an upper-body injury, believed to be a wrist injury, the same wrist that hampered him earlier in the season, and has dealt with three injuries already this season.

Del Zotto has seven points (one goal, six assists) in 35 games with the Canucks and Ducks this season. In 601 career games, Del Zotto has 218 points (54 goals, 164 assists). 

Del Zotto will become teammates with childhood friend Alex Pietrangelo, who along with Toronto's John Tavares and Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos all played midget hockey together for the Toronto Blues.

The Blues, who are 11-1-1 in February and in third place in the Central Division, five points ahead of the Dallas Stars and five behind the Nashville Predators for second in the Central Division, could have been poking around at the forwards available for trade on Monday with the uncertainties of forwards David Perron and Brayden Schenn, both out with upper-body injuries believed to be concussion-related in some form, but nothing materialized on that front.

Among the names on the trade market that were dealt on Monday included the big fish, Mark Stone, who Ottawa sent to Vegas. Also, Kevin Hayes (Winnipeg), Wayne Simmonds (Nashville), Mikael Granlund (Nashville), Marcus Johansson (Boston), Derick Brassard (Colorado) and defenseman Adam McQuaid (Columbus).

The Blues also assigned defenseman Chris Butler and forwards Sammy Blais and Jordan Kyrou to San Antonio of the American Hockey League to one, make them eligible for the AHL playoffs, but it could be in hopes that both Perron and/or Schenn are not long on a return.

Schenn, who was put on injured reserve and isn't eligible to play Tuesday against Nashville but would be eligible to play Friday at Carolina. Perron has missed the past 16 games.

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong will address the developments of Monday and beyond at 10 a.m. on Tuesday. 

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Blues get back to winning ways with 2-1 shootout win over Bruins

Blais scores first shootout goal in NHL, Binnington wins for 14th 
time in 17 NHL stars to help Blues to 12th win in past 13 games

ST. LOUIS -- The winning streak ended for the Blues on Thursday, so it was time to get back on the horse and see how this team would respond for the first time in a month to how they'd react following a loss.

Not the best opponent to try and doing that against with the Boston Bruins, winners of seven in a row themselves, and playing as well as the Blues have of late. It was Boston's fifth of a five-game trip.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues center Tyler Bozak (right) scores in a shootout against Bruins goalie
Tuukka Rask in St. Louis' 2-1 win on Saturday afternoon.

The Blues had their moments where they looked good, and then there were moments when the Bruins had them pinned in and hemmed in their zone. But in the end, it was an unsung hero to help secure the two points.

Sammy Blais scored in the sixth round of the shootout in a 2-1 Blues victory on Saturday afternoon at Enterprise Center, their sixth win in a row at home.

The Blues (33-23-5), were riding high with a franchise record 11-game winning streak before it came crashing down in a 5-2 loss at Dallas on Thursday. Now they had to get back on the saddle, and although it wasn't perfect at times, it was good enough to get the job done and half the Bruins' seven-game winning streak.

"It was a tough game, end to end," said Blues goalie Jordan Binnington, who improved to 14-2-1 by winning his first NHL shootout. "Both goalies got some work in. Teams were battling and trying to create chances. Ice was a little slow. but we competed right to the end and got that extra point.

"It's nice to get back in the win column, yeah, and just continue to do what we've been doing, take it one game at a time and keep focusing."

The Blues, who traveled to play at Minnesota Sunday, had to go with a bit of a makeshift lineup Saturday with an array of guys dealing with sickness. Robert Bortuzzo was a late scratch and after initially being left out of pregame line rushes, Zach Sanford was able to go, making Robby Fabbri a scratch. Chris Butler took Bortuzzo's spot.

"We had to wait until warmup and pick it and choose who was going to go and who was feeling good enough to go," Blues interim coach Craig Berube said. "That guys that played that are not feeling good, the credit goes to them. That's tough. That's not an easy thing to do but they battled through it. It's a lot of character there by those guys."

That character included Blais, who was told to be prepared to play but wasn't aware until he got to the rink on Saturday.

"There was going to be some chance I was going to get in the lineup, so I prepared myself," Blais said. "When I got to the rink, I was in the lineup. That's when I found out I was going to be in."

And he made the most of it. Blais was the Blues' sixth shooter and was patient enough to out-wait Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask before roofing a wrist shot high into the net. 

Blais was not expecting to be called upon but was ready.

"Not really," he said. "I thought they were going to choose someone else, but it worked out, so I'm pretty happy about that.

"I've always used that move before and this time it worked. I was pretty happy."

Blais said he hasn't scored a shootout in competitive action since he played for the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League and that Berube saw his last shootout goal, and maybe that was why he was chosen. Blais wanted the media contingency to ask Berube if he remembered it.

"Uhh ... no. I'm old now though," Berube said with a laugh. "So that's a long time ago. I mean, he's got good hands. He can score. That's what he is."

Binnington, who made 31 saves and improved to 6-0-0 at Enterprise Center, was able to withstand Boston's final shooter, Danton Heinen, who fired wide.

"It was fun," Binnington said. 'Obviously they're a good team. We're battling every game. It was a big game for us, so we're happy for that extra point."

Binnington's success at home?

"It's got to be the Cheshire Hotel," Binnington said of The Cheshire.

Steen's first goal since Nov. 30 (27 games) gave the Blues a 1-0 lead at 7:15 of the first period. It came after Oskar Sundqvist intercepted Peter Cehlarik's neutral zone pass and turned it back for a 3-on-2. Steen's wrister from the left circle beat Rask high short side.

"Not really," Steen said when asked if the goalless drought weighed on him. "We've been playing well. The group's been buzzing. Just trying to keep the mojo here."

Wagner tied it 1-1 for the Bruins at 5:12 of the second period, but Binnington was able to withstand the Bruins' attack, including making a terrific game-saving stop on former Blue David Backes midway through the second period.

"Was that the glove save? I don't know, you tell me," Binnington said when asked if that was his best save in the NHL. "... I don't think I played it properly so I kind of had to battle it there and make a desperation save. Thankfully, I got a piece."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Jordan Binnington (50) stops Bruins forward Brad Marchand
during the shootout Saturday of St. Louis' 2-1 win at Enterprise Center.

The Blues had multiple scoring chances in OT, including one by Vladimir Tarasenko alone in front of Rask but was denied.

Tyler Bozak, who is 2-for-2 in shootouts this season, got the Blues going by scoring in the first round, but newly acquired center Charlie Coyle, who the Blues know from his days with the Minnesota Wild before the Wild traded him to Boston on Wednesday, kept the shootout going by scoring in the third round.

But the Blues prevailed in the end and will look for a win at Minnesota for the second time in a week.

"It was a big game for us," Steen said. "I thought not just the loss but the game before it, we had two uncharacteristic periods so that was pretty much five straight ones. We needed a rebound from that, not the result as much."

Thursday, February 21, 2019


Blues in search of perfect 12-pack; Dunn sorry Kadri injured, not for hit; Bozak 
bites ex mates; Husso makes appearance on ice; Fabbri's role limited again

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The journey continues for the Blues into Dallas tonight looking to make it a 12-pack of victories and keep establishing a franchise record for most consecutive wins.

The Blues (32-22-5) set their record on Tuesday with a dramatic 3-2 overtime win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, another in a line of top-tiered teams the Blues had to take down to keep this streak alive.

But they want to continue to play good, smart hockey and distance themselves even more from the Stars (29-25-5), who hold the first wild card from the Western Conference and are six back of the Blues for third in the Central Division. The Blues trail Nashville by six for second in the division and seven behind Winnipeg for the division lead.

"We're not really looking at the scoreboard or scoreboard watching or looking ahead of us too much," center Tyler Bozak said. "We're just kind of worrying about ourselves right now. That's been working for us. We're just trying to go out there and giving our best every night. We compete and things have been going well, so hopefully things stay the same."

The Blues' shutout streak ended last night at 233 minutes 50 seconds, which is second in Blues history, but they will roll in with a whopping 493:42 consecutive streak for tied or leading in a game, which is remarkable. They haven't trailed since the third period of their Feb. 5 game at the Florida Panthers.

"We're winning games and put ourselves in a good spot," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "That's what's exciting for me. The guys battled back from where they were and we're in a good spot right now. But obviously you've got to keep going because there's a lot of hockey left. There's a lot of teams that are fighting for the same goal.

"Over this stretch, we have faced adversity at times. Guys have persevered and battled through it. I think the adversity they went through early on in the season, where we were, they got themselves out of that hole, so they're used to it."

Berube said both forward David Perron (upper body) and Carl Gunnarsson (upper body) will not be made available tonight. Gunnarsson skated Wednesday but Perron didn't. He's missed the past, and the Blues have skyrocketed to a 12-1-0 record.

* Dunn sorry Kadri hurt -- The it shook the groundwaves, but for Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri, it would mark the end of the night for him, and it came courtesy of a hard, clean check by Blues defenseman Vince Dunn, who was rightfully not penalized on the play in the first period.

"It's part of the game, I guess," Dunn said of Kadri, who played just 4:14 and seven shifts. "I'm not trying to target anyone out there. It's unfortunate that he got hurt. I don't wish that upon anyone, but it's just a part of the game.

"It's an emotional game. We knew we really wanted that win, for the franchise record, but we really need points right now. It was a hard-fought game right to the end and it was a good two points for us."

Dunn actually was involved in another collision in the second period, and this one knocked the stick of Toronto's Connor Brown out of his hands and into a lucky fan's hands.

"Someone actually just text me about that this morning," Dunn said with a grin. "I didn't even know he lost his stick. Yeah, kind of lucky for me. It was one less player out there without his stick.

"Being a defenseman, you need to be physical. You need to create room for yourself with and without the puck. If I can be more aggressive in those situations, I think I'll be more effective on the ice."

* Bozak bites buddies -- Bozak, who spent his entire nine-year career with the Maple Leafs before signing as an unrestricted free agent with the Blues last summer, had two assists to bite the hand that once fed him.

He set up Jaden Schwartz and Colton Parayko for goals in the first period for a 2-0 Blues lead before Toronto stormed back in the third to tie it on goals by Zack Hyman and Auston Matthews 31 seconds apart.

"Obviously a lot of friends over there, so it is still weird kind of playing them," Bozak said. "Definitely one you want to win, but to win both this year, it feels pretty good. Obviously there was a little more on the line for us as a team. Obviously a big win for us, and they're a very good hockey team. For us to get that record against a team like that gives us a lot of confidence and makes us feel pretty good. 

"I went to dinner with a handful of them. Always nice to catch up. I played seven, eight years with a lot of those guys there. Good friends that I grew up with and have a lot of memories with and still keep in touch with. They're a team I cheer for when they're not playing us and hope they do well. I'm happy they're having a good season and they have a lot of great players over there. But it's always good to beat them."

Bozak's line with Schwartz and Alexander Steen was as good a game as it's had since Berube grouped it together, and the challenge was to defend the Matthews line with Patrick Marleau and Kasperi Kapanen.

"I really liked their game last night. I thought they had a good game," Berube said. "They were all working and competing for each other out there and scored a big goal, and they were going against a very good line, so they did a good job.

"... Teams have individuals, they're all looking for accomplishments themselves, right? That's normal, and you should be, but at the same time, everybody's got to be on the same page in the locker room and when you go on the ice and you play, and that is winning a hockey game. That comes first."

Nonetheless, Bozak said it's been a pleasure playing with Steen and Schwartz, who has goals in three of the past five games after going goalless in 22 straight.

"Playing with a guy like that is a ton of fun, him and Steener," Bozak said. "Both work extremely hard. Steener obviously has a ton of experience and plays so well on both ends of the ice, great on the forecheck and then obviously Schwartzy with all the skill he has, just trying to get the puck to him as much as you can. I know he hasn't scored as much as everyone expected this year, but now that he's got a few, the goals are just going to keep coming for him."

* Husso makes surprise appearance -- When the Blues took the ice for a scheduled optional Wednesday before boarding a flight for Texas, they had two goalies on the ice.

One would obviously be Jake Allen, but the second wasn't a local product called in to lend a helping hand, it was Ville Husso, the Blues' fourth round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.

Husso, who's spent the season with San Antonio of the American Hockey League, came to St. Louis while the Rampage were on a road trip through the Midwest to see Blues doctors and head athletic trainer Ray Barile for an ankle injury that has limited Husso to 20 games in the AHL this season.

"It's been a long two months with the injury and I feel like I am almost back now," Husso said, who's in St. Louis for "just a couple days, I came Sunday here. The Rampage are on the road, so I came to see Ray just to get some little things going. ... Now I'm close. Two weeks ago there was a little accident again, so it was a little setback, but everything's pretty good."

It's been a frustrating two months for Husso, who 3.33 goals-against average and .895 save percentage in the AHL this season. Fellow farmhand Jordan Binnington has passed Husso on the depth chart and is tearing it up for the Blues with a 13-1-1 record.

"Sometimes you're happy and sometimes you're like, 'I just want to play.' You just need to focus every day and working hard," Husso said. "Kind of like enjoy how the team is going, how the team is doing and just be a part of the team. I try to be happy every day, so that is the biggest thing.

"I feel like I'm getting back soon, so every day is a good opportunity."

If all goes well, Husso will meet up with the Rampage this weekend for games against Ontario and San Diego.

* Fabbri's role limited again -- It' been a tough time for Blues forward and 2014 first-round pick Robby Fabbri.

Fabbri was relegated to the press box for 10 games before playing in Arizona and Minnesota with Steen out for the birth of his child.

"It's tough obviously with Fabs," Berube said. "Going back with the injuries, he's missed a lot of hockey. It's not easy for him, but his attitude's been really good. We're all there for him. He'll get back in.

"I thought he was OK. I'm sure he has hesitation in his game from being out for so long. It's hard and right now, the game is fast and everybody's battling and fighting for playoff position or to get into the playoffs. There could be some hesitation there, for sure, but I thought he did OK."

Fabbri, coming off two serious knee operations that required attention, has played in 25 games this season.