Monday, March 25, 2019

(3-25-19) Golden Knights-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- It'll be another test for the Blues Monday, much like the one they got Saturday.

The Blues (40-27-8) will close out a four-game homestand looking for a clean sweep when they host the red-hot Vegas Golden Knights (42-27-6) at 7 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).

The Blues, 4-0-1 the past five games, can move into second place in the Central Division with a win and a regulation loss by the Nashville Predators in Minnesota tonight.

After a 4-3 win against the NHL's top team, the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, the Blues, 2-0-0 against Vegas this season and 3-0-2 in two seasons since the Golden Knights joined the NHL, are anxious for another strong test.

"They're going to come at you a lot like Tampa," Blues interim coach Craig Berube said. "They're a good rush team, they have a lot of skills, they make plays and they put a lot of pressure on you that way. They don't give you much. If you look at shots against in the league, they're one of the top teams. They defend well. (Coach) Gerard Gallant has done a good job with that group, putting in a defensive structure but also allowing them to play and have the freedom to make plays and they score goals."

Vegas is 10-1-1 since the trade deadline when they made the biggest splash in acquiring right wing Mark Stone from Ottawa for a package that included top prospect, defenseman Erik Brannstrom.

"It's tight now," Blues center Ryan O'Reilly said. "We're playing some good hockey, playing some good games and we've got to keep this thing going.

"... We're looking at the teams ahead of us and trying to catch them. It's doable. Obviously we have to win a lot of games coming down the stretch here. We can do it. We're a confident group in here right now. We're finding ways to win these tight games. It's one game at a time."

- - -

The Blues have been getting injured guys back, and will welcome defenseman Carl Gunnarsson to the lineup tonight after missing the past 24 games with a wrist injury.

"It's been pretty quick for the last couple days," Gunnarsson said. "Quick movement, just happy to be back.

"It's been the same (injury) the whole time and a tough one to deal with, but it is what is."

Gunnarsson, who hasn't played since Feb. 5 at Florida and has dealt in the past year with a hip injury, torn ACL and now lingering wrist injuries, has played in just 18 games this season and had to feel if he would ever play this season.

"Yeah, constantly," he said. "It wasn't easy thinking about that, but you always get your hope, right? So every day, coming back, hoping for the best and here we are.

"(patience was tested) a whole lot. It's not over yet. We'll see what it holds for me. It's been a struggle, for sure, I'm just happy to be back. I felt like I played well when I was in. Hopefully can keep that going too and help the boys out."

Gunnarsson will play, at least at the outset, on a pair with Robert Bortuzzo.

"He'll be back, today. We're excited," Berube said. "He's played well this year when he's played. Unfortunately, with injuries, he's missed a lot of time. But we're happy to having back.

"We'll start him there and see how it goes. 'Dunner's done a good job with 'Petro'. We'll leave that for now, but [Gunnarsson's] got a lot of composure on the ice. He does a good job of being in good position defensively and has a good stick and he makes smart puck plays."

- - -

It's been more than a year since he was traded away, but tonight will mark the return of Paul Stastny to St. Louis.

Stastny, who was traded to the Winnipeg Jets on Feb. 26, 2018 for a 2018 first-round pick and prospect Erik Foley, went on and had a run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Jets to the Western Conference Final, where they coincidentally lost in five games to the team Stastny signed a three-year, $19.5 million contract with this past summer, the Golden Knights.

Stastny was injured earlier this season when the Blues played Vegas twice in November, and tonight will mark his first game back. He did not return with the Jets down the stretch last season.

"It's always exciting to come back," Stastny said. "Just to see all the guys, I'm still close with a lot of these guys and then I get to see family and friends, so that's always good. To come back to St. Louis, whether I was playing here or I was living in Colorado when I was in college, this was always home to me and is always going to be a place of comfort."

Stastny, who had 175 points (56 goals, 119 assists) in 193 regular-season games in just under four seasons with the Blues, is close with many players on the current Blues roster still, including closest friend Alexander Steen and paid a visit on Sunday.

"Yeah, I stopped by to say hi to him, say hi to his wife, to see the baby," Stastny said. "You forget how small they are until you see them in person. It was all good, I saw a few of the guys and then went to the parents' house for dinner."

The fit in Vegas has been a good one for Stastny, who has 37 points (10 goals, 27 assists) in 45 games this season, and especially now with the acquisition of Stone, who became a linemate with Stastny and Max Pacioretty.

"It's been good," Stastny said. "I had an injury earlier in the season, so that was kind of hard, I think. It's been nice, I'm good buddies with Pacioretty, so we came into the situation together with new guys. They made it easy welcoming us in. Away from the ice, it's been easy. I tell a lot of people living in Vegas is kind of like living in the Midwest. The Strip is kind of like its own little city, but where we live, it's kind of a tight-knit community and everyone takes care of each other. Off the ice, that was one of my biggest fears for my wife and kids and her biggest fear is on the ice for me. That's how we complement each other well.

"[Stone] complements our team well. More than anything, I think it just adds more depths and depth to our forward lines. We had some injuries this year, still do, everyone does, but I think we were kind of just missing that one player and once we got him, I think it all kind of balanced out with our forward depth. Since then, we've been playing pretty well."

Whether St. Louis will be home for Stastny, who grew up here while his Hockey Hall of Fame father Peter Stastny finished his career in St. Louis, in the future is still up in the air. 

"I don't know, this is where I was raised. To me, it's always home and then that's a million dollar question with the wife and I where we're going to settle down," Stastny said. "That's always out of your control, but yeah, there's always a special place here and having my daughter born here, starting a family here means a lot and that's never going to go away."

- - -

Forward Sammy Blais (lower-body injury) took part in the morning skate again and is progressing, but defenseman Joel Edmundson did not skate with the team for a fourth straight day.

"He's still having a tough time but he's feeling better," Berube said of Edmundson, who hasn't played since March 12 and missed six games. "When he's ready to play, we want him to play."

As for hope he can return before the end of the regular season?

"I hope so," Berube said. "I can't sit here and say that's going to happen for sure, but it sure would be nice."

Blais, who has also missed the past games, isn't on the radar yet either but is progressing.

"A little bit, but he's coming along," Berube said. "He's out there skating and working. That's a good sign."

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Brayden Schenn-Ryan O'Reilly-Vladimir Tarasenko

Jaden Schwartz-Oskar Sundqvist-David Perron

Pat Maroon-Tyler Bozak-Robert Thomas

Zach Sanford-Ivan Barbashev-Alexander Steen

Vince Dunn-Alex Pietrangelo

Jay Bouwmeester-Colton Parayko

Carl Gunnarsson-Robert Bortuzzo

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

Healthy scratches include Robby Fabbri, Mackenzie MacEachern and Michael Del Zotto. Joel Edmundson (lower body) and Sammy Blais are still out.

- - -

The Golden Knights' projected lineup:

Jonathan Marchessault-William Karlsson-Reilly Smith

Alex Tuch-Paul Stastny-Mark Stone

Tomas Nosek-Cody Eakin-Ryan Carpenter

William Carrier-Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-Ryan Reaves

Nate Schmidt-Deryk Engelland

Brayden McNabb-Shea Theodore

Jon Merrill-Colin Miller

Malcolm Subban will start in goal; Maxime Lagace will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Nick Holden and Valentin Zykov. Max Pacioretty (lower body), Marc-Andre Fleury, (lower body), Erik Haula (lower body) and Brandon Pirri (lower body) are out.

No comments:

Post a Comment