Monday, September 30, 2019


Blais earns spot in top six; Berube's message to Kostin; 
power play gets new looks; Kyrou to stay in St. Louis for now

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. -- Sammy Blais kept the momentum he picked up during the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season and rode it into training camp.

It's earned him a top-six role, at least to begin the 2019-20 season.

Blais was paired with Ryan O'Reilly and David Perron at practice Monday as the Blues prepare to defend their Stanley Cup championship when they open the regular season Wednesday against the Washington Capitals, who won the 2018 Stanley Cup.

Blais and Zach Sanford have taken turns playing on the left wing with O'Reilly and Perron, but it was Blais who emerged with a solid training camp and will get the job to begin the season.

"I just got to do my job, work hard, not think too much, play my game and I'll be fine," Blais said. "... Just create chances with my forecheck. I have a pretty good IQ and I can make plays out there.

"I think it's confidence with the puck. I think I made plays, I was physical getting the puck back on the forecheck. That's what they told me, that I had a pretty good camp. Just keep going, skate hard and try to make plays. I play with two good players. They make the game easier. Just try to get better every day."

Blais burst onto the scene in the playoffs in Game 6 of the second round against the Dallas Stars; he scored a goal in a 4-1 win and has kept that momentum since.

"I thought he had a great summer for sure," Blues coach Craig Berube said of Blais. "Coming into camp and the way he's played. He obviously put the work in this summer, which is great. He's the type of player that I think over the last three years I've seen improve every year. He keeps improving every year, which is a good thing.

"It's kind of how it happened. He's played there with those guys before with them in the playoffs in the Dallas series. I thought he played pretty well there. They've got some chemistry, which is good."

O'Reilly, who won the Selke Award last season and was the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the playoff MVP, said Blais brings a plethora of qualities that can make the line better.

"I think he brings tons of good things," O'Reilly said. "Getting to play with him, having a little chemistry there, I think he's a big body that's very physical and is going to make a lot of good hockey plays. He possesses the puck well, he's got a great shot. I think, especially on the forecheck, he makes us dangerous because he goes in there and he finishes and he creates a lot of off that. He gives a nice spark for us. It gives us the physicality to our line.

"He continues to get better and (he's) more confident. He impacts the game. He's got a great set of hands. The more confident he gets in that, the better plays that he makes. It's really good to see, I think it'll be an effective line."

Blais, a 2014 sixth-round pick, has been able to balance hos role since entering the NHL but knows the Blues would love to see him provide more offense.

"I'm an offensive player, I've always been an offensive player," Blais said. "They told me they wanted more offense from me and I think during training camp I tried to play more with the puck and just keep the puck on my stick more and I did that. I think it went pretty well."

* Kostin back to San Antonio -- Berube said he had a good conversation with 2017 first-round pick Klim Kostin before the Russian power forward was assigned to San Antonio of the American Hockey League on Sunday.

Kostin, who led the Blues with six points (three goals, three assists) during the preseason, had his most impressive camp yet and arguably outplayed some of the forwards, but with the glutton of players and virtually no roster spots available, the Blues continue to progress at a reasonable pace for the 20-year-old.

"Go down, continue to play well," Berube said of his message to Kostin. "He had a good camp, but there's still things that he has to do, work on and improve at. He's a young kid; he's only 20 years old. We were really happy with his camp, but at the same time, we've got pretty much the same team back here, not a lot of room. He has some things that he still has to work on. ... There's little things we talked to him about."

Fabbri, Sanford, Blais, Mackenzie MacEachern are some of the forwards Kostin would have had to wrestle a roster spot away from, but in his case, the best bet for him in the NHL would be a top nine position, not on the fourth line.

"We've got good depth there," Berube said. "They're going to play. I thought 'Fabs' had a good camp. 'Sanny', maybe not quite as good a camp as those guys. It's just the way it worked out. 'Fabs' looked good, he's skating well. Hopefully he continues to get better and better and feel more comfortable as it goes along."

* New power play looks -- The Blues rolled out some interesting power play units at practice on Monday, and with the addition of defenseman Justin Faulk, gives both groups a good balance.

On one unit, it was all right-handed dominated with Alex Pietrangelo, Faulk, Tyler Bozak, David Perron and the only lefty in O'Reilly, and on another unit, it was left-handed dominated with Vladimir Tarasenko and Vince Dunn on the points with Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn and one righty in Robert Thomas.

"The one with Petro, Faulk, Perron, those righties can all really shoot it and one-time pucks," Berube said. "With O'Reilly on the goal line, he's got a lot of options looking at Bozak in the slot, right hand, Petro, Faulk up top. It's a shooting power play for sure, guys that can shoot the puck and the other one is a little bit more of a downhill power play the way we look at it with the lefties. It's the way we put them together right now and we'll see how they work out.

"Definitely good balance. We talk all the time, we need two units, it's important. Our success is because of our team and I feel like we can use a lot of guys in that situation."

New assistant coach Marc Savard has come on and along with assistant Steve Ott, have implemented a few subtle changes in which pucks are coming off sticks quicker, but Schenn said there's been no informational overload.

"You want to keep it simple early on and build from there," Schenn said. "I think if you overload with too many plays and too much movement and everything else like that, it just gets complicated, so we'll keep it simple for now and see how it goes.

"We have lots of weapons capable of putting some good units together, but Day 1, you don't look too far into it. You keep on practicing and see how it works. Those will be something like the units going into Game 1 and you try and find chemistry with your group as soon as possible because we all know how important special teams are."

O'Reilly said, "I think we've got two good units that if we work hard, it tends to give us tons of looks. That's what it's supposed to be, that's what we have to do. With the depth that we have as a team, we need the mindset to go out there and leave it out there and the next unit is going to come out and get it done. I think it's a good thing to have."

If you noticed, there was no mention of Colton Parayko and his booming shot from the point, but with the addition of Faulk and with Parayko being used seldomly last season, he'll likely be even used there less this season unless needed.

"I like 'Bouw' [Jay Bouwmeester] and Parayko coming back after power plays," Berube said. "They're going to get a good line obviously, usually the top line on the other team. They've been such a great shutdown pair for us. Everybody's got a job to do. That's kind of the way we look at things. That's part of the sacrifice of putting the team first and that's our message here. These guys are all dialed into that."

* Kyrou to stay for the time being -- Forward Jordan Kyrou, who was designated as an injured non-roster player on Sunday, will continue to work with the Blues and rehab his knee after off-season surgery.

Kyrou was injured late in the season with the Rampage and has progressed a little slower than maybe he anticipated. 

Berube said he still doesn't know when the 2016 second-round pick will be ready to play games.

"I can't answer that question to be honest with you," Berube said. "He still has to go through some evaluation an things like that. I know he's getting one done today, so we'll probably know a bit more tomorrow."

* Blues lose a preseason game -- With Sunday's cancellation of their preseason finale at Columbus, the Blues finished with seven games as opposed to eight and finished 4-3-0.

Their plane was scheduled to take off at noon for Columbus but experienced mechanical issues. With a 4 p.m. (CT) game start, the team announced it would not be able to play the game, and thus it was cancelled.

Despite losing one final chance to see guys play, Berube said the evaluations of those in need were enough.

"They played a lot of games, a lot of these guys that we were looking at," Berube said. "We got a good evaluation."

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Blues send 12 to San Antonio, reduce roster to 23

Kostin among those sent to Rampage; Kyrou placed on 
injured non-roster while rehabbing surgically repaired knee

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues whittled down their roster to the 23 limit ahead of Tuesday's 4 p.m. (CT) deadline by assigning 12 players, including Klim Kostin, to San Antonio of the American Hockey League and designating Jordan Kyrou (knee) to the injured non-roster.
Klim Kostin

The Blues assigned defensemen Andreas Borgman, Niko Mikkola and Mitch Reinke, forwards Tanner Kaspick, Kostin, Jordan Nolan, Ryan Olsen, Austin Poganski, Alexey Toropchenko and Nathan Walker and goalies Ville Husso and Adam Wilcox to the Rampage and non-rostered Kyrou while he still rehabs from off-season kneecap surgery.

The Blues can still cut one forward by Tuesday's roster submission deadline, which is something general manager Doug Armstrong said is a possibility in order to save some salary cap space, but should they go into the season with the 23 on the current roster, it will consist of 14 forwards (Ivan Barbashev, Sammy Blais, Tyler Bozak, Robby Fabbri, Mackenzie MacEachern, Ryan O'Reilly, David Perron, Zach Sanford, Brayden Schenn, Jaden Schwartz, Alexander Steen, Oskar Sundqvist, Vladimir Tarasenko and Robert Thomas), seven defensemen (Robert Bortuzzo, Jay Bouwmeester, Vince Dunn, Justin Faulk, Carl Gunnarsson, Colton Parayko and Alex Pietrangelo) as well as two goalies (Jake Allen and Jordan Binnington).

Blues coach Craig Berube was impressed with the play of Kostin, who led the team with six points (three goals, three assists) in five games but none in his final two games, and he liked the play of Borgman, acquired in a summer trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs for Jordan Schmaltz; he also liked the play of Mikkola, Olsen and Poganski.

Blues fans are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Kostin, one of the Blues' two first-round picks in 2017 (Thomas), but it will have at at least wait for the time being despite Kostin continuing to knock on the door.

"Here's the easiest way to put it for a fan's perspective: in 2011, we drafted Jordan Binnington. In 2019, Jordan Binnington is in the NHL and the starting goalie for the Stanley Cup winner," Blues director of player development Tim Taylor said in June at prospect camp. "I know a goalie takes a little bit longer, but at the same time, we don't want to put Klim Kostin in the NHL, send him down, bring him up, send him down. He's taking steps. He's almost at the highest part of the mountain. He's getting there. He's getting closer. When he comes up, he's going to be a Blue for a long time.

"... You talk to our San Antonio coaching staff, they thought that his growth and development took a huge step, especially at the end of last year, the second half of last year. His points weren't maybe what we would have expected, but at the end of the day, it wasn't about points. It was about playing North American hockey, playing the right way, playing under a team concept and then his skill level will take over.

"The biggest step isn't coming from the AHL to the NHL. The biggest step is going from junior hockey to the AHL. It's a big step."

The Blues, who won their first Stanley Cup in June after defeating the Boston Bruins in seven games, will begin defense of their championship on Wednesday when they host the 2018 Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals in a matchup of the past two Cup winners.

* Preseason finale canceled -- The Blues were supposed to conclude the preseason with a game Sunday in Columbus against the Blue Jackets, but the game was canceled after the Blues experienced mechanical issues with their chartered plane prior to takeoff.

 With Sunday's cancellation, the Blues finished 4-3-0 in the preseason.

"Due to an unforeseen mechanical issue with our chartered aircraft, we (were) unable to travel to Columbus for tonight's game," Armstrong said in a statement. "We apologize to the Blue Jackets and their fans for this inconvenience."

Friday, September 27, 2019

Top line for Blues getting it going in 4-3 preseason win over Capitals

Schwartz, Schenn, Tarasenko account for eight points in first game 
together since Game 7 of Stanley Cup Final; Faulk makes Blues debut

ST. LOUIS -- Say what you will about preseason, but when you get down to the end of it, players, especially veterans are ready to just lay it to rest.

In most cases that's the consensus, but on Friday, the Blues' top line wanted to serve up an appetizer to what they hope is a monster season.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Jaden Schwartz (middle) receives congratulations from teammate Ivan
Barbashev after scoring Friday in a 4-3 preseason win over Washington.

Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn kicked it into mid-season gear Friday, and for the Blues to have success this season defending their Stanley Cup, they will need their big guns to be performing at peak levels, and that trip did on Friday, combining for eight points (three goals, five assists) in a 4-3 win against the Washington Capitals at Enterprise Center.

A game in which the Blues (4-3-0) didn't play so hot in the first and third periods but played up to their capabilities in the second, it was the top line that carried the load in a game that saw the debut of defenseman Justin Faulk, who was paired with Alex Pietrangelo.

The body of work for Schwartz (one goal, three assists), Tarasenko and Schenn (one goal, one assist each) doesn't come as a surprise despite the limited amount of work they've had throughout training camp. This has been a mainstay line since the Blues acquired Schenn in 2017.

"We continue to get better here," Schenn said. "I think it was a step in the right direction for our line. We haven't really played together at all kind of throughout camp or games or anything like that. Vladi's been sick and guys going in at different times so it's good to get together as a line tonight, score some goals and contribute some offense."

Schenn and Tarasenko scored goals 23 seconds apart during a three-goal second to help erase a 2-0 deficit, and that's what they are capable of doing. The Blues sure hope it continues into the regular season.

"Obviously they get put in a lot of offensive situations and we need them to capitalize and produce, but at the same time, we need everybody to buy into that and chip in some goals and things like that," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "I do think they're ready to go, but I'm not going to make an assessment off tonight's game."

The goals scored in the second period looked like midseason goals. 

After Tarasenko's spin-o-rama to feed Schwartz for a first-period goal, Schwartz returned the favor to Schenn for a backdoor one-timer at 1:24 to tie the game 2-2, then a tic-tac-toe passing play, going Schenn to Schwartz to Tarasenko at 1:47 gave the Blues the lead for good.

"I think the three of us read off each other pretty good," Schenn said. "We know what each other is capable of. We have good communication on our line. It didn't feel like very long ago that we were playing with each other. It's nice to get one together here before the season starts and we're looking forward to getting it going."

With one preseason game remaining Sunday in Columbus, it was a good chance for the trip to get into some good habits, and they were able to do that.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Justin Faulk (right) makes a play while Washington's
Chandler Stephenson tries to play the puck Friday in Faulk's Blues debut.

"That's the main thing. One thing to get some games out of the way, but you want to get rid of the summer habits and you want to do all the right things to win hockey games," Schenn said. "We all know how our start went last year. I think we did a better job in the second and third tonight, get rid of those bad habits and it's going to be nice to get the team fully together here and practice with one another and start competing with each other at practice before the season starts."

(9-27-19) Capitals-Blues Preseason Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Justin Faulk will make his Blues debut today when they host the Washington Capitals, their opponent in the regular-season opener Wednesday, in the final preseason home game (7 p.m.; ESPN 101.1-FM).

Faulk, 27, was acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday along with a 2020 fifth-round pick for Joel Edmundson, 2018 first-round pick Dominik Bokk and a 2021 seventh-round pick.

"It'll be good. It's been a little bit hectic, I think, the last few days, not too bad, but out there, it's just playing hockey," Faulk said. "It'll be nice to get playing with some of the guys and start to get a feel for this system and how this team plays."

Although Faulk was paired on the left with Alex Pietrangelo during the morning skate line rushes, coach Craig Berube said Pietrangelo will start on the left side and improvise as needed.

"Neither guy's played a lot of left side," Berube said. "We're going to have to take a look and see who's more comfortable there. We have options of they're all playing on right too with three lefties. There's different options, but tonight, Petro will start on the left side.

"When you have three righties like we have, there's going to be times when one of them's going to have to play left. I think it's fine for the guy that feels the most comfortable over on that side. I think that's the way you've got to look at it. It's not going to be all the time, but there's going to be games where one of them's going to be on the left."

With Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko and Faulk -- all right-handers -- playing and being used to over 20-plus minutes a night, it's going to be a challenge to try and get them all in there with the minutes they're used to playing.

"I'm not a magician at how to work numbers and that shuffle to make sure guys play where they need to play and how much they should play," Faulk said. "I just kind of go out there when I'm told and I think coaches will do a good job in handling all that. If that's what's asked of us, between the three of us, I don't think either of us will complain about getting minutes because we've got to go to the left side.

"There will be plenty of times throughout the game where you'll probably end up seeing me on the left side a little bit and us getting switched around and that's the good thing about having two righties or two lefties together. If you get switched around, there's no rush to get back and you can just hold your positions and kind of hold where you're at. He said he's probably played the left a little more than I have. I guess I thought I was playing left until you said that. It's going to get switched around as we go out there anyways. He's a good player and he can handle it and I'm a good player as well.

"That's not really on my mind how many minutes I'm going to be getting or anything like that. We've got a good group, a good team. If the team's playing well, it doesn't even matter. No one really cares too much when the team's having success and obviously that happened here last year. It doesn't matter to me. I'll go out there when I'm told and go from there."

The idea of using two righties as one pair for Berube means he can also try and manage not just their minutes but for all the defensemen with the amount of time and length of last season going to June 12.

"The minutes are obviously important, but also at the same time, winning the Stanley Cup and playing that long into June, managing minutes are important too," Berube said. "When you have the d-corps that we have and the minutes that each of those players can log, it's pretty good to have. It keeps minutes in check a little bit, keeps freshness and it's important. That's going to be important to manage the workload of everybody on our team this year. I think that's one of the good things to have is the d-corps that we  have. There's a lot of guys that can play a lot of minutes."

Right now for Faulk, getting acclimated with a new system is his greatest challenge, but one he said isn't really that difficult.

"Honestly, it's not too far off I don't think from what I was doing," Faulk said. "There's maybe some different lingo and stuff's explained a little bit differently. In the end, a lot of it's pretty similar. There's a couple small things that might take a second to get used to, but it's not too far off I don't think. I just had a quick chat and I'm sure I'll learn more and get more into it as I go and get involved here a little bit more. It's been fine so far. I guess I'm going to go out there and try to play well."

- - -

Zach Sanford will play his fifth preseason tonight and it'll be an important one for him.

Much like Sanford's early career, it's been an up-and-down camp for the forward who excelled in the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins but who has also disappeared at times in games.

Berube, who will play Sanford with Nathan Walker and Jordan Nolan tonight, said Sanford needs to bring more and it is an important game.

"It is for sure. Coming into camp, Zach obviously was kind of a player that was up and down last year, up and down in the playoffs and he finished strong obviously in the playoffs playing on the line with [Ryan] O'Reilly, scored a couple big goals, but we just haven't seen that in camp this year so far so it's a big game for him along with other guys too," Berube said. "I think that we need to see more, need to see more. Need to see more intensity, need to see more."

Sanford agreed.

"It's been OK, I think," Sanford said of his camp. "I've done some good things, but I can agree with that, there's a lot more I can do for myself and for the team. That's just all I'm focusing on now the next few days, the next two games here in preseason is getting back to my game and bringing what I can to this team.

"I just think my strength and speed and quickness on plays, I think my feet haven't been moving as great as they can be. Maybe the timing's a little off and maybe just a little behind, but there's still two more games to play and I'm going to get back to the peak.

"This is kind of the first full camp I've been through here. It's been a little different the past two years. I think for a guy like me coming into the season and being able to get a decent amount of games in the preseason I think is important for me."

- - -

Robby Fabbri, who will not play tonight, is also getting assessed and it's been a mixed review as well.

"Fabs is skating well," Berube said. "That's a good thing. He's moving well. I think he's got good jump, but again, I'd just like to see more, some more finish. But again though, it's a big improvement from last year where he's at. He worked hard this summer and he's got himself in good shape, he's got himself faster."

- - -

Klim Kostin, who was originally in the game group, will not play after playing last night, will be replaced by Mackenzie MacEachern. Berube is hopeful to get Kostin, a 2017 first-round pick, into another game. He's leveled off the past two games after he had six points (three goals, three assists) his first three games.

"I think his game's leveled off, but we'll see if maybe we can get him in there one more game and see how he looks," Berube said.

- - -

Robert Thomas made his preseason debut in the Kraft Hockeyville game, a 4-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday.

Berube said he played well and is hopeful of playing him one more game, but it won't be tonight.

"We (saw) the old Robert Thomas last night in the third," Berube said. "He was hanging onto that puck, eluding people and making plays. It was good to see, it was good to see him back on the ice playing. Had to get him through the game and he was fine, so that was a good thing.

"I'm hoping to get him in there Sunday for that game against Columbus, I think it's important to get him in there."

- - -

Goalie Ville Husso will play his third preseason game and play the entire game for the first time. 

Husso, who had lingering ankle issues last season but feels healthy now, played the first two periods of the first preseason game at Dallas and the third period and overtime at Winnipeg last Friday.

"I think it's been a good camp, got some action early in the camp and now I will get a full game. I think it's good for me," Husso said. "... It's good opportunity for me and I think I just need to go in there and enjoy the game. There's things I can do still a little bit better, but I think it's been a good camp. It's nice to get some action in good games. It's been a long time since I played a full game, so I'm really happy right now.

"It's always nice to be healthy. Injuries are tough for players, but it's part of the game and need to go through that. Right now, I'm super happy I'm healthy and I can play hockey right now. Everything is perfect."

- - -

Defenseman Andreas Borgman, acquired in an off-season trade from the Toronto Maple Leafs for Jordan Schmaltz, will play his fifth preseason game tonight.

Berube has liked his game thus far.

"He's been really good," Berube said. "We're impressed with his ability to do things well, not great offensively or a flashy player but solid defensively, strong out there, makes pretty good decisions with the puck. Just a first-pass option guy, a steady player, skates well."

- - -

Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo and Carl Gunnarsson will not play tonight, and Berube said Friday morning both guys are a "little banged up" and "nicked up" but didn't believe they would be in jeopardy of missing the season opener Wednesday.

Bortuzzo had an elbow and lower leg wrapped up after the game Tuesday, and Gunnarsson left a little early from practice on Thursday.

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko

Ivan Barbashev-Tyler Bozak-Alexander Steen

Zach Sanford-Nathan Walker-Jordan Nolan

Mackenzie MacEachern-Ryan Olsen-Austin Poganski

Alex Pietrangelo-Justin Faulk

Jay Bouwmeester-Mitch Reinke

Niko Mikkola-Andreas Borgman

Ville Husso will get the start and play the whole game; Adam Wilcox will be the backup.

- - -

The Capitals' projected lineup:

Carl Hagelin-Lars Eller-Chandler Stephenson

Beck Malenstyn-Nic Down-Brendan Leipsic

Shane Gersich-Evgeny Kuznetzov-Travis Boyd

Shane O'Brien-Michael Sgarbossa-Brian Pinho

Dmitry Orlov-Nick Jensen

Christian Djoos-Radko Gudas

Martin Fehervary-Tyler Lewington

Braden Holtby is the expected starter; Vitek Vanecek is expected to be the backup.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Kyrou continues to rehab from off-season knee surgery

2016 second-round pick was hopeful to make Blues roster out of 
camp, ramping up practices; will likely start season in San Antonio

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. -- Jordan Kyrou was on a fast track of competing for a spot on the Blues' roster this season after a solid debut season in San Antonio.

But it all had a slight derailment when Kyrou was injured late in the season and needed surgery on his kneecap. It's been a slower process to get back into the swing of things, but Kyrou, 21, almost looks like he's a full go in practice.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Jordan Kyrou was in the opening night lineup for the Blues last season but
coming off knee surgery, will likely begin this season in San Antonio.

"I'm feeling better every day," Kyrou said after practice Thursday. "I get a little bit better. I'm trying to get my strength back and stuff like that.

"Every day I get on the ice, my knee's feeling a lot stronger. Just trying to take it day by day. ... Maybe (going) a little slower. It's my first time dealing with a knee injury, knee surgery, so I'm learning as I go through."

With the regular season just six days away, Kyrou will more than likely begin the season in San Antonio, where the injury occurred with roughly nine games remaining; he had 43 points (16 goals, 27 assists) in 47 regular-season games there last season.

"It was kind of like a nothing play," Kyrou said. "I fell kind of awkwardly and I just hurt my knee. Someone's stick got caught between my legs and kind of like turned and as I turned, I fell over top of it. It wasn't like a big hit or anything and I fell into the boards. It hurt a bit, but I didn't think of it too much. I could walk, so I thought I was fine. I thought it was going to be like a week or two."

Surgery was performed a week later, and hopes of making the opening night roster withered away with the recovery process needing some time.

Kyrou had a goal and two assists in 16 NHL games last season after making the opening night roster. He'll keep gearing himself up and when he gets the chance to come up, he'll hope to stick.

"It obviously sucks," Kyrou said. "I wanted to come in this year, earn a spot and stay here all year, but obviously that's not the way it's going to go right now, so I just need to keep working hard and once I start to play again, I want to do my thing out there, hopefully get called back up and be here for the rest of the year."

So Kyrou began within the last week ramping his practices up. It's unlikely he'll get in a preseason game with three remaining, although that's yet to be determined. 

"Not the final gear yet. It's still coming, so I just need to keep working on strength and stuff like that," Kyrou said. "I was playing pretty good all year, but we were doing well and I was doing pretty well. It sucks.

"The last couple days, I've been doing kind of like doing 2-on-2 drills and stuff like that," Kyrou said. "I haven't done anything like full practice, hard-hitting. I kind of want to slowly ease back into that."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Jordan Kyrou continues to rehab his off-season kneecap surgery, ramping
up his practices in recent days.

Kyrou, who said he didn't start skating until early-to-middle August, has been able to work his upper-body throughout the summer, and he's added 12 pounds of muscle (up to 190 from 178).

"I think I've matured a lot and the little things that I've got to do, like the little things along the walls," Kyrou said. "Really it's like the little things and competing harder. 

"Last year playing in the 'A,' I learned a lot and also last year being here, I learned a lot. I've learned a lot watching the guys and practicing with them. I think I'm ready to go this year."

* NOTES -- The Blues skated 13 players at Centene Community Ice Center who were not on the traveling roster that were to face the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night in Calumet, Mi. Among them was forward Ivan Barbashev, who played just 6 minutes 18 seconds in a 2-1 loss to Dallas Tuesday after sustaining a lower-body injury following a hit from behind from Stars defenseman Roman Polak. ... Also, forward Vladimir Tarasenko, who missed three days this week due to illness, skated for a second straight day. ... The lone skater not on the ice was defenseman Robert Bortuzzo. ... Defenseman Carl Gunnarsson did leave a little early but didn't appear to be under any discomfort. ... The Blues will be right back at it on Friday, hosting the Washington Capitals in the final home preseason game before wrapping up preseason play Sunday afternoon at Columbus. The Capitals will open the regular season here on Oct. 2.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Blues players excited to add Faulk, sad to see Edmundson go

Trade with Hurricanes to add all-star defenseman involved many 
pieces, improves landscape of St. Louis' bid to win another Stanley Cup

ST. LOUIS -- Teammates didn't think anything of it after the morning skate Tuesday.

Joel Edmundson was on the ice, took part in the pregame skate with the group that would face the Dallas Stars late that night. Edmundson left the rink with every intention of playing.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Adding Justin Faulk to their roster, the Blues feel they
have made team batter, increased chances of winning.

Then he got the call at home, and news filtered throughout the hockey world that the Blues pulled off a blockbuster trade with the Carolina Hurricanes, acquiring three-time all-star defenseman Justin Faulk and a 2020 fifth-round pick for Edmundson, 2018 first-round pick Dominik Bokk and a 2021 seventh round pick

Faulk then signed a seven-year, $45.5 million extension ($6.5 million average annual value) with the Blues.

Teammates reacted after a 2-1 loss to the Stars to the news of adding a high-caliber player but losing a close friend that was part of the championship run last season.

Jaden Schwartz is the one player in the locker room that has a history with Faulk, 27, and likes the idea.

"Really good guy," Schwartz said. "We both went to college as freshmen so I played against him when I was 18, 19. Lots of mutual friends. I'm in Minnesota a little bit in the summer, this summer and the summer before. Just a real good guy and a real good player. You see how good he was in Carolina and just an awesome guy, so I was pretty thrilled to see that he got traded here. It's obviously a big pickup and he sounds pretty excited.

"It must have happened quick. You see Joel and maybe it was an hour later that it happened. That's part of the business. Everyone's kind of seen it before and throughout the year. I don't know if you see many preseason ones, but everyone knows that trades are on the table and we were just a little shocked because we didn't hear anything. It just kind of happened."

Faulk said he will come in and get to know his new teammates quickly.

"I've met Jaden Schwartz a few times. We have some mutual friends," Faulk said. "For the most part, I have a few connections, but not too many people that I've had too much interaction with to be honest. I've heard good things about some of the guys on the team. I don't think I'll have a problem fitting in from my understanding and from what I've been told by some people. I'm kind of going in cold turkey and that's also fine with me. Doesn't bother me too much."

Captain Alex Pietrangelo felt the Blues would go make a run at a repeat with the same group back, except for Pat Maroon, that won the Stanley Cup last season, but business is business, and players are immune to it.

"It's always tough when the band gets broken up obviously right," Pietrangelo said "'Eddy' was here for a while, obviously part of what we did last year, so it's always tough in these situations, but we add a pretty good player for us, a guy who's played a lot of games in the league and it just makes us better.

"(We're adding) another puck-moving guy. If you've watched him play, he's got a big shot, can really move the puck and can create some plays. ... I always say this is the hard part of the business, especially after what you went through last year. We're pushing for him in Carolina there. We're hoping for nothing but success, that's for sure."

Center Ryan O'Reilly faced Faulk often when he was a member of the Buffalo Sabres.

"It's exciting," O'Reilly said. "It's a great player that's become a part of our team to make us a lot better. Stuff like this happens and it's exciting for us. It definitely gives us a spark for sure.

"(Faulk brings) tons of stuff. He's such a smart player. The way he moves the puck and the way he creates is just so sound, all areas of the ice. I think it brings a lot of confidence back there and I think it helps on the power play too. He's very dynamic that can pretty much do anything. Definitely makes us a lot better. ... Sometimes the way contracts work, things have to be adjusted. To get that done I think is a huge thing for us. It's not good enough just to win once. You've got to keep going. We want to win every chance we can."

Blues coach Craig Berube hopes to get Faulk, who arrived in St. Louis Tuesday night and was at the game against the Stars, acclimated quick and up to speed with the regular season opener a week away on Oct. 2.

"We'll get him moving here tomorrow, obviously try to get him in a couple preseason games here before it's over," Berube said. "He's obviously a very good player and makes us a better hockey team. ... He's got a good shot. I think he's probably top five in the league in goals for the last four or five years I think. I don't know that stat for sure but something like that."

Faulk's addition, he's a right-handed defenseman, gives the Blues Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko and Faulk the top three from the right side. Robert Bortuzzo is the fourth.

"It's a big piece for us. He's a really good player," Schwartz said of Faulk. "He can defend, he's really good on the power play. He's got a great shot. You see how well he played in that top player in Carolina. I think it gives us a boost. We're going to need him down the stretch. You look at our 'D' now. We've got a lot of different options right now and a really good back end."

Brian Bartlett, Faulk's agent, said the Blues will be happy with the on-ice and off-ice player the Blues are getting.

"As a player, I think he's underrated in his all-around ability," Bartlett said. "His hallmark or calling card is his shot on the power play. He's got 40 career power-play goals. He's right up there in the top five or 10 guys since he's entered the league in power-play goals for defensemen. It's kind of the calling card and the highlight reel, but has had top matchups his whole time in the league against other teams' best players and does a really good job of eliminating scoring chances. He's an all-around guy who can eat big minutes. He's a 23-24 minute a night guy. I think he's going to complement the team well.

"As a person, I think he's going to fit in great into that locker room. He's hyper-competitive, wants to win, likes to be involved in the community. He's a big piece of kind of what turned Carolina into a winning team the last year or so and he's interested in being in a room that's interested in winning Stanley Cups."

And Faulk, from South St. Paul, Minn., is ready to live the smaller-town life that he can get in St. Louis.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Joel Edmundson spent four seasons in St. Louis, and teammates are sad to
see a teammate leave that helped them win a Stanley Cup last season.

"It's nice to have the security and nice to have (the contract) done, that's for sure," Faulk said. "I don't have to sit here and think about it and go through it at all. I had there for a few weeks, but I've heard nothing but good things about St. Louis, about the organization. I've had friends that have played in the organization. I haven't talked to them since, but all their time with the team and stuff, they never said anything bad. When people do sometimes, it sticks out to you and nothing's ever stuck out to me. There's always been nice things, and with the success the team is having, you kind of combine those two things from an outsider and makes the decision a lot easier. 

"I'm from Minnesota, from South St. Paul, Minnesota. I spend my summers in Minnesota. I'm not really a guy that would love the big city. I'm still kind of sticking in the Midwest and being a part of St. Louis and enjoying that community seems a little bit easier to me and more enjoyable to me. A lot of parts that went into it and they all kind of came together to make the decision pretty easy."

Blues acquire Faulk from Hurricanes

All-Star defenseman comes to St. Louis for Joel Edmundson, prospect 
Dominik Bokk, swap of picks; Faulk signs seven-year, $45.5 million extension

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues made a big splash Tuesday with a blockbuster trade when they acquired three-time all-star defenseman Justin Faulk from the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Blues also get a 2020 fifth-round pick in exchange for defenseman Joel Edmundson, forward Dominik Bokk and a 2021 seventh-round pick.
(Carolina Hurricanes photo)
Justin Faulk was acquired by the Blues on Tuesday
from Carolina.

Faulk, who has one year remaining on his current contract with an average annual value of $4.833 million, has signed a seven-year contract extension worth $45.5 million with the Blues ($6.5 million AAV) that runs through the 2026-27 season.

The Hurricanes will pick up just over 14 percent of Faulk's salary/cap hit for this season, bringing it down from $4.833 million to $4.156 million. The extension includes a full no-trade clause for the first five seasons and a limited no-trade the final two seasons where Faulk can submit a list of 15 teams he can't be traded to.

It's a bold move for general manager Doug Armstrong, whose squad won the Stanley Cup last season, and helps solidify the right side of their defensive unit to go with Alex Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko and Robert Bortuzzo.

"Justin comes with a very deep and strong resume, a player that's played in the league for a number of years, he's 27 years old, in the prime part of his hockey career," Armstrong said. "We feel he's tailor-made to today's NHL, a skater, someone that can transport and move the puck, touches both ends of special teams and has logged a lot of minutes over the years. When I look at our group of defense now, probably the most balanced group we've had since I've been here."

Faulk had been rumored to be on his way put of Carolina when the two sides couldn't come to a contract extension. The Hurricanes reportedly offered one at the 2019 NHL Draft, and when it didn't come to fruition, it became clear that Faulk would be on his way to another club. Anaheim and Winnipeg were two teams talked about often, but the Blues came in quickly and were able to consummate the parameters of a deal.

"It was a little surprising to be honest for a team that just won the Stanley Cup and had a pretty good d-corps," Faulk's agent Brian Bartlett said. "You're looking across the league, the ones that maybe you circle that maybe could use a ton of d-help. I'm not sure necessarily that it was St. Louis, but when you get the call, you start looking into it more deeply, I think Justin's going to do a nice job complementing that group and hopefully bring them back where they were again last year."

Faulk said he was equally as surprised.

"You go through it and I was in a situation where I had a no-trade clause there in the last deal, so you kind of look through and you look at teams and kind of see the cap situations and also see what teams have depth," Faulk said. "To be honest, St. Louis wasn't necessarily one team we were looking at that would be able to make the trade happen. Then they kind of reached out and not necessarily like a huge surprise, but probably more so welcoming it more than anything, if anything. We were happy to go forward and try to get a deal done with the Blues and we were obviously able to and we're happy to be able to get where we are right now." 

The Blues were only going to make a deal if, and only if, Faulk would sign an extension; it was imperative.

"Yes it was," Armstrong said. "Just because of what we were giving up. We didn't want to get into a situation when we were ... giving up for a player that we wanted this year, but not having some security and cost certainty moving forward to Justin and credit to ultimately his agents. They understood what we were trying to accomplish. Going in, I was quite honest that we have two high-profile (unrestricted) free agents (Alex Pietrangelo and Brayden Schenn) that our goal is to try and sign and to do that, we needed him to be understanding of the overall cap situation and he was. We've seen some recent contracts that he was willing to come to our group at a cap hit we could understand and afford with an idea of trying to keep our group together forward moving past this season."

Faulk, 27, was originally drafted by the Hurricanes in the second round of 2010. He's 6-foot, 217 pounds and a right-handed shot with offensive upside. 

Faulk spent his entire seven-year career in Carolina, including serving as captain for one season (2017-18) and as an assistant captain for three seasons (2015-17, 2018-19).

A three-time All-Star (2015, 2016, 2017), Faulk has appeared in 559 regular-season games and has 258 points (85 goals, 173 assists). Since 2011-12, he ranks 26th among all defensemen in points and 22nd in power play points (102). In 2018-19, Faulk had 35 points (11 goals, 24 assists) in 82 regular-season games and eight points (one goal, seven assists) in 15 Stanley Cup playoff games, helping Carolina reach the Eastern Conference Final before being swept by the Boston Bruins.

"It's good. It's nice to be moving on to a team, not that I didn't want to be in Carolina at all, but it's just nice that if you're going to move on and you're going to go to another team, another situation, it's another team that's having success and doing well," Faulk said. "I'm happy to be a part of a team that's going to hopefully continue to have success. Obviously we all know what happened last season. That's great, and it's nice to join a team that's feeling good and confident and knowing what the rigors are like to keep going."

Edmundson, 26, leaves the Blues after four seasons. The second-round pick in 2011 (46th overall) was awarded a one-year, $3.1 million contract in arbitration after playing on a one-year, $3 million contract last season. He had 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in 64 regular-season games last season and by his own admission, was looking to have a more consistent season this year.

The Blues also part ways with Bokk, their 2018 first-round pick (25th overall). He is playing on load with Rogle of the Swedish Hockey League this season.

"He was looking for a really strong prospect," Armstrong said of Hurricanes GM Don Waddell. "We bandied around different situations there. We had to add Bokk to this equation. We knew we had to add someone to get the deal done. Joel was a player that has experience, can help them and also helped the salary situation cap world even itself out a little bit. Carolina has agreed to retain a little over 14 percent of the salary this year, which allows us to be cap-compliant I would say with, I wouldn't say a healthy bit of room  but more than people probably think initially. It started last week, we pushed through the weekend on it. We got to the point where we were ready to make the trade and they gave us some time to talk to Faulk and his agent, Brian and Steve Bartlett were the agents. I didn't get a chance to talk to Justin until today, but once he heard it was our team, I talked to him. It was late, late Sunday evening. I said, 'We'd talk on Monday,' and we were able to get down to some work and it just picked up steam from there."

Bartlett said the extension was a breeze getting done.

"Really quickly. The first we kind of got wind of anything cooking was yesterday morning and got a call from Carolina saying, 'We might have a potential trade for your player, but the team would like to talk to you guys about the possibility of an extension. Before we move any closer, would you guys like to talk,'" Bartlett said. "We asked who it was and got on the phone yesterday morning."

Some are surprised with the term Faulk got, taking him to 35 years old, and Armstrong isn't one to typically give out contracts longer than 4-5 years, but was willing to go term with this player.

"That's the price of doing business in today's NHL," Armstrong said. "You look at his comparable group whether it's [Jared] Spurgeon or [Cam] Fowler or [Ryan] Ellis, they get to a certain point if you're going to give up potential cap dollars, you want to get some security and some term. Our analytics showed defensemen can play to the level they're at at 27 until up to probably 32 or 33. At the tail end, it's with all these players we need them to support us and then maybe at the end, we'll support them."
(Carolina Hurricanes photo)
The Blues acquired defenseman Justin Faulk from the
Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday. 

And Faulk, only knowing Jaden Schwartz on the team, was comfortable with going long-term.

"The agent kind of handles some of that stuff, the conversations with Doug Armstrong," Faulk said. "They give me the picture on what they think the future can be and then it gets kind of relayed on to me. I looked at the roster a little bit. I won't lie, I was more so looking at the D. I know who's there and what not, the forwards too, but you just try to get the feel of what you think and obviously we all know the team's in position right now that they're trying to win again and keep that success going. You never know what the future's going to be. I don't know who any of the prospects are, it's tough to keep up the older I get, the longer I play, but you just know who's on the team today and you like that team. You just have to believe in the people running the team that they're going to do their best to keep that success happening and hopefully for a long time."

Armstrong said the acquisition of Faulk has no bearing on potential negotiations, deals for potential UFA's Alex Pietrangelo and Brayden Schenn.

"Ultimately the pie is so big and [Faulk] has taken out a slice of it now, but our goal was to do this with the understanding we felt we still had the ability getting creative and doing other things to sign those guys," Armstrong said. "That's still our mandate."

(9-24-19) Stars-Blues Preseason Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Robert Thomas won't play for the Blues today when they host the Dallas Stars (7 p.m.; 101.1 ESPN-FM) in their fifth preseason game, but the second-year forward is gearing himself towards getting in a game or two before the regular-season opener Oct. 2 against the Washington Capitals.

Thomas is coming off tendon surgery in his left wrist, sustained in either Game 1 or 2 of the Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks

"It was just a fluke play," Thomas said. "I was moving the puck across my body, got a little bit of a bump, I wouldn't even call it a bump. I barely got touched and next thing I know, I was hurt. It's just a fluke play. I felt it right away."

Many out there felt that Thomas was injured even more when he took that check from Boston defenseman Torey Krug during Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final but he squashed those doubts.

"That was nothing. Nothing happened from that," Thomas said. "(The wrist) wasn't in the best shape at that time. Before that game, I kind of had to pick and choose what the plan was moving forward. When I got into that game, I kind of figured I might need some rest after that one."

Blues coach Craig Berube has been impressed with Thomas' progress that he said he will play in the preseason.

"Close. I'm sure he'll be in one of these games coming up this week," Berube said. "It's important because it's different than just practicing, I'll tell you that. We'd like to get him in a couple games before the season."

Thomas said his surgical procedure was for a "couple hours," and that things are going well.

"Wrist is doing good," Thomas said. "Every day feeling a ton better. The progress is going real well.

"(Being ready for the season-opener) was never in doubt. The whole process was just I barely got to skate in the summer due to it, but the week before camp, it was kind of limited skates and stuff like that, but this little camp's just kind of been getting back up to speed, getting back adjusted to the speed of things."

- - -

Forward Klim Kostin will get into a fourth preseason game tonight.

The 2017 first-round pick (31st pick), who is among the NHL preseason leaders with six points (three goals, three assists), has been impressing in training camp and will get another crack tonight, playing on a line with Robby Fabbri and Tyler Bozak, his same linemates as Sunday when he had a goal and assist in a 5-3 win against Columbus.

"He's a big guy and he's taking the puck to the net, getting chances and playing hard," Berube said of Kostin. "He's a physical player. He's done a good job."

Kostin's chances of cracking the opening night lineup are slim, but his progress is raising eyebrows. However, no concessions have been made.

"We're not there yet," Berube said. "We've got games left so we'll look at him and make decisions like we have to make. We're not there yet to determine what's going to happen."

- - -

* Vladimir Tarasenko, who missed practice Monday due to illness, was not on the ice again, but Berube thinks he'll be back on the ice on Wednesday.

* Jake Allen will get the start and play the entire game tonight. It will be Allen's second start. He played two periods Friday in Winnipeg and made 17 saves on 19 shots in a 4-3 overtime win.

"It's important that they get a full game," Berube said. "Just get back in that routine."

* Jordan Kyrou (knee) seems to be ramping up his skates and was on the ice with the second group Tuesday.

He's not expected to make the opening night lineup here and seems destined to start in San Antonio but making progress.

"He's coming along," Berube said. "He's close to full practice, if not really already there, but pretty close."

* Center Oskar Sundqvist (upper body), who was injured last week in practice, will see his second preseason game tonight.

Sundqvist, who played the preseason opener in Dallas on Sept. 16, was supposed to play Sunday, but the Blues kept him out a couple days as a precaution.

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Sammy Blais

Zach Sanford-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Robby Fabbri-Tyler Bozak-Klim Kostin

Ivan Barbashev-Oskar Sundqvist-Alexander Steen

Vince Dunn-Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson-Joel Edmundson

Jake Walman-Robert Bortuzzo

Jake Allen will start in goal and play the entire game; Adam Wilcox will be the backup.

- - -

The Stars' projected lineup:

Jame Benn-Roope Hintz-Alexander Radulov

Mattias Janmark-Jason Dickinson-Denis Gurianov

Nicholas Caamano-Rhett Gardner-Jason Robertson

Blake Comeau-Ty Dellandrea-Joel Kiviranta

Thomas Harley-John Klingberg

Esa Lindell-Roman Polak

Jamie Oleksiak-Andrej Sekera

Landon Bow will start and expected to play the first two periods; Jake Oettinger will be the backup and expected to play he third.