Thursday, October 17, 2019

(10-17-19) Canucks-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Robert Thomas will return for the Blues against the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday (7 p.m.; FS-MW, ESPN 101.1-FM) when they open a four-game homestand.

Thomas missed the past five games with an upper-body injury, unrelated to the left wrist injury that required surgery in the off-season.

"It's real nice to be back," Thomas said. "It obviously sucks sitting out. I'm really excited to get back in there tonight.

"It wasn't anything to do with last year's injury, so that was a positive. Taking it slow. It was taking it a little bit longer than we hoped, but you just have to make sure you're 100 percent before you come back. It's still early in the season."

Thomas will, at least to start, be paired on a line with Ivan Barbashev and Oskar Sundqvist.

"Two reasons. I liked [Tyler] Bozak's line last game with [Alexander] Steen and [Robby] Fabbri, so just kind of made that switch and wanted to leave those guys," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "I think 'Tommer,' hopefully with Tommer, Sunny and Barby, it'll be a good line. You have Sunny and Barby who forecheck hard, physical players but have the ability to put the puck in the net too. Playing with a kid like Robert Thomas who's going to get them the puck, transport the puck up the ice for them. That's the look, for now."

Thomas said he isn't concerned that his minutes will be down, and depending on how the game goes, could move up, or stay where he is, depending on how the combinations are going.

"Those guys have been playing so well," Thomas said. "All of last playoffs and last season and to start the year as well. I'm excited to get out there with Sunny and Barby. They play hard, they've got some skill, they make a lot of plays. It should be a lot of fun."

Thomas said Wednesday he needed to speak with Berube and the team doctors before making the decision whether to return or not.

"I'd say it's a bit of both. I wouldn't say it was on one person to make that decision," Thomas said. "I've been itching to get back in the last little while. Just the talk went really well and in the end, decided I was ready to go."

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Blues center Brayden Schenn is on a personal NHL-best five-game goal scoring streak and has seven points the past five games, and all the numbers have come since Schenn signed his eight-year, $52 million contract.

Last season, it took him 17 games before Schenn, who finished with 17 goals in 72 games, to hit the five-goal mark, and it came Nov. 23 against Nashville.

"I'm just trying to play loose, relaxed, obviously getting a few bounces along the way definitely helps that," Schenn said. "It helps build your confidence.

"At the end of the day, you don't really want to worry about the contract. It was contract year, and obviously the Blues came in with a very fair offer."

One area of concern for Berube and the Blues is that Schenn and linemates Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz are an alarming combined minus-12.

"His line, they're doing some good things offensively, making plays," Berube said. "He's shooting the puck well, he's hitting the net, he's picking corners, his shot is good right now. He's scoring. On the flip side of things, they need to manage things better a little bit. I talked to them yesterday about their line in general and said, 'You've got to be plus players,' so that's what we're looking for."

Tarasenko has a goal and two assists the past two games, his first goal of the season was scored Monday at New York against the Islanders, but combined, he and Schwartz have eight assists (four apiece) but just the one goal. 

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The Blues' projected lineup:

Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko

Sammy Blais-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Robby Fabbri-Tyler Bozak-Alexander Steen

Ivan Barbashev-Oskar Sundqvist-Robert Thomas

Carl Gunnarsson-Alex Pietrangelo

Jay Bouwmeester-Colton Parayko

Vince Dunn-Justin Faulk

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

Healthy scratches include Robert Bortuzzo, Zach Sanford and Mackenzie MacEachern. The Blues report no injuries.

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The Canucks' projected lineup:

J.T. Miller-Elias Pettersson-Brock Boeser

Tanner Pearson-Bo Horvat-Josh Leivo

Micheal Ferland-Brandon Sutter-Jake Virtanen

Tim Schaller-Jay Beagle-Tyler Motte

Alexander Edler-Tyler Myers

Quinn Hughes-Christopher Tanev

Jordie Benn-Troy Stecher

Thatcher Demko will start in goal; Zane McIntyre will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Loui Eriksson, Jacob Markstrom, Adam Gaudette, Ashton Sautner and Oscar Fantenberg. Antoine Roussel (knee) is out.

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