Friday, November 1, 2019

(11-1-19) Blue Jackets-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues will leave not alter their lineup when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday (7 p.m.; FS-MW, ESPN 101.1-FM).

Coach Craig Berube will leave the lineup that played in a 2-1 win against the Minnesota Wild in against the Blue Jackets (5-5-2), who are coming off back-to-back losses and outscored 11-5.

That means the Blues (7-3-3), who will leave after the game for a rematch with the Wild (4-9-0) on Saturday in Minnesota, will leave defenseman Robert Bortuzzo and forward Robby Fabbri out of the lineup again.

It will be the fifth healthy scratch in six games for Fabbri, who is showing some signs of frustration. Fabbri has one goal in nine games this season.

"He's just got to stay ready for sure, but I just didn't see enough, I guess, in the last game," Berube said of Fabbri, who had his second-most ice time in a game this season with 11 minutes 14 seconds. "Went with a different guy. [Sammy] Blais was ready to go and he's played well this year. He felt good and he was ready to go and I've liked Mackenzie MacEachern and what he gives us. He goes out, he forechecks hard, he skates, he gets on top of people. He's an aggressive player and I've liked his game, so I've kept him in there."

On MacEachern, who has played in six games this season with no points, it will be his sixth straight game in which he is in the lineup.

"I don't think his game has changed from last year," Berube said of MacEachern. "When he came in the lineup last year he was playing a similar style as he is now and doing the same things for us. He gets on top of people with his skating. He bangs and crashes. He's doing more things with the puck, which is good. He's got to continue to get better there and make plays a little bit and at the right time try to score. You can't just go out and not try to score. He's had a few good chances, they just haven't gone in. It's good to see him get scoring chances.

"Some of guys aren't as gifted as others when it comes to scoring. He's got to continue to get scoring chances out there but at the same time continue to play the right way. He's been doing that. He's been playing a hard game and doing a good job."

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One guy Berube would like to see more from is 20-year-old 2017 first-round pick Robert Thomas, who has just a goal in eight games, but with Thomas coming back from that wrist injury and another upper-body injury at the start of the season, there's patience being displayed there.

Thomas had no shot attempts on Wednesday and still is passing up shooting opportunities, that the player has admitted himself needs to change.

"It's still a young kid that's had injuries," Berube said. "Throughout the summer and training and all that stuff. It all plays into it. He's better. I thought he had good jump [Thursday] night, especially in the first period. I think it's coming and he's going to be a good player for sure. But everybody in the lineup that plays has to contribute. That's how our team is designed and that's how it's going to work."

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Center Tyler Bozak has been a good soldier playing as the third-line center, but hasn't played with consistent partners throughout the young season.

And while it hasn't affected Bozak's overall game, it has affected his offensive output.

Bozak has four assists in 13 games, and tonight, he will play with Thomas and Alexander Steen.

"He's a good pro and he's a bit of a happy-go-lucky guy who works," Berube said of Bozak. "He's there and he makes it work. He's a smart player. He's always in good position. He does all the little things right. He's a real versatile guy for us. I can put him anywhere, never says nothing, just goes and plays. I put him on wings to close out games. He's a smart guy. I put him out there and his face-offs. He's kind of a guy we move around quite a bit, use him in different roles."

What the Blues are going to need to balance out some of the scoring is for that third line, however, to start producing more.

"We're going to have to get a little more scoring," Berube said. "It's going to have to come from everybody. We're just trying to figure out chemistry a little bit with guys. Robert Thomas has got to play better and he will. Coming off his injuries, it's taking a little bit longer. Guys just got to pick their game up a little bit because we need contributions from everybody."

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Ryan O'Reilly, who has five points (two goals, three assists) the past two games, will wear an 'A' for the foreseeable future with Tarasenko sidelined for five months.

He wore an 'A' with the Buffalo Sabres when Brian Gionta was captain.

"It's obviously nice to get the recognition from the coaching staff and such to wear it, but it's a team that we have so many guys, you can pass that around to anyone in this room to wear," O'Reilly said. "I just think it's more responsibility and talking to the refs and things like that. It's nice to have."

Berube said he had a bevy of players to pick, but, "I could have put it on a few guys. I chose him," he said. "He's a pretty good player for us obviously night in and night out, leads by example on the ice. Hard work."

As for rotating it, Berube wasn't going there.

"I'm not sure. As of right now, he's got it," Berube said. "I'm not sure of the rotation or what I'm going to do. ... They don't have to have an 'A' to be a leader. It's a letter. He's the first on the ice most days, last off, hard-working guy every game. It's every day."

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If you haven't heard -- or seen -- by now, St. Louisan Matthew Tkachuk threw his hat into the ring for goal of the year.

His between-the-legs goal in Nashville with 1.6 seconds remaining in overtime highlighted the Calgary Flames' 6-5 come-from-behind win over the Predators, a shot from the high slot over Pekka Rinne that was so perfect, it went bar down.

One player who noticed was Thomas, who lives in the Thachuk residence in St. Louis and has known both Matthew and Brady Tkachuk through years of playing together in junior.

"I text him last night after the game, pretty cool goal he scored there," Thomas said. "I've seen him try a variation of that a couple times. I think he did it earlier in the game actually on the goal line, he tried doing that. ... It's definitely a year of the goal candidate. It's all instincts. If you practice something, your body gets used to it a little bit. He's always been trying that. He scored last year on it. It's definitely instincts. I'm just actually he got so much on it and went top corner."

Does Thomas do Tkachuk better? You can bet he'll try.

"Now I've got to try and one-up him," Thomas said. "I've got to try something."

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The Blues' projected lineup:

Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Sammy Blais

Zach Sanford-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron 

Alexander Steen-Tyler Bozak-Robert Thomas

Mackenzie MacEachern-Ivan Barbashev-Oskar Sundqvist

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 and Robby Fabbri. Vladimir Tarasenko (shoulder) is out.

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The Blue Jackets' projected lineup:

Gustav Nyquist-Pierre-Luc Dubois-Cam Atkinson

Nick Foligno-Boone Jenner-Josh Anderson

Sonny Milano-Alexander Wennberg-Oliver Bjorkstrand

Jakob Lilja-Riley Nash-Emil Bemstrom

Zach Werenski-Seth Jones

Scott Harrington-David Savard

Vladislav Gavrikov-Dean Kukan

Elvis Merzlikins will start in goal; Joonas Korpisalo will be the backup.

The healthy scratch will be Markus Nutivaara. Brandon Dubinsky (wrist), Alexandre Texier (knee) and Ryan Murray (hand) are all out.

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