By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The Blues were able to withstand one challenge of a superstar player on Monday and now get set for a dynamic duo on Wednesday to close out a four-game homestand.
After throttling Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon in a 5-2 win on Monday, the Blues (21-8-6) play host to Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and the Edmonton Oilers (19-13-4) today at 7:30 p.m. (FS-MW, ESPN 101.1-FM).
The Blues seem to rise to the occasion against the league's top players, and even though MacKinnon had one assist on Monday, the Blues were able to contain Colorado's top point producer. They'll again have their hands full with McDavid, who leads the NHL with 59 points (20 goals, 39 assists) and leads his teammate Draisaitl by two (21 goals, 36 assists).
"With the high end talent, for sure. They play different games, styles, the teams, but when you've got Draisaitl and McDavid, you've got to be on your toes and checking, all five guys out there have to be aware out there," Blues coach Craig Berube said.
Special teams will be a key. The Oilers have a power play goal in eight straight games (10-for-30).
"Every game is different but last time we played Edmonton (a 5-2 win on Nov. 6), I thought we did a good job," Berube said. "McDavid got a goal on the power play. That's the other thing. Their power play is lethal. We've got to be disciplined tonight and when we get penalties, we really have to bear down on the PK."
- - -
Jake Allen will start for the Blues against the Oilers tonight, giving Jordan Binnington a much-needed breather.
It will mark Allen's thirs start on home ice and fifth appearance since Jan. 8 of last season. It will be just his 10th start of the season and 11th appearance.
In Binnington's case, he had a maintenance day on Tuesday and did not practice; he took the ice for an optional Wednesday morning and got in a light workout.
Binnington has started 26 of the Blues' 35 games this season.
"It's just more rest for him than anything right now," Berube said of Binnington, who is 16-6-4 with a 2.44 goals-against average and .920 save percentage. 'He's played a lot of hockey this year, even going back to last year. We're just trying to be cautious with him."
Emergency extraordinaire Tyler Stewart, who was on the ice for practice in Binnington's place Tuesday, was a third goalie Wednesday.
"We've got the other goalie out there. It gives guys confidence too, shooting on him," Berube said laughing.
- - -
Injured forward Ivan Barbashev (upper body) took the ice Wednesday morning before his teammates with Sammy Blais (wrist). Berube said Barbashev is progressing but will miss a second straight game tonight.
"Barbashev did better today, so that's a good sign," Berube said.
As for defenseman Carl Gunnarsson, who has a cast on his left arm and is on injured-reserve, Berube said there's nothing new to report.
"No, nothing really to note," Berube said. "Really on Gunnarsson, it's sort of a waiting period with him right now.
"Probably day to day I guess. Again, it's a waiting thing with him. He's got to see how everything goes. That's hard for me to tell."
- - -
Friends off the ice, foes on it. That's how it goes with buddies Brayden Schenn and MacKinnon.
The two became friends as teammates for Canada at the World Championships, in 2013 and 2015, and in doing so, they've become golf buddies during the summer in a quartet that includes Tyson Barrie and ... Sidney Crosby.
That golf trip remained in tact after the Blues won the Stanley Cup last season.
"We go on a golf trip every year, so it was after they won, we go on a golf trip," MacKinnon said. "It's not just because they won, we've been doing it for five, six years now. (MacKinnon knows Schenn) from World Championships. I played World Championships when I was 18 with him and again when I was 20, and Tyson Barrie, who's one of my best friends, is really close with Brayden from junior days. We all played World Championships together and we just went on a vacation. We went to France and every year since then, it's an annual trip, the four of us. We go to different places every year. We literally talk about it all season of where the trip is next year."
Schenn and MacKinnon got connected because of their mutual friendship with Barrie, a defenseman with the Toronto Maple Leafs this season but who has played his career before being traded with the Avalanche.
"I'm buddies with originally Tyson Barrie, who played junior with my brother [Luke Schenn]," Schenn said. "I played some Team Canada stuff with him and we've become real close friends over the years and obviously they played together so it kind of came full circle with that. We've all done some golf trips with each other.
"We get together once a summer now. We've been to California, Dallas, Montreal. Good guys. I train under the same guy too, Andy O'Brien. We do that Vail camp in September too. We're kind of underneath the same umbrella together and we became buddies."
MacKinnon said he was happy for Schenn, being able to raise the Cup last summer.
"It was fun to watch them play in the playoffs I think," MacKinnon said. "I'm friends with Brayden, really close with Brayden, so watching him win and watching how deep their team is, it was pretty cool."
Schenn said MacKinnon's drive to win one himself is evident though.
He'd like to win one himself, no doubt about it. No jealousy there," Schenn said. "I think he's obviously maybe a little bit jealous, but he's not going to be ... he was happy for us. ... If you play each other on the ice or in the playoffs, it's game on. There's no friends. It's just how it goes. You can be friends off the ice, but I think when playoffs hit or meaningful games, you've got to take your job seriously and play hard."
- - -
The Blues' projected lineup:
Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Jordan Kyrou
Oskar Sundqvist-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron
Zach Sanford-Robert Thomas-Alexander Steen
Mackenzie MacEachern-Jacob de la Rose-Troy Brouwer
Justin Faulk-Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Bouwmeester-Colton Parayko
Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo
Jake Allen will start in goal; Jordan Binnington will be the backup.
Healthy scratch includesNiko Mikkola. Vladimir Tarasenko (shoulder), Sammy Blais (wrist), Carl Gunnarsson (upper body) and Ivan Barbashev (upper body). Tyler Bozak was a late scratch due to illness.
- - -
The Oilers' projected lineup:
Joakim Nygard-Connor McDavid-Zack Kassian
James Neal-Leon Draisaitl-Sam Gagner
Jujhar Khaira-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-Alex Chiasson
Riley Sheahan-Gaetan Haas-Josh Archibald
Oscar Klefbom-Adam Larsson
Darnell Nurse-Ethan Bear
Kris Russell-Caleb Jones
Mikko Koskinen will start in goal; Mike Smith will be the backup.
Heathy scratches include Markus Granlund, Patrick Russell and Brandon Manning. Matt Benning (head) is out.
Post a Comment