By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- With loss comes change, and for the Blues, mired in a season-long five-game winless streak and set to face the New Jersey Devils today (7 p.m.; FS-MW, ESPN 101.1-FM), there will be no lineup changes but plenty of line juggling.
Coach Craig Berube has liked the team concept recently, but going 0-3-2 the past five games and 2-7-3 the past 12 isn't what the Blues had in mind, despite the recent cardiac episode of defenseman Jay Bouwmeester. So Berube will flip some guys around when the puck drops tonight.
The Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron duo will be split up for the first time since Game 5 of the Western Conference Second Round playoff series last year against the Dallas Stars. O'Reilly will center a line with Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn; Robert Thomas will move into the role O'Reilly occupied between Perron and Zach Sanford.
The top six tonight will have a tremendously different look to it.
"It’s not drastic," Berube said. "If you look at our 5-on-5 scoring lately over time, it’s kind of dried up with certain guys. Sometimes you need a change. That’s all. ... Listen, I’m just trying to find some chemistry in other ways, other areas. So you move some players around.
"I know O’Reilly and Perron have been together all year. But, and it’s not that that line has not produced; it has. Sanford's produced a lot lately for us. But the other guys haven’t 5-on-5."
And even though the Blues were, for the most part, the better team in Nashville and for the better part of the final two periods against the Predators here on Saturday, the results haven't changed.
The Blues, who were winning the one-goal games at a greater clip earlier in the season, are now losing them, so they'll try and inject some new life into the lineup, and the players think it can be good.
"I think so. I don't know to be honest, I don't know the actual answer, but it gives guys a different look and maybe a little more jump in their step, but we switched lines a lot so guys have played with each other probably before," Schwartz said. "I don't know if any combination hasn't played with each other with injuries and things like that. It hasn't been going our way, so it's a good time to switch it up."
O'Reilly and Perron would be the one that jumps out the most as one that's been a consistent. But Perron is in a season-long seven-game goalless streak and O'Reilly has just 10 all season despite piling up a good number of assists.
"It'll be good to have a different look," O'Reilly said. "Just kind of change things up a little bit. We're a line that will have to lead the charge and do things the right way.
"We haven't been generating very much. I know myself, I haven't been playing very well. I think sometimes you've got to mix things up, get a different look. Hopefully get some bounces going our way and get our confidence back. We haven't been winning and sometimes you've got to make little adjustments."
Thomas' game has jumped out at Berube as of late, and he feels that putting Thomas with Perron could get the Blues' leading goal scorer with 23 going again.
"He’s played excellent hockey for us," Berube said of Thomas. "I think the way he passes the puck and some of the plays he’s making. Sanford’s hot right now. Perron obviously is a real good shooter. So I’m hoping that he can get him the puck in good areas and get some goals."
"It'll definitely give me a different look," Thomas said. "For me, I'll just be kind of looking to give them the puck in the slot and in spaces that [Perron] can score with it.
"We haven't been scoring enough goals lately and I think that's the biggest thing, some different looks, trying to get our offense a little bit of a spark."
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Forward Vladimir Tarasenko stepped onto the ice and took part in his second morning skate today.
Tarasenko, who has been out since dislocating his left shoulder Oct. 24 against the Los Angeles Kings (he had surgery Oct. 29), was a participant in drills again and skating again.
The Blues will continue to push Tarasenko as long as he can but also listen to the veteran forward on his limitations. They're sticking to the same timeline, however.
"We've got to push him as a coaching staff for sure and a medical staff," Berube said. "That’s our job. But also we've got to listen to him, too, and see where he’s at and how he’s feeling. Our job’s to get him back in playing shape as much as we can without playing games. So we’re going to push him, we have to push him, but also we need to talk to Vladi and make sure that he’s OK and he’s doing OK with everything, and the medical staff.
"So far as I know, nothing there (on a timeline) has changed really, but we’ll see."
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Bouwmeester, who suffered a cardiac episode in Anaheim on Feb. 11, was flown back to St. Louis on Sunday and at the rink today visiting with teammates.
Bouwmeester, who is on injured-reserve, released a statement through the Blues.
"I would sincerely like to thank all of the trainers from both the St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks, as well as all of the first responders, the Anaheim medical staff and the team at the UCI Medical Center for their quick actions on Feb. 11. Our family has felt the support of the entire National Hockey League family and the city of St. Louis during this time. We have all been greatly comforted by your genuine concern. On Sunday evening, I returned to St. Louis and I am on the road to recovery. My wife and daughters are forever grateful for everyone’s support and we will continue to have a positive outlook for our future."
Players and coaches were able to go visit the 17-year veteran on Monday as well and his visit to the rink Tuesday also provided comfort.
"He's obviously an incredible guy that's been around forever, played so many games, international, everywhere," O'Reilly said. "Guys know him and guys love him. It was really actually nice today, we got to see him, which was awesome. Last time I saw him wasn't very good. To be able to see him around here and see him as himself, he's a special guy, a guy that's the heart and soul of this team. It's been very weird not having him around. I think it's hurt us quite a bit. He's just a very well-respected guy. He's a guy that treats everyone so well and it's great to see him."
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The Blues bolstered their depth and experience on defense when they acquired 29-year-old Marco Scandella from the Montreal Canadiens for a 2020 second-round pick and a conditional 2021 fourth-round pick that goes to Montreal if a) the Blues resign Scandella by Oct. 7, 2020, or b) the Blues win two playoff rounds this year and Scandella plays in half of those games.
The Blues made the move in light of losing Bouwmeester, who was placed on long-term injured-reserve Tuesday afternoon.
Scandella is a left-handed shot who is in the final year of a five-year, $20 million contract signed with the Minnesota Wild. He carries a $4 million cap hit and the Canadiens are retaining 50 percent of Scandella's salary/cap hit the remainder of the season.
With Bouwmeester going on LTIR, they save his $3.25 million cap hit and save $1.25 million with the trade-off by bringing Scandella in.
Scandella, who the Blues know well from his playing days in Minnesota, has played in 51 games between the Canadiens (20) and Buffalo Sabres (31) this season, totaling 12 points (four goals, eight assists) and a plus-10 rating.
Scandella, who was originally traded by the Sabres to the Canadiens on Jan. 2 for a 2020 fourth-round pick, is 6-foot-3 and 208-pounds. He blocks shots well, is solid on the penalty kill, which the Blues need and is good on zone exits with the puck.
Scandella was originally drafted by Minnesota in the second round of the 2008 draft. In 10 seasons, Scandella has played in 569 regular-season games and has 136 points (42 goals, 94 assists). He has also played in 39 career postseason games, recording nine points (six goals, three assists).
The Blues assigned Niko Mikkola to San Antonio of the American Hockey League in a corresponding move.
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong likely would not have been looking for defensive help if Bouwmeester didn't go down, but judging on the smaller sample size of depth comparing the Blues from last year to this year, the experience factor was obviously something Armstrong couldn't pass on.
"This was obviously done in response to Jay Bouwmeester's incident last week," Armstrong said. "Jay's been placed on long-term injury and he and I have had a conversation. I met with him yesterday when he got back from California. We had a good conversation. I told him there's no timeline to talk publicly. He's going to take the week. He and I are going to talk on the weekend, early next week. I expect him to come and make a public statement the next 7-10 days about where he's at right now. There's no retirement announcement from me on Jay today. It's premature to talk like that. I want Jay to get comfortable, certainly with his family and his new normal as far as that goes.
"We view [Scandella] to be the type of player we lost. 'Bouw' was a rangy player, had a great stick, killed plays down low, simple first-pass player. Marco's a good skater. I don't think he's an elite skater like 'Bouw' was in his prime or still was effective, but he has a powerful shot. We think that right now with our players on the right side, whether he plays with Alex [Pietrangelo] or [Justin] Faulk or [Colton] Parayko, I told him, 'You're drawing a good cart regardless of who you get to play with there,' and he was excited about that. I just think that the way Craig and Mike [Van Ryn] have our team playing, having those big, rangy, difficult players to play against fits into what we're doing."
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The Blues projected lineup:
Jaden Schwartz-Ryan O'Reilly-Brayden Schenn
Zach Sanford-Robert Thomas-David Perron
Alexander Steen-Tyler Bozak-Jordan Kyrou
Sammy Blais-Oskar Sundqvist-Ivan Barbashev
Carl Gunnarsson-Alex Pietrangelo
Justin Faulk-Colton Parayko
Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo
Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Jake Allen will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Jacob de la Rose, Mackenzie MacEachern and Marco Scandella. Vladimir Tarasenko (shoulder) and Jay Bouwmeester (cardiac episode) are out.
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The Devils projected lineup:
Jack Hughes-Nico Hischier-Kyle Palmieri
Miles Wood-Travis Zajac-Nikita Gusev
Wayne Simmonds-Pavel Zacha-Nicholas Merkley
Joey Anderson-Kevin Rooney-John Hayden
Mirco Mueller-P.K. Subban
Will Butcher-Damon Severson
Colton White-Connor Carrick
Louis Domingue will start in goal; Mackenzie Blackwood will be the backup.
The healthy scratch will be Jesper Bratt. Sami Vatanen (lower body) is out.