Thursday, February 27, 2020

(2-27-20) Islanders-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues are in search of their sixth straight win when they host the New York Islanders today at 7 p.m. (FS-MW, ESPN 101.1-FM).

But if they do, they'll likely do so with 11 forwards and seven defensemen.

Blues coach Craig Berube said forward Sammy Blais (undisclosed) is a game-time decision but is unlikely to play tonight.

Blais took part in line rushes during the morning skate but was on the ice with Vladimir Tarasenko after the regular lineup was already in the locker room, and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, a healthy scratch three of the past four games, would jump in as the seventh defenseman.

"I might," Berube said of the 11-7 formation, which would be the first time the Blues incorporated it this season. "I like 'Borts' on the penalty kill for sure and just want some physicality in there."

Blais played only 8 minutes 46 seconds against the Chicago Blackhawks on 10 shifts, five in the first, three in the second and just two in the third. He did take a puck off the hand right after the opening face-off Sunday in Minnesota but finished the game.

If there's an underlying injury, nothing has been disclosed.

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The Blues have outscored their opponents 19-7 during their five-game winning streak, but it comes on the heels of a wild 6-5 win against the Blackhawks on Tuesday.

"Not the ideal game the way we want to play, giving up five and giving up leads and giving the other team leads," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said. "Sometimes you've just got to find a way to win. It's a long season. Sometimes things don't necessarily go the way you plan, but good teams find a way to win. 

"You want to be peaking at the right time. Even if you're in first place or you're trying to get into the playoffs, you want to be peaking at the right time. Last year we did that. Even though we're having success right now, we're still trying to build that game that can really help us win another [Stanley] Cup."

The Blues lost 3-2 to the Islanders in overtime way back on Oct. 14, a game in which the Blues blew a 2-0 lead in the final eight minutes.

"We look at recent games more," Berube said of scouting the Islanders, who are 2-0-1 their past three games after losing four in a row. "Not a lot has changed with the way they play. They're a very good defensive team, a structured hockey team. 

"We've got to get on the inside. The past three games we've played them, I think we've had the puck a lot, did a lot of good things, but we ended up losing, not get enough goals. The third period rolled around, we shot ourselves in the foot that last game and didn't play very well in the third." 

Pietrangelo said, "This is a good team. This is a playoff team. They play the right way, they play similar to the way we play. I think it's a really good test for us here, especially this time of the year, especially with the way we're playing. It's a good test playing against good teams to keep us honest."

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Blues general manager Doug Armstrong didn't hide from the notion that they believe Tarasenko, who is regularly skating with the team now, affected the thinking heading into last Monday's trade deadline inactivity.

Tarasenko's salary cap hit, $7.5 million, would all but occupy what the Blues have available, but can't overlook the idea that perhaps management is pleased with the growth and development of young players like Zach Sanford, who had two goals and an assist -- including the game-winner -- Tuesday against the Blackhawks and recently had five goals in two games; Robert Thomas, who has five points (one goal, four assists) his past three games and Jordan Kyrou, who has three points (two goals, one assist) his past three games.

"I'm not in those rooms and hearing what they say," said Sanford, who has 15 goals on the season, fourth on the team. "Our younger guys have really been doing a good job lately of stepping up and contributing a lot more than we have earlier in the year or even last year. It could have helped (sway management's decision), it could have not, I don't know. I think this is such a tight group. I think the friendships we have here and how tight we are, how much we rely on each other, I think that plays a big part in it."

"Every game I feel like I get more comfortable and I gain more confidence," Kyrou said. "That just comes with competing hard and playing my game."

The production the young guys, including Blais, Ivan Barbashev and Oskar Sundqvist, all guys 25 and younger, continues to elevate and they're getting more prominent roles.

"In the summer you're building your lineup expecting these young guys to come in and contribute and they've done that," Pietrangelo said. "I don't think we're going to make a trade just to make a trade. We're going to do something that's going to make us better. I guess they didn't feel like there was anything coming in that was better than what we have the way they were playing. It would be tough to find somebody, especially with the chemistry that we have. It's not easy to take away from that because sometimes that chemistry is making all that work."

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Islanders coach Barry Trotz knows his Blues well, having coached against a number of these players during his days in the Central Division with the Nashville Predators and always offers up positive thoughts when facing St. Louis.

"A real good hockey team. Stanley Cup champions," he said. "Very hard to play against. Four lines that'll grind you. They play the right way. They're physical. They're back is exceptional. Especially the right side with Pietrangelo, [Justin] Faulk, [Colton] Parayko. They all have missiles from the back end. They join the play really well. Real strong faceoff team (with) [Ryan] O'Reilly, [Brayden] Schenn, [Tyler] Bozak."

The Islanders have lost four in a row on the road and have been outscored 11-2.

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* Forward Jaden Schwartz comes into tonight on a three-game point streak (one goal, four assists). 

* Blues goalie Jordan Binnington, who will start tonight, is 4-0-0 with a 1.51 goals-against average, a .936 save percentage and two shutouts his past four starts.

* For the second time this season, the Blues will be wearing their retro throwback jerseys from the 1990's. It's the second of three times they'll be wearing them, with one remaining game March 31 against the Detroit Red Wings. They wore them for the first time Nov. 21, a 5-0 win against the Calgary Flames.

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The Blues' projected lineup:

Jaden Schwartz-Ryan O'Reilly-Brayden Schenn

Zach Sanford-Robert Thomas-David Perron

Alexander Steen-Oskar Sundqvist-Jordan Kyrou

Ivan Barbashev-Tyler Bozak

Carl Gunnarsson-Alex Pietrangelo

Marco Scandella-Colton Parayko

Vince Dunn-Justin Faulk

Robert Bortuzzo

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

Healthy scratches include Jacob de la Rose, Mackenzie MacEachern and Troy Brouwer. Vladimir Tarasenko (shoulder) and Jay Bouwmeester (cardiac episode) are out, and Sammy Blais (undisclosed) is likely out.

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The Islanders' projected lineup:

Anders Lee-Mathew Barzal-Jordan Eberle

Anthony Beauvillier-Brock Nelson-Derick Brassard

Michael Dal Colle-Jean-Gabriel Pageau-Josh Bailey

Ross Johnston-Otto Koivula-Leo Komarov

Nick Leddy-Ryan Pulock

Devon Toews-Scott Mayfield

Noah Dobson-Johnny Boychuk

Thomas Greiss will start in goal; Semyon Varlamov will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Matt Martin, Tom Kuhnhackl and Andrew Ladd. Andy Greene (undisclosed), Cal Clutterbuck (wrist), Casey Cizikas (leg) and Adam Pelech (Achilles) are out.

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