Saturday, February 29, 2020

(2-29-20) Stars-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Going for their seventh win in a row, the Blues (38-17-10) will have a few changes for their lineup today at 7 p.m. (FS-MW, ESPN 101.1-FM) in the fifth and final regular-season matchup against the Dallas Stars (37-21-6).

Forwards Jacob de la Rose and Sammy Blais and goalie Jake Allen are in, forward Jordan Kyrou is out and defenseman Robert Boetuzzo is out when the Blues play the Stars for the third time this month.

De la Rose, a healthy scratch the past nine games and 11 of the past 12 games, goes in for Kyrou, who is out due to illness.

"Everybody wants to play every game," de la Rose said. "It's the same for me. We're competitive guys that want to be out there every night, so obviously I'm excited to have a good game.

"We have a really good team here so it's tight to get into the lineup. I've got to keep my head up and stay positive and wait for my chance and when I get it, I've got to take it."

Blues coach Craig Berube said it's time to get de la Rose, whose last game was Feb. 8 in a 3-2 loss to the Stars here, into a game.

"I want to get everybody playing here," Berube said. "I don’t want anybody sitting out too long and I’ve probably let him sit out too long. So we throw him in there tonight. Big body guy. He’s a physical guy. And smart player."

And the Blues will incorporate de la Rose, who has nine points (two goals, seven assists) in 48 games, in on a line with Tyler Bozak and Alexander Steen.

"They're good players," de la Rose said. "It's only good players on this team. Wherever you spot in, you know you have good players around you.

"I think everybody knows how important this game is tonight so it's going to be a physical, heavy game. We all know what's at stake tonight so I think it's going to be a good game."

As for Blais, who was a healthy scratch Thursday in a 3-2 overtime win against the New York Islanders when the Blues played 11 forwards and seven defensemen, it was a chance at a reset and get the bearings to his game back.

"Yeah, I mean, he wants me to be better and I think I can be better too," Blais said of Berube. "He wants me to elevate my game and just be better all-around. I think last game was just a little reset and I'm going to be ready to go tonight.

"Maybe just confidence (was lacking) a little bit, but I missed a lot of time because of my (wrist) injury, but that's not an excuse anymore. I just want to be better and be better for the team. The playoffs are coming soon, so I just want to be ready when it's going to start. I know Chief wants me to be better, so I'm going to do everything to be better."

Berube normally gets his point across to his players when he's looking for more and expects Blais, who has 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 34 games, to boune back.

"I think he’ll have a strong game," Berube said. "He’s going to give you effort. He always gives you effort and he always gives you physicality out there, which is a good thing. He just has to manage his game a little bit better. You know, I think he thinks of the outcome more than just the process a lot of times. I’d like him to just focus on playing and not worrying about ... I think what he does a lot of times is every shift, he wants to score a goal. I get that. I did too. But you've got to focus on just playing the game and doing things right out there. Sometimes I think he gets a little caught up in that."

And Blais understands that. Sitting out a game usually gets one's attention.

"Yeah, it's just another chance for me to show them that I got the message and just going to try to play my game and have fun out there," Blais said. "He just wants me to play my game and play like I can play. He wants me to be better away from the puck and just little details like I've always talked about. We've talked a lot and I know what he wants from me and I'm going to try and do it tonight."

Allen gets the start, his second in nine days and both against the Stars. 

He was in goal during a 5-1 win in Dallas a week ago Friday, making 18 saves and coming within 3 minutes 33 seconds of a shutout.

It's a chance with a bit of a break in the schedule to get Jordan Binnington some rest.

After tonight, which will be their 10th game in 17 days, the Blues will play just once over the next five days (Tuesday at the New York Rangers).

"The schedule’s mapped out before that really," Berube said. "It’s just about Jake’s been good and we've got to get him in games. And Binner’s played a lot of games. So, we need both guys.

"A little bit of rest (for Binnington too), yeah."

Allen is 10-5-0 with a 2.10 goals-against average and .922 save percentage with three shutouts in 16 games against the Stars.

He'll be opposed by Anton Khudobin, who is 3-0-1 with a 2.13 GAA and .924 save percentage in his career against the Blues.

- - -

It was another practice day for Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko, who continues to gear towards a return to the lineup in the not-too-distant future.

Tarasenko has been skating regularly with the team the past few weeks, but with the break in the schedule and the Blues' ability to finally get some real practice time in, this will be the truest of tests for Tarasenko when he starts getting some physical contact on his dislocated left shoulder.

"He’s working through it," Berube said. "The skating, that’s the conditioning part that takes time. We’re going to get some physicality on him next week, hopefully. And hopefully he feels good through that and that’ll help out a lot and that’ll make him feel more confident, too. But his skating’s coming. I think it’s just going to take some time. But it’s coming."

- - -

The Blues enter play tonight with a six-point lead on the Stars in the standings, and three on the Colorado Avalanche, who play at Nashville tonight.

A win by the Blues all but assures the Stars won't catch them. A loss, and it's anybody's game.

"It’s always a hard game. It’s tight hockey I think," Berube said. "They’re a good defensive team, great goaltending. They play a hard style game, it’s always physical, so we've got to make sure we match their physicality. We've got to make sure we got a good forecheck game going tonight. It’s important to pound that defense tonight. You know, [John] Klingberg and [Miro] Heiskanen, we've got to take the body on those guys. They’re great players that can carry the puck up the ice and make things happen. So that’s going to be a big part of the game for us tonight, is our forecheck and getting in there, controlling the play in the offensive zone as much as we can."

And Stars coach Rick Bowness expects just that type of game.

"I think they're a tough matchup for any team in this league," Bowness said of the Blues. "That's why they're the Stanley Cup champs. They're very well coached, they play a very hard-nosed game. We know the type of game they want to play, it's a forechecking game. They want to spend as much time as they can in our zone and they want to get the puck out as quick as they can in their zone. It's not complicated. It's very simple, but a very, very effective and hard game to play against and that's why they are where the are. They're a very good hockey club over there. Craig and his staff have done a great job with them and regardless of who they play against, it's a tough game. We know that going into the game. We know what they're going to do and we know what we have to do to counter it. 

"We came in here a couple weeks ago and that's how we want to play against them. Last week's game, you throw that out the window. The game we played in here two weeks is more the style of play that we want to play against them."

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Jaden Schwartz-Ryan O'Reilly-Brayden Schenn

Zach Sanford-Robert Thomas-David Perron

Jacob de la Rose-Tyler Bozak-Alexander Steen 

Ivan Barbashev-Oskar Sundqvist-Sammy Blais

Carl Gunnarsson-Alex Pietrangelo

Marco Scandella-Colton Parayko

Vince Dunn-Justin Faulk

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

Healthy scratches include Robert Bortuzzo, Mackenzie MacEachern and Troy Brouwer. Vladimir Tarasenko (shoulder), Jay Bouwmeester (cardiac episode) and Jordan Kyrou (illness) are out.

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The Stars' projected lineup:

Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin-Corey Perry

Roope Hintz-Jason Dickinson-Denis Gurianov

Andrew Cogliano-Radek Faksa-Blake Comeau

Mattias Janmark-Joe Pavelski-Alexander Radulov

Esa Lindell-John Klingberg

Jamie Oleksiak-Miro Heiskanen

Andrej Sekera-Roman Polak

Anton Khudobin will start in goal; Ben Bishop will be the backup.

The healthy scratch is Taylor Fedun. Stephen Johns (upper body) and Justin Dowling (lower body) are out.

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