Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Pietrangelo pulling triple duty at home during pandemic

Blues captain has spent better part of past three weeks raising 
triplet kids with wife; was on video call Tuesday with Toews, Josi

ST. LOUIS -- Players have been quarantined now for nearly three weeks since the NHL shut its doors on March 12, but don't think for one moment that means that Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo has been lounging around in town.

"It's a little loud over here, three kids, two dogs, wife," Pietrangelo said via a conference video call Tuesday along with Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and Nashville Predators captain Roman Josi that was set up by the league . "Trying to stay in as much as we can. We've got to be careful, we've got the kids. I'll tell you what, the kids can do some damage in the house in a two-week span if we keep them inside too long."
Alex Pietrangelo

The league said on Tuesday that the self-isolation period has been extended to April 15, a move that was first set to March 27, then to April 4, to now the middle of April as the globe deals with the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic.

So it gives players more time to get in as much down time as they can, work out on their own, or in the 30-year-old Pietrangelo's case, chase down the triple terrors of Evelyn, Oliver and Theodore.

"I was laughing last night because I said there's not enough time in the day," Pietrangelo said. "I'm not even working right now and I can't find enough time to do something by myself. This is the exact same thing, we wake up, eat breakfast, I have my morning coffee, so does my wife. Today, we watched The Good Dinosaur, went upstairs, played a bit. I can hear them running upstairs right now. They're screaming because they want to go outside, so they're going to go outside, then take a nap. Do the same thing in the afternoon, wake up and do it all over again tomorrow.

"I've got a gym at home, so it's not too bad for me, but they take a two-and-a-half hour nap in the afternoon, so that's fine and I get the opportunity to do it. I think the hardest part for me is the unknown of when we're actually going to start, so you're trying to train as if you're going to play, but nobody really knows what's going to happen so you're not trying to overdo it but you're trying to take a break. I think the other guys will agree, it's more just the timeline just so we can kind of figure out what's going tp happen here, whether it's play or not, just so at least we have some sort of guidance."

When there's the opportunity to get some down time while the kids are asleep, Pietrangelo said, "I spend my hour cleaning. Last night, I cleaned and my wife was watching Harry Potter. That pretty much sums things up around here, and then cartoons. That's literally all we have on our TV. I only need like three channels.

"We're big [Chris] Stapleton and (The) Lumineers fans. We don't mind putting that on during the day for the kids. That's pretty much what we've got going on. Books, it seems like I'm like the other guys. Buy them but I don't read them."

Pietrangelo, who is in a contract year and is having arguably his best season as a pro with 52 points (16 goals, 36 assists) in 70 games, said most of the Blues, aside from maybe five or six players, all have remained in St. Louis waiting to see what will happen and when it will happen. That includes defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who Pietrangelo said continues to progress well since he suffered a cardiac episode Feb. 11 during the first period against the Anaheim Ducks in California.

"Bouw's good. He's still here," Pietrangelo said. "His plan was to be here no matter what. I think once he got some clearance from the doctors, and his kids are in school here too, I think once he wraps all that up, he'll try and get home (outside of Edmonton, Alberta) once the doctors feel comfortable. We all kind of live in the same area here, so guys are stopping by seeing how he's doing. He's out and about walking and we'd see him. 

"He was down at the rink pretty much every day we were at home and when we were playing. That was kind of a breath of fresh air for us knowing that he's out and about hanging out with the guys. I'm sure he needed a break to get out of the house. He's got three kids too. He probably drops them off at school and he needs a change of pace, but he's good. Probably a bit of a lifestyle change for him. Other than that, he's hanging in there."

Pietrangelo has pretty much been quarantined with his kids and wife Jayne, but should be have to be with a teammate for an extended period of time, which one would he choose and which one would avoid?

Well ... 

"Most, probably [Colton] Parayko because he's that guy on your team that's too nice and he wants to do everything for everybody," Pietrangelo said. "He'll probably bring me breakfast in bed and do all the chores. I wouldn't have to do a single thing.

"I have to pick this one carefully. I hope David Perron's watching because he's the loudest guy in the room I've met my entire life. Sometimes you just need a break from him."

Sitting around and having a nice, cordial conversation like this trio did is one thing, something these players are not used to this time of year, so that itch to get back to the rink and competing against one another is what's really missed here.

"Well 'Jos,' it seems like he always scores against us," Pietrangelo said. "I'll take that one away. And Johnny's just a pain in the ass to play against. I've battled a lot with these two guys, more so Johnny because he's a forward. We've had a lot of battles and he's a pain, but you know what, I'd kind of welcome those battles. I think right now we miss those battles. I don't know about you guys, but we can probably use a few of those battles against each other."

Toews added, "I'd say the same thing. I'm up against these two guys most of the time. They're not just great d-men in their own end, but they'll make you have to worry about them in your own end as well. I remember being on the same team as Petro in Toronto for the World Cup and having to stand in front of the net one time and he's letting one rip and I thought it was aimed right at my chin but somehow whistled it right by my shoulder top shelf so I was glad to be on that side of things for once. Like Alex said, there's some great battles in the corners and all over the ice, but I think we've had some great playoff series against each other over the years too where there's been some hatred. That's what the game's all about. At this point, the fans are missing it, we're missing it and obviously we want life to go back to what we're used to."

And Josi said, "Like Petro said, obviously I see a lot more of Johnny as a forward but chasing him around in our zone for I don't know how long and can't take the puck away from him. Just him around then net, it's not fun as a defenseman. You can't really get the puck off him. We had some really good battles against Chicago, some really good playoff series. We all miss it and Petro and obviously St. Louis, it's always a grind. Our games are always a huge grind, but he's just such a presence on the ice. I kind of like to skate the puck up the ice, but skating towards Petro, I just get it deep or shoot on net. It's not really worth it. It's always a great battle against those two guys."

The Blues, who are 42-19-10 with 94 points and in first place in the Western Conference at the time of the stoppage, can only sit and wait like the rest of the league when/if the 2019-20 season can resume with the remainder of the regular season, go straight into the Stanley Cup Playoffs or see it halted altogether.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Alex Pietrangelo (left) gets congratulated after scoring against Anaheim in
the Blues' last game on March 11. 

Being defending Stanley Cup champions and giving themselves a terrific opportunity to perhaps repeat would be the tip of the iceberg as far as frustration for the Blues. 

"I think we had some momentum too. It's frustrating," Pietrangelo said. "I don't think any of us are really thinking about ... we're just more worried about ourselves and taking care of our loved ones. I think at the time, it's frustrating, but we're all optimistic that maybe we'll have a chance to play again this year, so maybe we'll have the opportunity. The good thing about the break, if we get one and get back, I'm sure 'Johnny' and 'Jos' are saying the same thing is this time of the year, everybody's banged up. You go through a lot during the year. It could be maybe an opportunity for us to rest up and I'm sure these guys are saying the same thing. If we do get back, it'll be one helluva playoffs."

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Jordan Binnington chats with NHL Network's Kevin Weekes

Blues goalie laying low in St. Louis while NHL is shut down due to 
coronavirus outbreak talks about everything from rise to NHL to Curtis Joseph

ST. LOUIS -- Jordan Binnington is riding out the coronavirus in St. Louis.

The Blues goalie is bunkered down in his home here patiently waiting out the COVID-19 outbreak like the rest of his teammates, the NHL and the world population. And in a world where today's life has drastically changed and challenged people in ways nobody expected, Binnington took some time and talk to former NHL goalie and NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes in a Periscope hit on Wednesday evening.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Jordan Binnington honors one of his idols, former Blues goalie
Curtis Joseph, with retro gear and mask vs. the Islanders on Feb. 27.

Binnington, who helped the Blues win their first Stanley Cup last season and had the Blues positioned well to defend it in first place in the Western Conference when the NHL temporarily shut down the regular season amid growing concerns of the coronavirus, talks about what he's been up to t his past week, his story from the bottom and reaching the pinnacle of every hockey player's goals and aspirations, his first NHL start in Philadelphia (a 3-0 shutout win Jan. 7, 2019), winning the Cup, off-season training and one of his idols: former Blues goalie Curtis Joseph:

How are you doing, what's the latest, how are you feeling, take us inside what your day-to-day routine's been; crazy for all of us across the world and not only here in the NHL family; how are you holding up, how's the family doing:
-- I've kind of just been hanging around. I got a nice setup here in St. Louis. I'm comfortable. We hit Whole Foods the other day, so I'm pretty stocked up. It's pretty crazy out there seeing how the world's reacting, but it's an interesting time for everyone. It's how you handle it, right? You've got to find the light in the darkness and I think hopefully coming out of this we'll be stronger as people. You can learn a lot through it also. That's what I'm trying to do. I'm just hanging out, listening to some music and my roommate got here a couple days ago. We've just kind of been hanging out and entertaining ourselves. 

How is the family? Everybody safe? Everybody good?
-- Yeah, I have some family in Florida and they're going to make their way back to Toronto. They're going to fly back. My dad is going to drive back. I think everyone's doing OK right now, which is very important and nice to hear and hopefully they just get home safe. Just take their down time and go from there.

Hockey fans that don't know your story, take us through playing in junior to pro and what that was like when you first started in junior and made it to the AHL and go from there:
-- It's interesting, and I've kind of been taking this time to do some self-reflecting and kind of looking back and writing down things I remember from those early years because it's kind of cloudy a little bit to think back on that. I spent some time in Owen Sound. It was incredible, a lot of experience, lots of life experience and growing as a teenager into my early 20s. We won a championship there and it was their first championship. It was just so cool to be a part of that and just being able to feel the energy of the city and the surrounding cities that supported the team for so long. Just growing with young guys was so fun in junior hockey. It was a blast. You don't really know what's going on. Just go to the rink and play hockey. Everything's taken care of for you. You go to school. The OHL has done a really good job of setting that up. They make you feel comfortable and then take that into pro, I just jumped right into it. I ended up in the first training camp and then going down to the East Coast League in Kalamazoo, Michigan. First time, I went by myself, no dishwasher, no laundry mat there. It was a pretty wild scene. I just kind of figured it out. My meals weren't too extravagant. Everyone's kind of in the same boat and I think the East Coast was such an important time for me because there's some talented players down there and it kind of made me wonder why and how people ended up there and towards the end of their career and still you're working towards your goal, which is awesome. Kalamazoo I think specifically was great for me. We had a good coaching staff and I had a good veteran goalie partner in Joel Martin. It was really cool to be playing with him and learning from him. I had a good time in the East Coast League and kind of worked my way up from there, right?

What was transition like from going from Kalamazoo to the American League?
-- It was different, right? The AHL is almost a little more selfish because you're almost there and you want to do what you have to do to make it to the next level and I was like the team, wherever you are, you kind of enjoy the environment with your team and you do what you can to win the games, but I think at that level, you've got to also look out for yourself and do what you need to do to get to that next level. It's almost being a little selfish. You hear pro athletes, and for a guy like Michael Jordan, he said, 'You have to be selfish to get to where you want to be and the people who matter will be there at the end, right?' You use philosophies like that and you learn. The first couple years, I was just competing and doing my best. We had some fun groups in Chicago, I'll tell you that. I was with the Chicago Wolves for three years and it's a well-run organization. They're very family-oriented with similar staff, so that was an experience too. You take the positives from every situation and find stuff that works for you. That's kind of where I lost myself a little bit, but we came out on top and we're stronger for it. I'm very thankful for every step of the way. That's kind of how Chicago went.

A lot of people don't realize you played for Berube before, right (in Chicago)?
-- Yeah, Chief was the one who kind of took me out of the net actually. 

Tell this story:
-- I was playing and I was told I was the guy and I felt some heat from the outside coming in and putting some pressure on me and I feel like I didn't prepare myself the best I can to be in that situation and to have that opportunity. It took its course and I really wasn't. I was healthy-scratched for about eight games in a row. I just decided I needed to blow things up and just start over and just get back to work and just to feel refreshed and rejuvenated mentally, so I took that trip to Vegas quick and I blew off a lot of steam and then came back and just got right to work. It was about three-quarters of the way through the season I would say, and they ended up trading one of the goalies and I ended up backing up for most of the rest of the season, but I think I didn't lose the final 12 (games) in regulation or something like that, so I was on a god path right off the bat, but I was still losing in extra time, which was frustrating for me too. I took that into consideration and got back into the gym that summer to continue working and building. I had some good care in Toronto with that obviously with a good goalie coach and good strength coach who just really taught me to believe in myself and do what's good for my body and what I need to do to feel good and really build my mental toughness. So from there, it kind of just snowball-effected and I kind of got into the feeling of just being accomplished and proving people wrong and just having that attitude to care. It was really fun for me. It was fun using that hate energy into positive energy for me and I just built off that. It was real fun for me and now I'm at a good point. I don't have to be so angry all the time. You channel it in certain ways and you find what's next. You want to keep building and you want to stay relentless. You want to be successful and you want to be there for your teammates and be a good man for your family. That's kind of where you're at. There's always things to work on and I just try to improve as much as I can as best I can in all categories.

Take us inside your mentality in that first NHL start in Philly; what are you saying to yourself, what are you affirming to yourself mentally prior to the game and during that game:
-- I felt good, man. I felt like I was prepared and I was just, you know, go for it and see what happens was kind of the philosophy. Nothing changed. It was the same game I built in the minors leading into that moment. Just do your best and play hard. You;ve done everything you could and feel good about that. I think if you do that in every aspect of life, you kind of feel prepared and it turns into confidence. I say it all the time, but I think it's real, I think it adds up. If you feel good with where you're at and you just get into kind of a mindset to be confident and just get yourself into that  world of you really don't know how to explain it, it's pretty special and that's kind of what I did. I got myself a nice Uber XL Black by myself. (Weekes interrupts with 'no way, are you serious')? ... Yeah, I balled out and I was like listening to the Rocky Balboa theme song on the way to the rink. I like doing stuff for the heck of it just to kind of laugh about it later and coming out on top was good. Obviously a smooth debut and it was a great feeling when the buzzer was going down and being a part of that team, you could feel everyone was genuinely excited. We had a very fun group last year and the boys were outstanding. We competed from half way through the season you could say probably til the end. Everyone worked together and picked each other up. All that work you put in is really worth it. I hope to carry that into all aspects of my life and I hope I can kind of influence people who are unsure with where they're at to just push and push themselves and you have more energy than you think. Just use your time wisely and find out what kind of matters to you, right?

Take us inside your mindset and wanting to be there for the boys. Why has team-first been so important to you on every team you've played on, especially the Blues and your run to winning the Cup:
-- When you ask that, my mind goes to I love people. People are interesting and everyone has their kind of different way of living, and especially hockey. People are from so many different areas. Tying all those things from what you're used to as one to becoming a team and working for one goal, I think it's important that the group really gets together and enjoys the company and is understanding and appreciative of each individual. For me, I think it's just so fun experiencing things in a group and also don't get me wrong, you have to look after yourself to put yourself in position to be able to compete within an environment like the Blues have. I don't know, it's the goalie's job. Goalie is kind of a crazy position. ... It's an interesting position and it's a simple job at the same time. All you've got to do is stop the puck. You have to put your mind in the right spot to be in the best position to do that, right? In turn, the boys will respect you and go off that. I enjoy meeting new people and working together.

Question from fan: what have you been doing since NHL has been shut down?
-- I think I looked at it as an opportunity to kind of rest the mind and the body a little bit. It's been a lot to our last year, few years actually. The first couple days, I just let my body do whatever it wanted and relaxed or sleep in, which I haven't been able to do in a long time. It was interesting to see how your body reacts to a situation like this when you're not every second day gearing up to the highest you can be. I've taken this time to reflect and see where I'm at, see where your head's at. At the same time, just hang out and be patient because you're not sure when it's going to come back. Hopefully it's soon because I realize you definitely miss it and you work so hard the whole season to build up for this time of year really. It's unfortunate. I bet you coaching staff's are really upset. They've put so much time and effort into it. It's tough, but in saying that, there's more to life and there's a worldwide thing going on. I think it's important that everyone kind of does their part and looks out for each other. You learn from the experience the best you can. It's kind of a nice little break in life if you look at it in a way, if you're stable and if you're in the right position to do that, but a lot of people are busy. It kind of gives you an opportunity to slow down and just reflect on where you're at, like clean out your basement or spend more time with your family, hang out with your girl or your wife or whatever. I've kind of been hanging out listening to music. I've been moving the body a little bit. I've been playing some video games, just testing out all the areas. It's given me some time to read some books a little bit. 

On reading the book Relentless by Tim Grover:
-- Yeah, I actually am reading it right now. I'm about half way through. A good mentor passed that on to me and said it kind of can hit you in a good spot and it's good timing, so I've really kind of taken that into consideration. That's my favorite thing about books. I never really buy them. It seems when I'm down with a book, someone will ship me a new book to read. It's cool to see what other people think I'd be interested in reading. I'm reading that book and the Jay Z book, this book about Jay Z's kind of come up right now, but that Relentless book, yeah, I've never talked to him, but it seems like a mentally strong person obviously training those guys too, right?

What were you thinking when you got all the way to the Stanley Cup Final? It comes down to Game 7. What are you affirming to yourself prior to Game 7; what were you saying to yourself:
-- Finish the job. We came this far. It's a great ending to the story. Just finish the job.

What did it feel like to finally exhale and have that party in the locker room, winning in Beantown:
-- It was a lot of fun. It was just madness. It's such a mental battle staying in tune for that long. It's a long time to stay on top of yourself and being able to just let it all go and seeing the people around you, how excited they are and what every individual put into it from staff to coaching staff, owners just put into it, it was a lot of fun to kind of do whatever we wanted. It was just kind of a free-for-all really. It's kind of what you dream for. 

Matt Nichol (strength and conditioning coach in Toronto) and Andy Chiodo (associate goalie coach for Penguins), part of your off-season team; what did they map out for you in terms of workouts in short off-season:
-- As much fun as it was to win and appreciate the moment, at the same time, you kind of move onto what's next. You want to keep building and using this energy while you can. Just planning and working, and I think it was important to take care of your body right after the season, so I got in there and saw some good people for recovery and we kind of sat down and planned out, and even with the Blues goalie coach (David Alexander) here too. He was aware of everything and just talking to (Chiodo) and Matty Nichol having a good plan for me and really taking the time with me. Every day at the beginning, he was like, 'If you wake up and some of these days and you are not feeling it, just text me.' Obviously you can't be doing that very much, but it's understandable for putting all that work in, and he's such an understandable guy and he really listens to you. I was in good hands. We really grew together. They've been a good part of my life for the last couple years and it's really been helpful for me. It's fun just kind of setting a plan and knowing what you're doing and continuing to grow in my eyes. It's kind of the outlook for me.

Another fan question: how does it feel to be the biggest beauty in the NHL:
-- I try to be myself and keep it real. At the same time, it's like our team, we know when it's time to get to work and play together. But I just like to be real, I guess. 

On wearing Curtis Joseph mask/gear setup when wearing retro unis; what Joseph means to you:
-- Being from Toronto, he was the Leafs goalie and I liked how he competed when he played. He was a presence out there. He wasn't crazy-technical. He kind of just battled and made some crazy saves. Being a young kid, young goaltender growing up, it was great for me to be able to watch him every time he played. I got the chance to meet him a couple times when i was younger. He was just a great guy and would take the time with fans. Everything you hear about the guy, he's just down to earth. He keeps it pretty cool. He's definitely an idol of mine and when we bring back the retros, you think about the old Blues goalies. He was a guy that kind of meant something to me a little bit. Throw some love his way. The setup turned out pretty nice. It worked out.

Most sage advice you'd like to pass along to those that want to play at a higher level or whatever else in life it may be:
-- Preparation is confidence. It all adds up and are two things I kind of stick with. It's the movie you create. Use those previous two statements to create your own story and do what you want to do and feel good along the way.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Tired, weary Blues fall to Panthers 2-1

Chance to gain separation atop Western Conference, Central Division 
goes by wayside with mistake-prone game that lacked proper execution

ST. LOUIS -- The passes looked off. Pucks were being uncharacteristically turned over. The forecheck wasn't that persistent, high-pressure game from the Blues. 

Bottom line, the legs looked weary. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues forward Sammy Blais (left) and Florida's Frank Vatrano battle for a
loose puck on Monday at Enterprise Center.

Tired minds make tired mistakes and lack proper execution. 

Such was the case for the Blues in their 2-1 loss to the Florida Panthers on Monday at Enterprise Center on the second of back-to-back games.

The Blues (41-19-10), coming off a 2-0 win at Chicago on Sunday, had that necessary jump early in the game. They were turning the Panthers (35-26-8) over, they were the ones with the early jump, doing the things that make them successful.

It all went awry on a late first-period power play and from that moment on, the game, even though the Blues grabbed the lead, slowly fell from the Blues' grips.

"We had a lot of opportunities to score," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "I thought they did a good job with their sticks tonight blocking shots. They had 23 blocks. Back-to-back games, I didn't think we had a ton of jump. I thought our first period was pretty good. Second period just okay and third period was kind of an even period for me, but you know, we just didn't execute on some plays offensively. It's tough to win only scoring one goal."

That one goal came off the stick of defenseman Colton Parayko, whose bomb from the top of the right circle came off an Alexander Steen screen past goalie Chris Driedger for a 1-0 lead at 11:20 of the second period.

That makes four of the past five goals scored by Blues defensemen the past three games and only one by forwards, and none in the past two games.

"Our forwards definitely could probably get, have to get more opportunities than they're getting," Berube said. "I think, like I said, maybe they're looking to pass too much and not shoot enough. But, you know, we do use our 'D' a lot. They do shoot the puck a lot every game, it's nothing unusual them getting that many shots tonight. But, you know, we do need our forwards to start generating more offense for sure. We have three of our top four scorers tonight not with a shot on net."

The Blues won't make excuses, but they simply looked tired as this game wore on. Coaches and players downplay the effects of playing back-to-back games, but after the Blues exerted a fair amount of energy sweeping a season series from the Blackhawks for the first time in history, and even though the flight home from the Windy City is less than an hour, the Panthers, fighting for their playoff lives, began their push and pushed hard enough to get a power-play goal from Mike Hoffman at 16:12 of the second period, and the eventual game-winner from Brett Connolly at 4:23 of the third.

"I don't know. I personally felt good, but I don't know how the others felt," Parayko said. "Maybe, I don't know if you want to kind of put it on that, but I think just we deviated away from our game a little bit getting the puck in deep, just getting in on the forecheck. That's kind of been our style getting in on their defense, making them turn pucks over, getting pucks toward the net making it hard on their defense. It's hard on d-men when opposing teams get the puck towards the net and you have to kind of turn around and find the forwards. That's our style of play when we're tough to play against."

The Blues got 27 shots on Driedger for the game, but many of them that got through, the Panthers goalie could see. There didn't seem to be enough layers of players at the net on a consistent basis or players not taking the eyes away from the goalie. There were times when the Blues passed up shots or just simply weren't quick enough getting them off, and that goes back to tired, weary bodies. 

"Yeah, I think a little bit of that," Blues center Robert Thomas said of the layers at the net. "We ran three-high a little bit more. We were making plays and kind of allowing us a 3-on-2 up top. We did that a lot a decent amount of times and we had some good looks. So I think it’s more about that and being a little bit more patient with the puck."

Or as Berube said, "Our Grade-A opportunities, I don't think that we executed on them. Like a stick got in there, missed the net, something like that. We waited a little bit too long, a little too cute at times with the puck. I thought we probably could have directed more pucks to the net than we did."

The Blues tried doing that late, but Florida, which did block the 23 shots, sacrificed their bodies and got in shooting lanes with nine blocks in the game's final 4:48.

"Yeah, they’re a desperate team," Thomas said. "They’re fighting to get in the playoffs. And they were getting in all the lanes. I think we've got to do a better job getting it off quickly, getting in front of the net more, getting more tips, kind of boxing their guys out to allow shots to get in."

Jordan Binnington made 32 saves and some of the brilliant variety. He bailed teammates out for careless puck plays, including two separate breakaways following Vince Dunn lost pucks, wasn't buying the theory of losing to a team that is good enough and fighting for the playoffs.

"These are games we can win and we're better than that," Binnington said. "So we're not happy about this one.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Colton Parayko unleashes a slap shot for the only goal in 
a 2-1 loss to the Florida Panthers on Monday night.

"We want to win obviously, and losing to these teams that I think ... we can win these games. They're winnable games. It's the time of year where you can't make excuses and you've got to find ways to win and we didn't do that tonight."

The game was played on Monday, originally scheduled for Tuesday, but was moved up when the NHL dropped the Blues' Feb. 11 suspended game against Anaheim on Wednesday.

The Blues missed out on a chance to go four points ahead of the Colorado Avalanche, who lost at Los Angeles 3-1.

Monday, March 9, 2020

(3-9-20) Panthers-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues did not hold a morning skate on Monday following a 2-0 win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday at United Center.

St. Louis (41-18-10), two points better than the Colorado Avalanche for first place in the Western Conference and Central Division, will look to once again gain ground on the Avalanche, who have a game in hand and who will also play tonight against the Los Angeles Kings. The Blues host the Florida Panthers (34-26-8) at 7 p.m. (FS-MW, ESPN 101.1-FM).

What these last 13 games will do for the Blues is keep them motivated, keep them hungry and keep fighting for home ice advantage, at least in the Western Conference.

"It will for sure," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "We understand where everybody's at in the standings and what's going on. You've got to just keep playing, you've got to keep winning. All these games are important, games are all tough games. We've got Florida tomorrow. It's a big game for Florida. We're going to get a good game out of them. They're rested, waiting there. Every game's tough."

"Yeah, everyone's coming," said Blues goalie Jake Allen, who got his second shutout of the season Sunday (both at Chicago) and moved past Jaroslav Halak for second in franchise history with his 21st shutout. "We felt that way since Jan. 1 really, especially when we had that slip there and teams caught us really close. We realized that we've got to keep our foot on the gas all the way. Colorado's got a helluva team. They're coming for us. We know how important home ice is and the momentum you carry with that. Hopefully we can just play our game and it'll all work out."

Tonight's game was originally scheduled for Tuesday but was moved up a day to accommodate the Blues' makeup game at the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday, a game originally suspended with 7:50 remaining in the first period on Feb. 11 when defenseman Jay Bouwmeester collapsed and experienced a cardiac episode on the Blues' bench.

So instead of a three-game homestand starting tonight and games on Friday against San Jose Friday and Ottawa on Sunday, the Blues play Tuesday's game tonight, fly to Anaheim Tuesday for a Wednesday game, fly home Thursday to play Friday.

It's a big reason why both Allen and Jordan Binnington, who will get the start tonight, need to stay fresh and ready.

"Yeah, it's just managing your body," Allen said. "It's everyone in this locker room. There's not going to be many practices, with few and far between. We might have two or three, before the end of the season, and I think days off are going to be crucial. Just timing and understanding what we need and what we don't need."

The Blues are 9-1-0 the past 10 games but are still finding life tough trying to separate themselves from the Avalanche, who won 4-3 at San Jose Sunday.

"We're not going to sit here and say we don't look at the standings, but at the end of the day, it's just going into games, taking pride in what we do and the results will follow," said Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, who got the scoring started Sunday with a goal in the second period. "We just want to be playing the right type fo hockey going into this last stretch here."

- - -

With the Blues not holding a morning skate, other than Binnington, no other potential lineup changes will be known until Berube speaks at 5:30 p.m.

The coach said Sunday prior to the win at Chicago that defenseman Justin Faulk, who's missed two games with an upper-body injury, could play tonight but wasn't certain of it as of Sunday.

- - -

Blues center Oskar Sundqvist was fined $5,000 by the NHL's Department of Player Safety for roughing on Chicago defenseman Adam Boqvist Sunday.

It occured with 5:01 remaining in the second period when Sundqvist went in for a reverse check on Boqvist, missed initially and with his back turned, a follow through caught Boqvist up high.

Originally, an elbowing major was assessed but after a review was conducted, it was reduced to two minutes for elbowing and two minutes for roughing.

The video shows Sundqvist's end of his stick may have caught Boqvist in the facial area. As of Monday, Boqvist is under concussion protocol.

The money, which is the maximum allowable under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

- - -

With an assist Sunday, Blues center Brayden Schenn has nine points (five goals, four assists) during a seven-game point streak.

With two assists Sunday, Blues forward Jaden Schwartz has five points (two goals, three assists) in a three-game point streak.

Binnington is 6-1-0 with a 1.71 goals-against average, a .929 save percentage and two shutouts his past seven starts.

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Sammy Blais

Zach Sanford-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Alexander Steen-Robert Thomas-Tyler Bozak 

Mackenzie MacEachern-Oskar Sundqvist-Ivan Barbashev

Carl Gunnarsson-Alex Pietrangelo

Marco Scandella-Colton Parayko

Vince Dunn-Justin Faulk

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

Healthy scratches include Robert BortuzzoJordan Kyrou, Jacob de la Rose and Troy Brouwer. Vladimir Tarasenko (shoulder), and Jay Bouwmeester (cardiac episode) are out. 

- - -

The Panthers' projected lineup:

Jonathan Huberdeau-Aleksander Barkov-Frank Vatrano 

Mike Hoffman-Erik Haula-Evgenii Dadonov

Dominic Toninato-Lucas Wallmark-Brett Connolly

Aleksi Saarela-Noel Acciari-Colton Sceviour 

MacKenzie Weegar-Aaron Ekblad

Anton Stralman-Mike Matheson

Keith Yandle-Mark Pysyk 

Chris Driedger will start in goal; Sam Montembeault will be the backup.

The healthy scratch is Josh Brown. Sergei Bobrovsky (lower body), Brian Boyle (upper body), Dryden Hunt (lower body) and Riley Stillman (upper body) are out.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Blues sweep season-series from Blackhawks for first time ever with 2-0 win Sunday

It took 52 seasons, 318 regular-season meetings for St. Louis to finally 
go unblemished against rivals; Allen passes Halak on all-time shutout list

CHICAGO -- Picture it, 318 all-time matchups between the Blues and Chicago Blackhawks, bitter Central Division rivals that goes back to when St. Louis first entered the NHL in 1967.

The Blues have been called by more than a few different people, the little brothers to those of the Windy City, who have the edge in the all-time series.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Jake Allen (34) gets congratulated by teammates Vince Dunn (29) and Tyler
Bozak after a 29-save effort in a 2-0 win at Chicago on Sunday. 

But after blanking the Blackhawks 2-0 on Sunday night at United Center behind Jake Allen's 29-save gem, his second this season (both in this building), the Blues accomplished something never done before in their history: sweeping a season series from the Blackhawks.

"Oh yeah," Blues coach Craig Berube said when told that after the Blues went 4-0-0 against Chicago. "Well, there you go. Good stuff."

Now each team has a season sweep over the other. Chicago's was in thw 1971-72 season when they went 6-0-0. It's been an intense rivalry, one in which the Hawks have got the better of over the years, but in recent memory, the little brother has flexed his muscles, and it's about time.

"It's pretty cool," said Allen, who passed Jaroslav Halak and moved into second place on Blues' all-time shutout list with his 21st. "Obviously they're our biggest rival to date. We play them a lot. They got the best of us there for a while. It's good to get some wins under our belt. The rivalry's still going to go on for a long time. It's going to be fun moving forward."

Kick a man when he's down, right? Well, that's what the Blues have done to Chicago. One could go back in history and pick out a plethora of key moments, but as recent as the 2017-18 season, remember when Duncan Keith scored with eight seconds left in regulation in the third-to-last game of the season in St. Louis, which resulted in a devastating 4-3 loss? Instead of getting a point, which the Blues could have used, they got nothing, and missed out on the playoffs by a point when they lost at Colorado, 5-2, in the final game of the regular season.

Well, this bitter pill swallowed by the Hawks Sunday didn't officially eliminate them from postseason contention, but it surely accelerated the life support system that's desperately trying to keep the Blackhawks in place.

"Especially looking at how many great teams they've had and how much high-end skill and talent they still have right now," said Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, whose goal in the second period at 6:41 proved to be the game-winner. "It's a matchup that we take a lot of pride in. It's been around for a long time. We've done a good job of things this year."

The Blues put on two defensive clinics in the United Center this season and outscored the Blackhawks 6-0 after winning here 4-0 on Dec. 2. At home, it's been a different story. Two wild and wacky games, just what one would expect, including a 1980's style 6-5 Blues win on Feb. 25 that required four third-period goals by the home side. And in a 4-3 win over Chicago on Dec. 14, the Blues erased a 3-0 third-period deficit.

"We were pretty solid defensively tonight," Berube said. "Obviously gave up a few chances off the rush but not many. I thought our guys did a real good job of gapping up on them, not giving them enough time. Our forwards were reloading hard and getting back. We did a good job."

The Blues were scintillating on the penalty kill, especially in the second period when they three of their four on the night.

Chicago, which at the time of the Feb. 25 game, had the worst power-play in the NHL at 14.2 percent. They finished that game 3-for-4.

On Sunday, the Blues' PK was a perfect 4-for-4 with only one shot on goal allowed.

"Yeah, almost like we needed a response, right," said Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, whose third-period goal at 5:27 provided the insurance with his 10th goal on the road and ties Washington's John Carlson for most in the NHL. "We've kind of grabbed it the last couple games here and have been a lot better. Obviously you don't like giving up three like we did against them the last time. Our goal was to limit them as much as we could."

And then there is Allen, who came up with the timely saves when needed and thwarted any potential Chicago momentum. He made one particular save on Patrick Kane in the second period, a kick stop with his left pad off a virtual 3-on-1.

"Originally it was a 3-on-1, so I think he was looking backdoor a little bit," Allen said of Kane. "I could sort of tell by his eyes and stick that he was looking for a little backdoor slip play there. I think when he didn't have it, he tried to go backhand five-hole.

"... I just think tonight was a big game for us, to be honest with you. We felt as a group we weren't at our best. We got away with one in New York. 'Binner' played great, but we needed to get back to our game, and I thought in the third period there the first 15 minutes of that period, we played our game, we dominated. It pretty much changed the tides of the game, didn't really give them any momentum until when they pulled the goalie there."

And that's when Allen iced the cake with some timely stops when Chicago pulled Corey Crawford.

"His game was excellent," Berube said of Allen. "I thought he was solid all game, really packed it in there with pucks, playing pucks, moving it, fighting through screens, things like that and obviously some big saves that he had to make.

"... Timely saves are huge and he made some of them. Just thinking to the second period there late, they had a lot of opportunities and he made some big saves and keeping it 1-0. He was excellent."

Bortuzzo's goal came off a Blues rush towards the net with a forecheck. Brayden Schenn got a loose puck to Bortuzzo and he deftly roofed a shot over Crawford from a severe sharp angle.

"That's like 13-, 14-year-old outdoor rink stuff," Bortuzzo joked. "I've worked that out of my game actually, but sometimes they pop up once in a while. Fortunately got to bury one.

"It's hard to create offense in this league so we preach our D to kind of move around and help guys jump into holes. Our forwards do a helluva job of up-beating guys and off checks. I think Sammy Blais came up and made a good play off his check and had a good chance first. Its an instinct play. You're trying to find ice and puck found me and went in. ... Yeah, I don't know what the geometry was on that one, but I'll take it."

As for Pietrangelo, Schenn made the original play keeping a puck in the zone from Alex Nylander's turnover. The Blues went to work, and Jaden Schwartz's cross-seam pass to Pietrangelo, almost on the same angle as Bortuzzo, and the captain buried it and for all intents and purposes, buried Chicago's season.

"Good pass from Schwartzy," Pietrangelo said. "I think for us, when they're pressing like that and it's 1-0, you know they're trying to get a goal so I knew if I could just make a play to get it past him, I was going to have an open spot. I thought Schwartzy was going to shoot it. I realized he didn't shoot it because I was wide open."

What the Blues (41-18-10) needed more than anything was a good response after a thud in New Jersey Friday, a 4-2 loss that ended their eight-game winning streak.

"Yeah, that was good to see," Berube said. "We were focused yesterday in practice. We weren't happy with losing in Jersey. You're playing the Hawks, it's always going to be a good effort. It's a big rival game obviously. It's a big game for the Hawks too. It was going to be a big game and it was."

"You knew we were going to have a good response," Pietrangelo said. "We obviously weren't happy with the way we played in New York, both games, Rangers and New Jersey. And then a heck of a response here. I think we had a good practice yesterday to kind of get our minds right and lived to see the result of it."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Jake Allen (second from right) makes one of his 29 saves on Chicago's Ryan
Carpenter (22) during a 2-0 Blues win on Sunday at United Center.

They rose the occasion on the big stage too.

"We take a ton of pride in that type of hockey," Bortuzzo said. "Jake's been a rock for us when called upon. He's been great in this building especially. Guys take a lot of pride coming into this building. It's a fun place to play. A chance to play on NBC Sports. It's in Chicago, it's the Madhouse. It's an exciting challenge for us and a lot of high-end skill for us to put up a good effort and to keep them off the scoresheet is impressive."

The Blues have no time to waste. They flew home after the game to get ready for another playoff-type game Monday at home, against the Florida Panthers.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Blues find new AHL home for 2020-21 with Springfield Thunderbirds

Five-year agreement reached with western Massachussets franchise to serve 
as home of prospects after San Antonio Rampage being sold, moved to Nevada

The Blues' American Hockey League dilemma has ended.

The club announced on Friday afternoon they've reached agreement on a five-year contract with the Springfield (Mass.) Thunderbirds.

The Blues are currently affiliated with the San Antonio Rampage, but it was announced Feb. 6 that the Rampage were selling their franchise to the Vegas Golden Knights, who in turn announced they would relocate the franchise to Nevada and leave the Blues, who came into agreement with the Rampage, on a five-year agreement prior to the 2018-19 season.

At the time, it left the Blues scrambling to find a new home beginning with the 2020-21 season, but that has now been resolved.

"We are excited to announce our deal with Springfield and close our search for a new affiliate," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said in a statement.  "Springfield is a strong franchise in a city with a rich hockey history. Our partnership will allow us to continue to develop our players and further strengthen our franchise as a whole."

"We are pleased to announce our affiliation agreement with the St. Louis Blues," Thunderbirds president Nathan Costa said in a statement. "Our two organizations share a commitment to community, fan engagement, and putting a first-rate product on the ice. With this partnership, we believe the future is bright for professional hockey in Springfield."

The Thunderbirds, in existence since the 2016-17 season, have been the affiliate of the Florida Panthers for four seasons, meaning they will be in search of a new partner moving forward.

Once the current season concludes, all Blues players and coaches under contract with them will relocate to reflect the move to Springfield.

The Thunderbirds play their home games at MassMutual Center, a multi-purpose arena and convention center located in downtown Springfield and are owned by and will continue to be owned by a broad-based group of local investors.

"As an ownership group, we felt it was extremely important to enter into a long-term partnership in order to ensure that the Thunderbirds remain an institution in Springfield for years to come," Thunderbirds managing owner Paul Picknelly said in a press release. "We are excited to report that our five-year agreement with the Blues will do exactly that."

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Managing minutes on, off ice prevented prolonged dips in Blues' season, helped them stay on top in West

Defending Stanley Cup champs have played more games than anyone since 
turn of 2019, being able to utilize depth in lineup keeping guys fresh

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. -- The Blues hit the ice for a practice on Monday at the Centene Community Ice Cetnter before jaunting off for a three-game trip through New York, New Jersey and Chicago.

Why is this an eye-catching headline, one might wonder?
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Ryan O'Reilly (90) leads all Blues forwards in minutes played this season 
at 20:40, a year after winning the Stanley Cup.

It's only a practice. Big deal, right? Well, under normal circumstances it would be, but considering the Blues practiced in full -- yes, in full -- for the first time in three weeks, running the gamut of drills and systems work. 

It hasn't been that way it seems like forever. In fact, three weeks does seem like forever, but the Blues, 39-17-10 and winners of seven straight and who hold the slimmest of margins on the equally hot Colorado Avalanche after the Avs won 2-1 at Detroit on Monday to pull within one point of the Blues, have played either every other day and on two occasions, played on back-to-back nights in the past 21 days, 11 games in all which does include the postponed game at Anaheim on Feb. 11 that will be made up March 11 and really hamper next week's schedule (more on that later).

What the Blues are doing is smart, because having played the most amount of games since Jan. 1, 2019 (137 games), load management, as it's called in the circuits, for hockey players doesn't come in the form of games off, it comes in the form of properly managing your days in between games.

That means plenty of rest, properly eating, maintaining an energy level that will continue to drive the bost through a difficult schedule with 16 games remaining in the regular season and vying for the Western Conference top spot before taking a crack at repeating as Stanley Cup champions.

"We've taken necessary days off in between games," said captain Alex Pietrangelo, who leads the Blues in average ice time at 24:08. "Obviously we've got these mandatory days off, but days like today, we practice, but we're short and to the point. We go hard in practice, but we're not overextending ourselves. We know when there's a time to really push and kind of take a break and that comes with Chief understanding having played the game for so long and communicating with me and the other guys maybe who have a better feel of the energy level in the locker room.

"These are all days that we've learned having played so much last year and in the playoffs and having a good routine here finding a way to regroup our energy."

And what the Blues, even on optional skates and morning skates, have done is limited but crisp work. Get on the ice, get the blood flowing, touch the puck, raise the heart rate a bit, rest and go play.

It's a simple strategy, but one that's been effective thus far.

"A lot of it comes from our coaching staff the way they've managed us," said Blues center Ryan O'Reilly, who leads forwards in ice time at 20:40 and has played in each of the Blues' games (174) since he arrived last season. "I think they do a good job of sensing when we kind of need to stay away from the rink or not do video or come in and just get a quick skate and that's it. I think they've really done a good job of that, which helps us stay fresh and not overdo it. It starts with them and they do a great job. For myself, it's an exciting time of year. This is kind of what we've been wanting to get down into. We're getting close to the playoffs, so mentally it's exciting."

Really, aside from a five-game winless streak from Feb. 6-15, the Blues haven't had that dip in their schedule like previous defending Cup champs have. In fact, they've reeled off three streaks of seven wins or more in one season as a defending champ for just the second time in league history (1977-78 Montreal Canadiens) and for the first time in Blues history.

"Oh third. Wow, I didn't know that," Blues forward Zach Sanford said. "We've got a good road trip here, let's keep it going.

"I'm sure you've really noticed, we don't practice that much, which is pretty good I think for us, especially this time of year. We're playing almost every other day. I think that's been huge for a lot of us. At home, you've just got to take care of yourself a little better, eat a little healthier and get your rest when you can and stay ready especially with all the travel and stuff and sickness going around now."

Being a former player himself, Blues coach Craig Berube is in constant communication, not with just his coaching staff and management, but the leaders of the team. They'll go over how the players are feeling, what they want/don't want to do, what they feel they can/can't do, what they feel they should/shouldn't do, and it's all gone hand-in-hand.

"The leaders come to me," Berube said. "They come and talk to me if there's some, 'Hey listen, we need some more rest' or whatever, they'll come and talk to me about it. 

"I think (the energy's been) pretty good. I thought it was good energy out there today. I think that day off yesterday really helped. Guys are feeling good, I thought the energy was good there today. I think overall, the energy's been pretty good. I don't find that when I talk to guys or when I'm watching, our team looks like they're drained. We find a way to muster up some energy when we need it and I think it's been pretty good."

Of the Blues' 137 games games played since the turn to 2019, the Boston Bruins are next closest at 132 games, and that's typically the plight of a defending champion, so the greatest challenge that stares you down is how to properly push and pull back throughout the following grueling 82-game schedule after having already gone through training camp and preseason games three months after the previous season ended.

"Yeah, we have to manage the ice a little bit better, probably early on in the season than most teams," Berube said. "I'd say most teams probably practiced a little more than we did and did different things through the first few months of the season, but this time of year, there's not a lot of practice for anybody. I think most teams, whether they skate on the day of the game or a little bit of ice before, but not a lot of practice going on.

"... I don't think that we overused our players very much this year. I guess there's times where I probably overused Ryan O'Reilly in certain situations where I would have liked not to, but he's an all-situational guy for us with face-offs and penalty kill and stuff, so it's tough. The d-minutes have been spread out and I think the forwards' minutes have been spread out, which is nice."

The Blues have rolled out nearly the same group from last season, minus Joel Edmundson, Pat Maroon and without Vladimir Tarasenko (dislocated left shoulder) throughout all but 10 games this season. It's helped them establish their identity early on and being able to utilize their roster deeply has enabled guys to stay fresh.

Including goalies, the Blues have played 33 different players this season.

"When you keep the same group together, systems are almost second nature to you after a while," Pietrangelo said. "You're not always having to harp on the systems stuff. It's more just the minor details to kind of get your brain firing again, but for the most part, all of us know how to play the game within Chief's systems since we've been here for so long. It makes it a little easier.

"When you have a deep lineup, you can use the people in different situations. Not over-extending guys throughout games and in certain situations, it's nice to have that because come crunch time and in the playoffs when you need certain guys in certain situations, you're going to feel a little more fresh."

One of those fresh, or fresher, faces is defenseman Marco Scandella, who the Blues acquired on Feb. 18 for a pair of draft picks (one conditional) in light of losing defenseman Jay Bouwmeester (cardiac episode) for the rest of the season. Scandella said after getting in his first full practice in nearly the two weeks since he arrived that the Blues are managing them accordingly and with that knowledge, it's no wonder they won it all a season ago. 

"I think it's been managed really great by the coaching staff and the organization," Scandella said. "There's been enough time off where guys are still fresh mentally too. I feel that's the most important part. Sometimes it's not physical, it's the mental side of the of the game. Just an example, day off yesterday, practice today. I just feel like this group's a composed, veteran group that has won, understands what it takes to win, so I think everyone's just kind of gearing into that mode for playoffs.

"This time of year, if you can show in the games that you're ready and you're on from the first minute of the game and be sharp, I feel like practices can be more spaced out. But they are especially important. Sometimes I feel like you've got to work on things, get a good sweat. You work on a lot more after practice sometimes than you do during practice doing little stuff. Those all go a long way and I just feel like it's being managed really well here. I feel like everyone's excited to be at the rink. Like today, a day off (Sunday), boom, guys are excited, happy to see each other, go out there with good energy and that was the product, and we had a great practice."

The Blues will have three sets of consecutive days without a game in March, which is good for the stretch run. They were supposed to have four, but next week's schedule, which was supposed to be a game in Chicago Sunday, home against Florida on Tuesday and San Jose on Friday, not will be Florida moved up a day to Monday and include in a back-to-back with Chicago, fly to Anaheim Tuesday, play the Ducks Wednesday, fly back home Thursday and host San Jose Friday.

It's not an easy situation for anyone, but when you're winning as the Blues are, things could be a lot worse.

"It's tough. I've been in situations that have been a lot worse than what we've been through this year," O'Reilly said. "For me, I think that's helped a lot to see how bad things can be and how tough it is to win in this league and actually be a team that's winning. There's so much confidence that mentally, it is a lot easier. But the toughest thing I think is when we lost 'JayBo' there. I think that kind of took a mental toll on everyone and we lost obviously a huge piece to this team as well. That was a few games where I felt it was really weird and it was tough to comprehend everything that happened. That kind of sticks oit in my mind and still very recent.

"I think last year obviously once we got into this time, then I think we started winning and doing well, but I think in general throughout this year, we've had a lot of days off. Practices have always been short, not overdoing it. I think coming off last year, I think that has been a big factor too. And I think just as a group, we've matured in a sense. We know how to flip the switch and it's time to play hockey. It's time to play our game. That comes with winning, that comes with knowing what it takes and how sharp you have to be. There's a lot of trust from the coaching staff in us to be able to do that and that's a good reason why we're successful."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues players (from left) Colton Parayko, Vince Dunn, Tyler Bozak, Zach
Sanford and Robert Thomas celebrate a goal Saturday against Dallas. 

The Blues will play the New York Rangers, who they defeated 5-2 at Enterprise Center on Jan. 11, tonight, then be off Wednesday before practicing Thursday and facing the New Jersey Devils, who the Blues downed 3-0 Feb. 18 to begin this seven-game winning streak, on Friday. They have ice in Chicago Saturday but with back-to-back games Sunday and Monday, rest will likely be on the menu.

"This next month and next stretch is going to be quite a road trip and then we have another one again," O'Reilly said. "It's just being smart, making sure you're eating well and getting the rest you need."

* NOTES -- Blues defenseman Colton Parayko did not skate due to illness, but Berube said he should be good to go tonight against the Rangers.

Also, forward Jordan Kyrou, who was out of the lineup in Saturday's 4-3 shootout win over Dallas because of illness, was back on the ice and skating regularly. Berube said he would check with the trainers to see how he is but indicated he's getting back on track to regular duty. In the meantime, Jacob de la Rose, who replaced Kyrou Saturday after being a healthy scratch the previous nine games, played well and skated again with Tyler Bozak and Alexander Steen, indicating he will stick in the lineup.

* The Blues signed prospect Tyler Tucker to a three-year, two-way, entry-level contract on Monday.

Tucker, 20, was a seventh-round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. He split this season between the Ontario Hockey League’s Barrie Colts and Flint Firebirds and posted 55 points (17 goals, 38 assists) in 52 games.

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound defenseman was named the OHL's player of the week for Feb. 17-23 when he had 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in four games for the Firebirds.

Tucker has spent the past four seasons in the OHL and has 151 points (35 goals, 116 assists) 241 regular-season games. He will continue to play with Flint for the remainder of their 2019-20 season.