Saturday, July 25, 2020

Blues wrap up camp portion in St. Louis, leave for Edmonton Sunday

Team feels ready, accomplished a lot in two weeks here; 
31-man roster set for travel; Steen practices, Sundqvist does not

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. -- Ready or not, here they come.

After two weeks of training camp as part of the Phase 3 of the NHL Return to Play Plan, the Blues spent their Saturday afternoon and evening with family and loved ones one final time before embarking on a never-before-seen journey that will be the Stanley Cup Playoffs, to be played in two cities (Edmonton hosting the Western Conference and Toronto hosting the Eastern Conference), to determine a Stanley Cup champion in 2020.
The Blues wrapped up training camp 2.0 on Saturday and will leave for
Edmonton Sunday to try and defend their Stanley Cup.

And the Blues, unlike their magical and marathon run last season that culminated with the franchise's first Stanley Cup, will look to repeat as champions in the unlikeliest of ways in a 24-team tournament format that will likely never be done in such a manner again but is being played out as such because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And after wrapping up another intense, yet fun-filled practice that was highlighted by mini games of 3-on-3 hockey, the Blues put in the necessary work here before jetting off to Edmonton on Sunday, getting in another couple practice days before facing the Chicago Blackhawks in an exhibition game Wednesday (5:30 p.m.; FS-MW-Plus, ESPN 101.1-FM) and then beginning the Western Conference Round-Robin against the Colorado Avalanche on Aug. 2 (5:30 p.m.; FS-MW, ESPN 101.1-FM).

"I thought we would have a little competition, but a little fun at the same time today," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "We need to get these guys out of here, get to the families and hang out with them before we leave. That 3-on-3 stuff is good, in zone there, timing, competition, you make quick plays, you've got to think quick. I think it was good to do.

"They're ready to get going, we need some games, right? I think we got some practice time up there in Edmonton too, so we're going to still work on things obviously. We've got to keep getting better, that's the way I look at it. We've got to work yet to do and get to another level."

Once the players get to Edmonton and away from their families, it's bubble life all the time as long as they're alive in the tournament. It could last a couple weeks, it could last a couple months. Regardless, they'll have to be well-prepared.

"There's going to be a lot of obstacles in this," goalie Jake Allen said. "There's going to be a lot of things that aren't the normal for us, but that's the times we're in right now and we have to embrace it. I think our group's really good at that. I got a lot of confidence in this group, a lot of optimism and it's going to be fun going to Edmonton here with them.

"... Things are different outside the arena obviously but when we're inside doing our normal things here at the rink, the mentality seems great and I'm looking forward to see that progress as time goes on. We get to spend a lot of time with other these next couple months. I think that's a good thing because of the way our group is structured, made up. We bond very well, are very tight-knit and I think hanging out at a hotel for a couple months is going to be a good thing for our team."

* NOTES -- Forward Alexander Steen, who missed the past three practices with an unknown ailment, was back on the practice ice Saturday.

"I think it was good that he got out here today and tomorrow he can have off again and be back on the ice Monday, but he felt pretty good so it was a good sign," Berube said.

Forward Oskar Sundqvist, who took a spill in practice Friday and left roughly midway through the practice, was not on the ice Saturday, and neither was defenseman Vince Dunn, who hasn't skated since July 14 and is presumed to have tested positive for COVID-19 and has been in quarantine. Dunn will travel with the team Sunday.

The Blues set their 31-man roster that will travel to Edmonton, and there are no surprises:

Ivan Barbashev, Sammy Blais, Tyler Bozak, Troy Brouwer, Jacob de la Rose, Klim Kostin, Jordan Kyrou, Mackenzie MacEachern, Ryan O'Reilly, David Perron, Austin Poganski, Zach Sanford, Brayden Schenn, Jaden Schwartz, Alexander Steen, Oskar Sundqvist, Vladimir Tarasenko, Robert Thomas

Robert Bortuzzo, Vince Dunn, Justin Faulk, Carl Gunnarsson, Niko Mikkola, Colton Parayko, Alex Pietrangelo, Derrick Pouliot, Marco Scandella, Jake Walman

Jake Allen, Jordan Binnington, Ville Husso

Goalie Joel Hofer and defenseman Tyler Tucker were left off the roster, as expected, but gained valuable experience with the big club these past two weeks.

"He'll be ready and he'll stay ready the best he can," Berube said of Hofer, who could get called into action should one of the three goalies not be able to participate. "That's all we can do with him.

"Get to know the players is important. You feel more comfortable when you come into camp and playing against NHL shooters here the whole camp. He did a tremendous job along with Tucker."

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