Wednesday, March 17, 2021

(3-17-21) Blues-Kings Gameday Lineup

After getting the past few days off the game ice, the Blues are ready to begin what was to have been a six-game road trip that currently has been trimmed down to five.

The Blues (14-9-5), who were to open the trip Monday against the Los Angeles Kings but that game was postponed due to travel-related issues for the Kings returning from Denver amid a blizzard snowstorm, will face the Kings (11-10-6) today at 9 p.m. (FS-MW, ESPN 101.1-FM).

They're looking to shake a four-game losing streak (0-3-1) and get back to winning ways, and it seems that the road is a good place for them to be since they are 10-2-2 away from Enterprise Center.

And the injury news, which has not been pleasant throughout much of the season, is good again with the return of veteran center Tyler Bozak, who missed the past 21 games with a concussion. With Bozak's return and to make room under the salary cap, defenseman Colton Parayko was moved from injured reserve to long-term IR.

Left wing Jaden Schwartz will not play tonight but his return from an upper-body injury is projected to be Friday at San Jose.

Robert Thomas (broken left thumb) is with the team and skating, and is expected to take part in the team practice the next time they skate together instead of with the taxi squad players, and Jacob de la Rose, who has missed seven games with a lower-body injury, has been cleared to return but will not play tonight.

The vibe seems to be good around the team knowing players are on the cusp of returning as the second half of the season begins tonight.

"It's always hard when you lose that many guys and you're never trying to make excuses and all that, but I think just the number of guys (we lost) was a lot and there's still a few more to come back even after those guys," right wing David Perron said. "It's definitely good when guys get excited to have those guys around. With the schedule sometimes, travel and all that stuff, guys are playing a lot, probably a little more tired and then those guys can be around and bring more energy, they're excited to be back around the team a bit more. That's always good."

Bozak had two assists in seven games this season and will likely center the third line tonight.

"It means a lot," defenseman Robert Bortuzzo said of having Bozak back. "I think we talked a couple weeks ago how big getting bodies back is for us. He's one of the biggest veteran guys who does everything out there, accepts every role that's been given to him. He's huge in our locker room, makes it very comfortable for guys and kind of keeps it light. But at the same time is a tremendous competitor and a very welcomed addition for a good challenge for us tonight.

"... Guys have done a great job stepping in. Guys like a Joshua and Walker came in. It's just been a different kind of year but at the same time knowing that feeling we've got a guy like Schwartzy (coming) back, who's just a complete engine for our team. Ever since I've been here, he's driven the group and then you've got a guy like, hopefully Tommer's close and Bozak. There is a good feeling that hopefully we kind of got a better idea of what we've got here."

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The Blues and Kings will play for the seventh time this season and third in the past 13 days.

The teams played in L.A. March 5-6 and both games went to overtime, each winning one. 

The Blues are 2-3-1 against Los Angeles this season.

"They're tight-checking, they play that 1-3-1 system through the neutral zone and theyve got guys back all the time," Berube said of the Kings. "You've got to work. You've got to get pucks in behind them and you've got to go forecheck. There's always good numbers on their side, they do a good job of that so you've got to work to get your goals and to get your chances. On the other side of things, they're a good rush team, especially with the (Anze) Kopitar line. With Kopitar, he's obviously involved in, I think, 41 percent of their scoring. We've got to do a good job on Kopitar and obviously (Drew) Doughty too. They're very good players and do a lot of good stuff for their team."

"Just the way they play in the neutral zone, we know how tight they are," Perron said. "It's tough to create any odd-man rushes and definitely when we have a chance to move it up quick in the neutral zone, not let them set up in their formation, then that's something maybe we look to do. We've got to look at more video stuff like that before the game, but that's how I see things. We have to also be patient. I think it's key to score the first goal against a tight defense like that."

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Blues head athletic trainer Ray Barile will work his 2,000th game tonight, becoming the eighth athletic trainer in NHL history, according to the Blues, to accomplish the feat.

Barile has been the team's head athletic trainer the past 26 years.

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The Blues' projected lineup (will be updated during the pregame skate):

Zach Sanford-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Sammy Blais-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko

Mike Hoffman-Tyler Bozak-Jordan Kyrou

Kyle Clifford-Dakota Joshua-Oskar Sundqvist 

Torey Krug-Justin Faulk

Vince Dunn-Marco Scandella

Niko Mikkola-Robert Bortuzzo

Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Ville Husso will be the backup. Healthy scratches include Jacob de la Rose and Nathan Walker. Jaden Schwartz (upper body), Colton Parayko (upper body), Robert Thomas (thumb), Ivan Barbashev (ankle), Mackenzie MacEachern (upper body) are all out. Carl Gunnarsson (knee) is out for the season. 

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The Kings' projected lineup:

Alex Iafallo-Anze Kopitar-Dustin Brown

Andreas Athanasiou-Gabriel Vilardi-Jeff Carter

Trevor Moore-Blake Lizotte-Adrian Kempe

Carl Grundstrom-Jaret Anderson-Dolan-Austin Wagner

Mikey Anderson-Drew Doughty

Tobias Bjornfot-Matt Roy

Olli Maatta-Sean Walker

Calvin Petersen will start in goal; Jonathan Quick will be the backup. Healthy scratches include Michael Amadio, Kurtis MacDermid and Matt Luff. Martin Frk (lower body) is out.

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