Friday, March 5, 2021

(3-5-21) Blues-Kings Gameday Lineup

The Vladimir Tarasenko watch will wait another night.

The Blues' right wing, waiting to make his season debut following left shoulder surgery, will not be in the lineup when the Blues (13-8-2) put a three-game winning streak on the line today against the Los Angeles Kings (9-8-4) at 8 p.m. (FS-MW, ESPN 101.1-FM).

"Not tonight, no," Blues coach Craig Berube confirmed after the morning skate. "There's been a date all along. It's not to give out to anybody. It's an in-house thing."

So the Blues, who can set the franchise record for the fewest games to reach 10 road wins (currently 9-2-0, with previous record being 15 games played on three occasions), will roll out the same lineup as the previous two games to try and keep the streak going.

"It gives them chemistry going, guys are with the same lines and they get good chemistry," Berube said. "You tend to just understand where everybody's going to be and feed off each other. Hopefully that continues tonight."

With the road trip finishing up Saturday against the Kings and Monday at San Jose, the plan was for Tarasenko, who has played just 14 games since injuring his shoulder Oct. 24, 2019, to return during this trip.

"Whenever that day comes, I think him and as an organization and as a team, we're ready for him to come back," center Brayden Schenn said. "Obviously we know what he can do, what he can bring to our lineup. He can really put us to that next level, just the ability of how teams defend him or people are aware when he's on the ice and he's able to change a game with the flick of the wrist. He has one of the best shots in the game and we're looking forward to having him back. You know it's going to take time. He hasn't played a lot of hockey in the past two years. We've got to be patient with him and help him, and at the same time, he's an elite talent and I'm sure it won't take him too, too long for him to find his game." 

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The Blues have found different ways to win in starting this trip 3-0-0, whether it be win a wild 7-6 shootout at San Jose last Saturday, or gaining control of a 5-4 win early on against Anaheim before letting the foot off the gas in the third period of that game and holding on, to getting great contributions from special teams in a 3-2 win against the Ducks Wednesday, the fact of the matter is the Blues are finding ways to win without several key components and bagging points.

"We're playing structured hockey," forward Kyle Clifford said. "We're competing. I've felt like we're playing more of a complete 60, we're playing for each other a little bit more. It's good line changes, rolling shifts over, we're getting sustained o-zone time, details on the forecheck. It's all these little things are adding up and making a difference."

"I just think no matter how we got that one in San Jose, it wasn't pretty and we let in a lot of goals, but just one win gives a team confidence and you know you're obviously capable of doing it," Schenn said. "We obviously have some guys out, (other) guys are stepping up and making most of the opportunity. I think what we're doing is we're playing together and we're playing hard. It doesn't really matter who you have in. If you're not going to play as a team, as five-man units out there, it's going to be tough on you each night. We feel right now we are and we're finding ways to win hockey games these past three.

"We've love to have our big guns in, but right now, guys are coming in, they're playing hard. When they're given the opportunity, they're making the most of it. Guys in the same lineup definitely helps, especially when you're going to have that feel in the locker room that you're going to go out and do it again tonight."

The Blues are 1-3-0 against the Kings this season and have dropped three straight against L.A., including 3-0 and 2-1 losses last week at Enterprise Center in which the Blues had a hard time finding the back of the net.

"I don't think there's a whole lot you can change," Berube said. "That system they play, it's designed for that and it's designed to not give up any odd-man rushes and things like that. The puck is going to go deep and it has to go deep. Otherwise you're going to end up turning it over in the neutral zone and they're a good counter team. We've got to just do a good job on our forecheck tonight. That's going to be key, and it's not just about being physical on the forecheck, it's about positioning, sticks, getting our 'D' up on it. We've got to do a good job there. If we do a good job on our forecheck, we're going to get o-zone time and we will get chances."

"The key tonight is the forecheck," Schenn said. "Obviously we're going to have to dump a lot of pucks. That means our forecheck is going to have to be good tonight using all five guys to sustain offensive zone pressure."

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The only lineup change for the Blues is Ville Husso starts in goal on the front end of the back-to-back, and not Jordan Binnington, who will then go on Saturday.

"It's just a plan," Berube said. "We've got to use both goalies."

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Speaking of Schenn, he will carry a three-game point streak (two goals, one assist) into the game, while new linemate David Perron will carry a four-game point streak (one goal, three assists) into the game.

They were put together for the start of this winning streak, which seems odd since Perron has been a consistent linemate of Ryan O'Reilly for most of the past two seasons, but Schenn and Perron seem to be working well together, and could be joined by Tarasenko there once he returns.

"He does a lot of things well," Schenn said of Perron. "He's very strong on the puck, he wins us battles, he always seems to be in the right spot, especially offensively. He has that lethal shot that, he's one of those guys too, with the flick of the wrist, he can put it in the back of the net. I haven't played a whole lot with him over the past two or three years. Obviously O'Reilly's played with him the majority of the time, but I feel like I've watched him enough. I know what his game's all about and so far, we're playing pretty well for us and obviously trying to build that chemistry."

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The Blues have added defenseman Steven Santini and forward Sam Anas to their taxi squad and both have cleared quarantine and can join the team for skates.

"It's unfortunate that they got here and they couldn't skate," Berube said. "I don't get it, it doesn't matter, but we've got to get them going here and get them skating."

Santini and Anas came to Los Angeles before the team arrived to begin their quarantine period in time to join them when the team arrived.

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* Forward Zach Sanford enters the game with a three-game goal streak (four goals, two assists total) and is tied with Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog (three goals, three assists) for the longest active run in the NHL.

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The Blues' projected lineup:

Zach Sanford-Ryan O'Reilly-Jordan Kyrou

Nathan Walker-Brayden Schenn-David Perron

Sammy Blais-Oskar Sundqvist-Mike Hoffman

Kyle Clifford-Dakota Joshua-Mackenzie MacEachern

Torey Krug-Justin Faulk

Vince Dunn-Marco Scandella

Niko Mikkola-Robert Bortuzzo

Ville Husso will start in goal; Jordan Binnington will be the backup. The healthy scratch is Jake Walman. Vladimir Tarasenko (shoulder), Jaden Schwartz (upper body), Colton Parayko (upper body), Tyler Bozak (upper body), Ivan Barbashev (ankle), Robert Thomas (thumb) and Jacob de la Rose (lower 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

Carl Grundstrom-Blake Lizotte-Austin Wagner

Adrian Kempe-Rasmus Kupari-Trevor Moore

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) and Jaret Anderson-Dolan (upper body) are out.

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