Friday, April 30, 2021

From fragile to confident, Blues finding their stride after fourth straight win

Despite allowing two-goal third-period lead to slip against Minnesota, team 
finds way to boost lead for fourth in West Division; O'Reilly comes up clutch 

A couple weeks ago when their coach felt the team was "fragile," perhaps the Blues would have lost that game against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday.

But lately, not these Blues. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Tyler Bozak (middle) gets congratulated by Blues teammates (from left)
Marco Scandella, Ryan O'Reilly and Justin Faulk after scoring a
shorthanded goal Thursday against the Minnesota Wild.

Not when the guy wearing a 'C' on his crest. Not the guy who could probably rip open his jersey these days and find a big 'S' draped on his chest.

The Blues had built themselves a nice three-goal lead in the second of back-to-back games against the Wild, but found themselves in a tie game late when Minnesota did to the Blues what the Blues did to the Wild on Wednesday.

But Ryan O'Reilly came to the rescue again, scoring twice, including a slick backhand top cheese goal off a great read by Jordan Kyrou at 3:43 of overtime to get the Blues the two points and their fourth straight win, 5-4, at Xcel Energy Center.

A few short weeks ago, the Blues (23-19-6) would find themselves in these predicaments of allowing momentum by the opposition to overwhelm them, and in the end, find themselves empty-handed when it came to points on the table.

Not these Blues, who have seemed to find that next gear in the push for the fourth and final spot in the playoff push inside the West Division. They lead the slumping Arizona Coyotes by five points with two games in hand and lead the San Jose Sharks by seven points and Los Angeles Kings by 10.

Is that fragility gone? Likely.

And it's been replaced with confidence, with the Blues winning seven of their past 10. 
They're winning with key guys out of the lineup in recent games (Colton Parayko, Vince Dunn and Thursday, Vladimir Tarasenko).
"I think you go through ups and downs with that throughout the season, depending on the situation with what's going on with your team at the time," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "But right now, the guys are feeling good and we're a pretty confident team, really doing a good job. Like the guys are really playing together as a team out there. You can see (Robert) Bortuzzo getting in there and taking care of a kid that gets hit (Kyrou). Guys are really backing each other up and cheering each other on. We've got real good team spirit right now."

O'Reilly took a back seat on Wednesday and some of the secondary guys like Kyrou, Robert Thomas and even Mike Hoffman, who should be considered among the top-tiered guys with the offense he's provided since those healthy scratch games, took command to provide the necessary components for a win.

"Yeah, it was nice," O'Reilly said of the OT winner. "I thought I was struggling a little bit early on in the game, wasn't really creating much, but to be able to come through and get one to kind of seal the two points for us, it definitely feels very good."

They're finding different ways to get the job done, albeit Thursday's third period wasn't what they wanted, allowing a 3-1 lead to slip away into a 4-4 tie, but the bottom line is finding a way to get the two points and squeezing the life out of those chasing them for that playoff spot.

Wednesday, they fell behind 3-1 and found a way. Last Saturday, they were down 2-0 merely three minutes in against the Colorado Avalanche before O'Reilly went all-in on the revival and willed his team to a 5-3 win.

"To get a win the first night and then be able to have a point in the bank going into overtime, we're happy about that," said forward Tyler Bozak, whose second-period shorthanded beauty gave the Blues a 2-0 lead. "Obviously you want to keep the lead, but again, they're a great hockey team. They keep pressing and they scored a couple of goals and we found another way to win, so that's huge.

"... Yeah, definitely a lot more confident now. I've always said when you're confident, you know the game just seems easier out there. The plays seem to happen, you seem to get more bounces, I don't know what it is. It's not easy to get confidence, you have to work for it, and it's pretty easy to lose it. So we've got to keep working hard, keep improving, and can't take any steps back."

"I don't want to say we were tired," O'Reilly said. 'It's just, you know, when they come that hard with that much momentum, we just get on our heels and we're trying to play a little too safe. Guys want to do the right things out there, but when they come that aggressive, they're going to force turnovers. We all know we've got to find a way to close that out. Having that lead, we have to be harder and maybe force them to play in their end a bit more. We found a way to get it done, but yeah it is an issue. We have to make these good plays, get the puck off the wall and find a way to get it out."

But instead of wavering, the Blues are regrouping when things begin to sour. Thursday was a perfect example as the Wild (31-14-4) began their push, just like the Blues did Wednesday in overcoming a 3-1 third-period deficit to win 4-3.

"Yeah, absolutely and I think more than anything, it's just our confidence and willingness to play any type of hockey," said defenseman Torey Krug, who had two assists Thursday. "We obviously know it's tight-checking. We're playing some teams with some firepower and some teams that lock it down defensively and make you work. I think it's just our confidence and comfortability to play in any type of hockey game right now."

Ahh, those days of that 0-6-1 stretch that found the Blues five points out of fourth place and dangerously sinking into the black hole are a distant memory.

"Yeah absolutely. It's nice to see," O'Reilly said. 'There's not a guy in the lineup that's not making an impact. Every guy is working hard and using the structure and playing for each other, and it's nice. We get rewarded. We find ways to win games. This is the time. We're trying to get into the playoffs and we need everyone. If we keep beating teams like this, it gives us confidence, and we're going to be a dangerous team down the stretch here.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues forward Brayden Schenn (10) battles with the Wild's Marcus
Johansson during the Blues' 5-4 OT win at Minnesota Thursday.

"... We know that it's going to be tough to get into the playoffs and, yeah, I think the focus for us is one game at a time. We're trying to get two points each night and not worry about the big results, just really sticking to one game at a time and our structure and trying to outcompete teams. That is kind of like playoff hockey, where it is one game at a time and you go from there."

And the captain has broadened his shoulders to leave space for the rest of his teammates, should they need a boost.

"I played with a guy (Patrice Bergeron in Boston) that he reminds me a lot of, and that's one of the greatest compliments in the game," Krug said of O'Reilly. "I matched up against Ryan in the finals a few years ago and I saw it first hand on the biggest stage and now I get to see it every single night. He's a very special hockey player. More than anything, he drags his team into the fire, into the battle, and I think in moments like this, it's important, especially in these games down the stretch to get into the playoffs. It's important to have your leader do that, so he's obviously a tremendous player and his work speaks for itself."

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Secondary skaters provide heavy lifting in Blues' come-from-behind win at Minnesota

Hoffman, Kyrou, Thomas account for all four goals of 4-3 win in which 
Blues needed three-goal rally in third with top skaters having an off-night

It's no secret that as the Blues go, they go based off what their heavy lifters accomplish.

Heavy lifters, as in the guys asked to do much of the body of work necessary to win hockey games. Guys like Ryan O'Reilly, Brayden Schenn, Justin Faulk, Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko, Torey Krug, David Perron, guys getting paid to be the go-to guys.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Robert Thomas (right) celebrates his late-winner with Mike Hoffman against 
the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday.

What can make the Blues really dangerous is getting that secondary scoring, that secondary lifting from guys that have the capabilities to pick up the slack when the big guns don't have the energy to do it, or it just isn't their night.

It didn't look good for the Blues there after 40 minutes against the surging Minnesota Wild through 40 minutes, being down a pair of goals, but then the third period happened. 

Mike Hoffman happened. Jordan Kyrou happened, and finally, Robert Thomas happened.
It was a trip Blues coach Craig Berube put together for the third period, and they had a hand in each of the three third-period goals to help the Blues stun the Wild with a three-goal third-period comeback, 4-3, Wednesday at Xcel Energy Center.

Hoffman, who started on a line with Sammy Blais and Zach Sanford, was elevated to play with Thomas and Kyrou, who were generating from the start of the game but couldn't quite connect when pushing in the offensive zone.

As the game wore on, they kept generating and pushing until the damn finally broke, with Thomas scoring with 23 seconds left to dramatically lift the Blues to the win in which they trailed 3-1 after two.

It wasn't one of those nights in which the top guys were carrying the load, so it was evident that some of the guys that play fewer minutes, guys that maybe don't get those clutch opportunities to come through, and they did.

Hoffman finished with two goals and an assist on the Thomas winner, and Thomas and Kyrou each finished with a goal and an assist and combining to be plus-5 for the game.

"We need scoring up and down the lineup," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "I've said that a number of times. It's got to continue. We need scoring from everybody. Everybody's got to contribute playing 200 feet. You've got to play good defense, be responsible defensively and you've got to be responsible offensively. You've got to help the team produce offensively, so we need everybody."

The Blues needed Hoffman, who has 11 points (seven goals, four assists) his past seven games, to give the power-play more bite and he's done that with eight power-play points during this seven-game stretch. He scored twice on it, the second setting off the comeback with a one-timer from the right circle off a seam pass from Perron.

"There's not many guys that have a one-timer like that," Thomas said. "It seems like he's able to find the back of the net at every angle, whether it's up top, down low, hard pass, low pass, it's kind of cool to watch. Last bunch of games, ever since he's been scoring there, it's brought a lot of life to our 5-on-5 game and it's a big momentum swing for sure."

Berube had that trio on the ice for late-game, important matchups and Thomas' key read off a Matt Dumba reverse pass behind his net, picked it off and found Kyrou alone coming down the slot, and Kyrou was the beneficiary of a fortunate break when the puck slid off his stick and right between Cam Talbot's pads at 7:41 to tie the game 3-3.

"I was just stick-handling and kind of went to go do the Kucherov," Kyrou said of his first in 15 games, referring to a goal scored similarly by Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov. "That's what I did there and it just went in. 

"It's awesome. I've kind of been a little bit of a slump scoring myself, but obviously feels good to get that one and that's a huge win by the boys there. ... It's a big goal by our line to tie it up 3-3 late in the third there. That was a big win by us there, for sure."

And then there's Thomas, who took Hoffman's flipper from near center ice as he hoisted it inside the Wild blue line. Thomas, streaking in, won a stick battle with Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin, quickly was in front of Talbot before lifting the game-winner over the Wild goalie's blocker.

"It just happened quick," Thomas said. "You see a lot of goals, those stick battles off high flips and I was just trying to poke it through and get a shot off. Very fortunate it went in.

"Those pucks, they're tough when they're kind of dribbling and you're both trying to just do a little stick battle there. It's hard as a d-man to contain it. I got pretty lucky on the bounce there. ... I wanted to score there. It's always a nice feeling scoring. I definitely wasn't letting anything stop me."

The Blues (22-19-6), winners of three in a row and three points ahead of Arizona -- pending Arizona's late game at San Jose -- for fourth place in the West Division, felt that positive vibe even as the Wild (31-14-3), who were 20-0-2 when leading after two periods and winners of seven in a row, were giving it to the visitors through two periods with their tenacious forecheck and sustained offensive zone time.

"Going into the (second) intermission, we were talking as a group (that) we've come back from plenty of games this year, so why not do it again," Hoffman said. "... We never gave up, stuck with it. It's a game of momentum and I thought we had it for the majority of the third.

"I just think we controlled the puck a lot better. Obviously they're a good forechecking team and when we have it, they can't forecheck. We held onto it in the offensive zone and we entered with control coming into their end and made some plays. We ended up making good forechecking plays too, which I think you saw on Kyrou's goal."

Berube trusted this line to do the lifting on this night, and it bodes well for the Blues to add a third scoring line that has this kind of speed and skill with the ability to be responsible off the puck, which it was.

"I thought even from the get-go, they had a lot of puck touches in the offensive zone," Berube said. "They just weren't quite clean getting their shots off. Maybe a little bit slow, but they had good jump all game. They were determined, I thought, and worked hard, and then I liked Hoffman. I thought that Hoffman, he got that goal, so I moved him up there (with Thomas-Kyrou) and it obviously worked out. ... I thought Hoffman had good jump all game too. He was on his toes, he was determined out there. Not just the goal he scored on the power-play, the first goal he scored on the power play, but just his play in general.

"They were feeding off last game, too. I thought they had great jump and they seem to enjoy playing with each other. I think they feel comfortable with each other. I think that's a big thing. When they skate and they attack, and they make good puck plays, they're dangerous. They've got good puck skill and speed."

Consider this: the Hoffman-Thomas-Kyrou line had a Corsi-for, Corsi-against of 8-0, and a Fenwick-for, Fenwick-against of 6-0. That trio also had four scoring chances for to none against. 

"I think it's our speed and our creativity," Kyrou said. "It's definitely tough to defend when all three guys are forechecking like that and backchecking. We were just all over the puck creating turnovers and attacking the net."

The Blues and Wild will do this again on Thursday, and it's safe to say this line will be assembled from the start of the game and rightfully so. If it can provide the quality minutes it provided on Wednesday, the Blues will not only be dangerous down the stretch but also in the playoffs if they get in.

"Any time you can get offense from up and down your lineup, it makes your team that much more dangerous and successful," Thomas said. "That's been a key of our the last couple years is we're able to chip in from our defense to all the way up and down our forward lines. I think it was a good game for us. We started well, but we still got a lot to improve on and I think we can be even better.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues needed secondary skaters to step up in a 4-3 win against the
Minnesota Wild, including Niko Mikkola (77) and Robert Thomas (18).

"We're a team that always keeps on fighting and that's been the story of my years here. You're never out and we're always going to bring it in the third."

They certainly did.

"I thought in the third period we came out with a different mindset than we did in the second period," Berube said. "I was happy first and third period tonight. Second period, obviously not so happy.

"We just (had) to get back on our toes and be aggressive again. There's certain situations that they had us hemmed in our zone and there's reasons why. I tell the team why and what's going on, but it's a mindset with me more than anything. It's just staying on our toes and being aggressive. I thought we did again in the third period and we had a pretty good third period."

(4-28-21) Blues-Wild Gameday Lineup

Colton Parayko will be a game-time decision when the Blues (21-19-6) open a three-game series against the Minnesota Wild (31-13-3) at Xcel Energy Center beginning today at 6 p.m. (NBCSN, ESPN 101.1-FM).

Parayko missed Monday's 4-1 win against the Colorado Avalanche due to an upper-body injury sustained in the first period against the Avalanche on Saturday.

He went through some cardio drills on Tuesday and took part in the morning skate on Wednesday.

"He looked good, so I think it'll be a game-time decision," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "We'll see how he reacts this afternoon."

The Blues, who have played 11 forwards and seven defensemen the past two games, won both against the Avalanche and could deploy the same formation again tonight.

"If Parayko plays, yes, yes," Berube said. "You never know, things happen. So we've got to cover ourselves and make sure."

If Parayko isn't able to go, then the expectation is that Zach Sanford, a healthy scratch the past two games, will slot in on that fourth line with Mike Hoffman and Sammy Blais.

That's been the rotation the Blues have deployed when making pregame line rushes but ultimately, decided to go 11/7.

The Blues have handled that well, giving more minutes to some of the top-end players, including Tyler Bozak, who played a season-high 22:02 on Monday.

"We're obviously all competitive here" Bozak said. "We want to play as much as we can and help the team win as much as we can in whatever role we're in. It's a lot of fun. Obviously getting older so get a little tired quicker. But trying to do the stuff after the games and in in between the games to get prepared for the next ones. Obviously you want to play as many minutes as you can and help the team be successful.

"It's nice to have guys step in and play immediately if need be. I think depth is a crucial thing, especially this time year and moving forward. I think we have a lot of that."

- - -

The Blues, who are fourth in the West Division, one point ahead of the Arizona Coyotes with three games in hand, will play the Wild in five of their remaining 10 games, and the results against the Wild could play a major factor in if the Blues get into the playoffs or not.

But the Blues are 2-1-0 this season against the Wild, including wins April 9-10 at home and a 2-0 loss in St. Paul despite outshooting Minnesota 37-11 in that game.

"We've played them pretty well in three games this year, I thought," Berube said. "I think we just need to focus on what we did well against Colorado and take it into this series. The Colorado series, our power play did a good job. Our penalty kill did a good job when it had to, killed some big kills in the third period against them. I found that we were connected in all three zones, defensively, offensively and did all the little things right. We're going to have to do that against the Wild tonight. They're a good team, they've got great balance, defense is deep, forward lines are deep, they work extremely hard and check well. It's going to be important that we have a real solid forecheck tonight. We're doing a good job of getting pucks through to the net and getting traffic around there and getting some goals around there. (Cam) Talbot's played really well if he plays tonight, so it's going to take a big effort."

"We've played a lot of hockey against each other here in the last little while," defenseman Robert Bortuzzo said. "Two similar teams that are built systematically and roster-wise with good depth and having an emphasis being good defensively. There's not going to be a ton of ice out there. I think most of the games have been fairly tight-checking less one or two, but it's just going to be a good challenge for us against a team that's very good structurally."

Minnesota has not lost since those back-to-back losses to the Blues, winning seven straight and outscoring their opponents 32-14.

"It's important that we have good gaps by our D and I think they've been doing a good job of it for quite some time to be honest with you," Berube said. "And then the reloads by the forwards will be key, getting back and helping out. That gives our D confidence and they see that so they stand up and kill a lot of plays. That'll be key, that's a very good point to make sure that we control the blue lines tonight."

"They defend well and it seems like they're putting the puck in quite easily right now," Bortuzzo said. "It's going to be a good challenge on both ends of the ice to create offense and at the same time, stop some of the high-end offense they're playing with right now."

Patience could be key against this team, which thrives off turnovers and transition.

The Blues just came off a three-game series against a Colorado team that loves to play a high-octane game and one that relies on turnovers.

Against Minnesota, it has to be a more methodical game.

"Just be patient," Bozak said. "I think you can't turn pucks over. They're really good off the rush and play a really tight defensive game. We've got to make sure we stick to our game plan, get pucks in deep and be really strong on pucks at the blue lines and in crucial areas of the ice."

"They do a good job defensively," Berube said of the Wild. "That d-corps has been together for some time besides Cole this year, which is a new addition. Those five guys they've had there for quite some time. They all skate well and they have good sticks and they're smart players. It's important that we have good puck possession tonight in the offensive zone, not get impatient and throw things away because they're a good transition team. They take off the other way and they do a good job with that. We're going to have to have some patience, but also we've got to do a good job of getting pucks through to the net and getting traffic to the net."

- - -

The Blues go into the game on a run of seven straight games with a power-play goal, going 8-for-24 (33 percent) over that stretch.

The team made a couple small subtle changes, flipping Hoffman and Brayden Schenn, and with Vince Dunn (upper-body injury) out for this series after missing Monday's game as well, Justin Faulk has taken over the duties of quarterback on the second unit.

"Slow start by our power play," Bozak said. "We've turned it around lately. Sometimes it just takes a bounce here or there to get you in a groove in those certain areas of the game. We've got to keep that up. Special teams are obviously huge and can help you win a lot of games."

- - -

* Center Ryan O'Reilly is slated to play in his 200th game with the Blues tonight.

* If Sanford plays, it will be his 200th NHL game.

* The Blues have outshot the Wild 105-66 in three games this season.

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Brayden Schenn-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Jaden Schwartz-Tyler Bozak-Vladimir Tarasenko

Ivan Barbashev-Robert Thomas-Jordan Kyrou

Sammy Blais-Mike Hoffman

Marco Scandella-Justin Faulk

Torey Krug-Jake Walman

Niko Mikkola-Robert Bortuzzo

Colton Parayko

Jordan Binnington is the expected starter in goal; Ville Husso would be the backup. 
Healthy scratches would include Zach Sanford, Kyle Clifford, Mackenzie MacEachern and Steven Santini. Vince Dunn (upper body) not on the trip and out for these three games in Minnesota, at least. Carl Gunnarsson (knee) and Oskar Sundqvist (knee) are out for the season.

- - -

The Wild's projected lineup:

Jordan Greenway-Joel Eriksson Ek-Marcus Foligno

Kirill Kaprizov-Victor Rask-Mats Zuccarello

Kevin Fiala-Ryan Hartman-Marcus Johansson

Zach Parise-Nico Sturm-Nick Bonino

Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin-Matt Dumba

Carson Soucy-Ian Cole

Cam Talbot will start in goal; Kaapo Kahkonen will be the backup. Healthy scratches include Nick Bjugstad and Brad Hunt. The Wild report no injuries.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Big-name players come out to play for Blues in 4-1 win over Avalanche

Perron, Schenn, Tarasenko, Thomas all make impact that 
leads to second straight win; Binnington makes 30 saves

ST. LOUIS -- David Perron could only smile about it now.

It wasn't so funny a few days ago when he was turning the puck over three times during an early-game power play that was a prelude of what was to come, a loss to the Colorado Avalanche to kick off a three-game series at Enterprise Center, and further cement how things had been going for Perron and his teammates.
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Vladimir Tarasenko (91) gave the Blues a 1-0 lead on Jonas Johansson
(35) and the Colorado Avalanche in a 4-1 St. Louis win on Monday.

"Two games ago I had a crazy power play shift that kind of chipped away my confidence a little bit for half that game just because obviously you're not trying to make any bad plays out there," Perron admitted after a 4-1 win against these very same Avalanche on Monday night, capping off a series win of two games to one for the Blues.

"The first one I kind of double-clutched it and they kind of go on a breakaway," Perron added. Things like that happened. And then last game we couldn't get anything going. I felt like as a line, I couldn't get in there as much as I wanted. Power plays, I made a couple bad plays again. Bad plays are still going to happen, but when you start chipping at your confidence, little things like that, you want to grab it really quick. You want to be really sharp really quick. I was glad I responded, but again I've got to keep going next game."

Yes, Perron responded. He scored a goal, his first in 10 games, and added a pair of assists in the 4-1 win Monday, but it wasn't just Perron who got off the schneid.

Blues coach Craig Berube was looking for more from some of his big-time players, big-money players that perhaps had been bringing the effort but not necessarily the results.

Not only did Perron respond with a big-game effort, but how about Vladimir Tarasenko? Scoring a power-play goal as the bumper and net front presence in front, getting his first in seven games. How about Brayden Schenn, who whipped that gigantic gorilla that had been draped on his back for several weeks? He scored his first in 20 games Monday, and Robert Thomas, injured often this season, potted just his second of the season in 23 games.

Mike Hoffman had an assist to give him eight points the past six games (five goals, three assists). Even though he scored twice in a loss to the Avs last week, Jaden Schwartz scored twice in that game. 

Oh and there's Jordan Binnington, who made 30 saves to keep his solid play going, not long after proclaiming after a home win, 'We're coming."

These are all guys Berube needed results from and got them in another all-important game against one of the league's best teams.

"It's great to see them get pucks, get the puck to go in for them," Berube said. "We need those guys to produce. They know that. I thought the whole team was pretty engaged all night and played a solid game. I thought the Thomas line had a real good game, they had the puck a lot. 'Tommer' ended up scoring finally. He had a couple breakaways in the game too and didn't capitalize on them but he stayed with it and he got a nice goal there. We need our big guys to produce. That's what they're paid to do.

"... Vladi on the power-play goal, good goal. The O'Reilly line had a good game, solid game going against (Nathan) MacKinnon all night. They scored two goals, that line. Real good job."
These are guys that had perhaps been squeezing sticks for some time the longer games passed and pucks weren't going in the net for them.

Ask Schenn, who has done everything else but score ... until Ryan O'Reilly, one of the money players scoring at a regular clip, found Schenn in the left circle before he snapped off a quick one-timer past Jonas Johansson that made it 2-0 in the first.

"It’s obviously, everyone goes through slumps, ups and downs, this year isn’t 82 games, but over an 82-game season, you’re going to have them," Schenn said. "Maybe I haven't had one that long, you’ve got to keep fighting through it and eventually it will come. So it’s nice to get the monkey off the back and get it going more so offensively."

Going back to Perron, who is tied with O'Reilly for the team lead in points with 45 in 46 games, what really got the juices flowing tonight wasn't necessarily what started on the offensive end.

Sure, it played a role, but when he arrived at the rink Monday afternoon and saw his name up there again next to close pal O'Reilly and Schenn flanking the Blues' captain as his wingers, Perron knew what the assignment was: to slow down the -- no pun intended -- avalanche known as MacKinnon.

OK, so MacKinnon didn't have Colorado's team leader in goals Mikko Rantanen for the series, but Gabriel Landeskog and Andre Burakovsky are no slouches either. 

The Schenn-O'Reilly-Perron trio can pick up the scoresheet and see across the board minus-3 each for MacKinnon, Landeskog and Burakovsky. 

MacKinnon, who did extent his point streak to 14 games (nine goals, 16 assists) with a power-play goal in this game, assisted by Landeskog and Burakovsky, was simply shut down 5-on-5 by the Schenn-O'Reilly-Perron line, and that trio can take pride in that. It used that challenge as a boost in other areas.

"Yeah, it's cool to play against those guys," Perron said. "It just brings your game up a level every single time that happens, that I get the chance to play against the top line on the other side. I feel like I want to raise my level up to that and sustain that. 

"I remember coming into the league and you play against (Patrick) Kane and (Jonathan) Toews and those guys and I just ... obviously the Blues were in a different state as a team back then, but that game you wanted to step up and match those guys. It feels similar. It's great to be a part of tonight. To shut them out 5-on-5 ice time, it was key for us to get the win. And O'Ry, like he's just doing it every single night. It's very impressive."

The Corsi and Fenwick numbers didn't necessarily reflect how well the O'Reilly line neutralized MacKinnon and Company, but it outscored the Avalanche trio 2-0 at even-strength and the biggest number, it held those skaters to zero high danger scoring chances.

"We got the matchup the past couple of games and with O’Reilly, he’s so easy to play with, he plays extremely hard, he supports the puck well, and he’s good at both ends of the ice," Schenn said. "He had a heck of a two games and 'DP' tonight stepped up offensively for us. That line generates … obviously they’re missing a guy that already has (26) goals, so maybe it’s a bit different when they have Mikko Rantanen on the right wing, but at the end of the day, you still got good players on that line. It was nice to shut them down a little bit."

With 10 games left, it's what the Blues will need moving forward. They'll need the defensive output in one end and hope that will lead to better things in the offensive zone.

"I guess I'll speak for our line. We played a lot of the night against MacKinnon's line and their guys are four up the ice the whole time," Perron said. "Schenner and I were talking about how (Cale) Makar and (Samuel) Girard and those guys, you don't just back-check their blue line, you've got to back-check almost all the way to the hash marks. That's how involved and how active they are. They stay in the offense a long time. It seems like they don't feel like they're taking too much risk. They don't really turn it over either. They're doing a good job of just activating and we have to be really sharp. It was great."

The Blues finished the season series 3-5 against the Avalanche, but in each of the losses, they were by one goal (empty-netters aside) except for one, the 8-0 thrashing in the second game of the season, so should the Blues qualify for the playoffs, it could be a matchup with the Avs in the first round.
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Brayden Schenn (third from right) is congratulated by the Blues bench
after scoring his first in 20 games of a 4-1 win over Colorado Monday.

And games like these are what should give the Blues confidence.

And just think, they did it without key defensemen Colton Parayko and Vince Dunn, each out due to an upper-body injury, and got the job done with Niko Mikkola, who had been a healthy scratch the past 10 games, and veteran Steven Santini, playing in his first NHL game since Nov. 21, 2019 with the Nashville Predators.

"Yeah, it's great," Perron said. "Obviously we wanted to get more early on. We could have. I feel like, I really get this feeling that we can play against any team when we do the right things like we did tonight. That's really what's truly special about our group. I think we still got that quiet confidence that we've got to keep pushing forward and things are going to click in the end at the right time. 'Binner' was outstanding again tonight, even when it was 4-1. He didn't give them anything to build off and it was great."

A win coupled with Arizona's 6-4 loss at San Jose Monday, the Blues moved back into the fourth and final playoff spot in the West Division with three games in hand on the Coyotes. 

Monday, April 26, 2021

(4-26-21) Avalanche-Blues Gameday Lineup

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. -- The Blues and Colorado Avalanche will wrap up their three-game series at Enterprise Center today (6 p.m.; BSMW-Plus, ESPN 101.1-FM) with a lot of banged up bodies to boot.

For the Blues (20-19-6), they will have a less-experienced defensive crew on the ice tonight with the absences of Colton Parayko and Vince Dunn, who each sustained an upper-body injury in the 5-3 win over the Avalanche (31-10-4) here on Saturday.

Parayko sustained left the game after the Blues tied the game 2-2 on a Ryan O'Reilly goal at 12:40 of the period and did not return. Dunn left the game with 7:32 remaining in the third.

Parayko, who missed 21 games earlier this season with an upper-body injury, returned to play the past eight games.

"I don't know how long they're out for," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "It's kind of up in the air on that yet."

The Blues are expected to go with 11 forwards and seven defenseman, which they did on Saturday, and will insert Niko Mikkola in the lineup after being a healthy scratch the past 10 games, and Steven Santini was recalled from the taxi squad and is expected to make his Blues debut Monday.

"Other guys got to come in and play well," Berube said. "I don't really think it's anything more than that. The guys that are in there, keep doing their job. That's the way it goes."

Santini had 116 games of NHL experience under his belt, all but two with the New Jersey Devils, and played most recently last season with the Nashville Predators.

"A journeyman defenseman. He plays hard, he's a physical guy, pretty direct player," Berube said of Santini, who has five goals and 16 assists in the NHL. "He's going to bang around and he's going to make the first pass, extremely hard worker, pretty dialed in person. He's intense. That's about all I really know about him."

As for Mikkola, he last played March 28 against Anaheim.

"He just had to keep working on his game," Berube said. "He's a hard worker out there, working on his passing and his hands more than anything, I think. He'll come in and give us minutes, he'll be aggressive like he normally is and he's going to give you effort. He's just got to keep the passing and the puck play simple."

Also, defenseman Torey Krug, who missed the morning skate after having a maintenance day Friday before playing Saturday, will be a game-time decision tonight. 

"I am expecting him, but we'll see in warm-up," Berube said.

The expectation of going 11 forwards and seven defensemen will depend on Krug's availability, but forward Zach Sanford was long on the ice working with the extras.

"I think it's a good possibility that we'll do the same thing tonight," Berube said. "I thought it worked out pretty well. You get some of your top guys a few more minutes here and there, which is good. Overall, I thought the D did what they needed to do. I thought 'Borts' added that physical presence in the game. It's a penalty on (Gabriel) Landeskog, but I liked the physicality part of it, I thought he did a good job. We'll see how it goes here tonight in warm-up."

The Blues have enough capable forwards in the lineup that can play center and feel they're equipped to handle that situation when called upon.

"On our team, we've got a lot of capable guys that can play center," said Robert Thomas, who returned after missing four games with a shoulder injury. "If they do 11 and seven, there's a lot of guys that can step up in the middle. We're definitely capable. ... I thought (on Saturday) as a forward group, we were playing pretty well, created a lot of chances and that kind of thing. I think our momentum just started to build throughout the game. I think we handled it really well."

- - -

Colorado, already without No. 1 goalie Philipp Grubauer, top goal-scorer Mikko Rantanen and reliable third-line scorer Joonas Donskoi because of COVID-19 protocol, will be without forward Brandon Saad, who was injured in the game Saturday and will miss 2-4 weeks with a lower-body injury.

And Colorado will start Jonas Johansson in goal tonight after Devan Dubnyk played the past two games for the Avalanche.

"We've got to obviously create scoring chances, have a shooting mentality if any goalie's in there," Berube said. "I don't think that changes a whole lot. We got to get inside and shoot pucks and get to the net. We've got to have a shooting mentality."

- - -

The Blues, who trail the Arizona Coyotes by one point for fourth in the West Division with three games in hand, need to keep pace and build off Saturday's important win.

How do they do that?

"We've got to follow obviously what 'O'Ry' ... his performance was incredible," Blues forward David Perron said of O'Reilly, who had three goals and an assist in the game. "He really put the team in his back along with 'Binner.' I think we need more guys to play inspired hockey like that. It was unreal to get the two points and I think we can build off that result and keep going.

"It meant two points last game. Also 'Binner' when we were down two, it could have been 3-4 pretty easily with some of the plays they made, some of the mistakes that maybe we made. 'O'Ry' was relentless, wouldn't stop putting everything on the line and obviously it inspires more guys to want to do the same thing. That's why he's the captain obviously. We know he's a leader on the ice. It was fun to watch for sure."

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup (will be confirmed during pre-game the warmup):

Brayden Schenn-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Jaden Schwartz-Tyler Bozak-Vladimir Tarasenko 

Ivan Barbashev-Robert Thomas-Jordan Kyrou

Sammy Blais-Mike Hoffman

Marco Scandella-Justin Faulk

Torey Krug-Jake Walman

Niko Mikkola-Robert Bortuzzo

Steven Santini

Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Ville Husso will be the backup. Healthy scratches include Kyle Clifford, Zach Sanford and Mackenzie MacEachern. Colton Parayko (upper body) and Vince Dunn (upper body) are out with injuries sustained Saturday.

- - -

The Avalanche's projected lineup:

Gabriel Landeskog-Nathan MacKinnon-Andre Burakovsky

Carl Soderberg-Tyson Jost-Valeri Nichushkin

J.T. Compher-Nazem Kadri-Martin Kaut

Liam O'Brien-Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-Kiefer Sherwood

Devon Toews-Samuel Girard

Ryan Graves-Cale Makar

Patrik Nemeth-Conor Timmins 

Jonas Johansson will start in goal; Devan Dubnyk will be the backup. Healthy scratch includes Philipp Grubauer. Brandon Saad (lower body), Matt Calvert (upper body), Logan O'Connor (lower body) and Jacob MacDonald (lower body) are out. Joonas Donskoi and Mikko Rantanen remain in COVID-19 protocol.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Blues finally got angry, finally got big-ticket win after falling behind early

2-0 deficit against tough Avalanche, Blues battle back to 
earn 5-3 win behind O'Reilly four-point game, including hat trick

ST. LOUIS -- Finally, some anger.

And for the Blues, it's been long overdue.
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Ryan O'Reilly (left), who scored his second hat trick this season, battles
with Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon for a puck Saturday.

The start wasn't great against the surging Colorado Avalanche, who continue to mash opponents without their No. 1 goalie (Philipp Grubauer), top goal scorer (Mikko Rantanen) and realiable 15-goal third-liner (Joonas Donskoi), but for a change, the Blues dug deep into the energy tank.

Falling behind by two three minutes into the game is typically a death knell against the Avs, who came in with one regulation loss their previous 21 games (18-1-2) and have been feasting on the opposition and a killer instinct to boot.

Ryan O'Reilly had enough. His teammates hopped on the captain's shoulders and the rest is history.

O'Reilly's second hat trick this season and third of his NHL career, all with the Blues, capped a four-point night and fueled the Blues' 5-3 win over the Avalanche at Enterprise Center to vault the Blues (20-19-6) back into the hot potato spot of fourth place that nobody seemingly wants in the West Division.

All it took -- finally -- was some pushback, some enough is enough attitude. The Blues finally got pissed off.

And it's about time.

Colorado (31-10-4) could have blown the doors off early, and against a team that had lost three in a row and 10 of its past 13 (3-9-1) that their coach had called fragile multiple times in the past, it could have been another lost day, another lost game the Blues had in hand against the Arizona Coyotes, who they leapfrogged temporarily pending Arizona's game against the Los Angeles Kings late Saturday night.

But after the Blues fell behind 2-0 on goals by Cale Makar during a 5-on-3 after Brayden Schenn and Robert Bortuzzo, who was in the lineup for the first time since April 5, took minor penalties, and Gabriel Landeskog and there was the sense and hush in the crowd of 'here we go again.'

"Yeah, it was frustrating," O'Reilly said. "The second goal, I lose a face-off and try to help out on the play. I lose my guy and my guy ends up scoring and it’s frustrating. I thought we had good energy to start and then we end up down two. And if it wasn't for 'Binner,' it could have been a lot, lot worse. But you can see on the bench, guys knew there's a lot of hockey left. And guys got angry. I felt it myself. Just decided to leave it out there every shift. Get lost in the game. Just be relentless. And you can just feel it, we just kept going at them, and got a good bounce on the first goal. It sparked us a bit, to get it going. That’s how it happens sometimes."

They did get going, with O'Reilly getting a big break on the first goal when his centering pass was inexplicably put into the net by Avs defenseman Devon Toews, a break that seemingly had been eluding the Blues for some time, and then O'Reilly scored on a beautiful backhand goal to tie the game before Ivan Barbashev capped off a wild first period with a goal himself driving the net and scoring in his third attempt.

It could have been ugly. It could have been the start of another lost opportunity. Instead, despite losing the lead in the second on a Nathan MacKinnon power-play goal, it was a team finally showing the moxey that there is something meaningful to play for, something to fight for, something to show some pride in.

Yes, there were a litany of mistakes. The second period wasn't all that good, again, and was it picture-perfect? No. But at this point, wins is all that matters, no matter how they come.

"Our guys did a great job," said Blues coach Craig Berube after earning his 100th regular-season win behind the Blues bench (100-57-22). "Get down quickly 2-0, but I thought that 'Binner' made a huge save at, I don't remember the exact time, and then we just responded. O'Reilly gets a goal and we're right back in it. Guys, they stayed positive on the bench. That's the key. I thought our team really inspired each other tonight to go get a win."

There was really no other choice here, was there?

Did the Blues really want to drop another game? Drop another opportunity? Drop another hint to the competitors around them (Arizona, San Jose and even Los Angeles) that they will keep those teams' hopes alive with each passing loss? This was a team at the start of the season picked to be the ones to bust up the party for the Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights, clearly the class of the division, that was touted as a three-headed monster and everyone else.

Well, it is a three-headed monster, but it's not the Blues in the monster setting. It's the Minnesota Wild, and the Blues are in a fight for what is the lone remaining playoff position in the division.

"There’s lots of hockey game left," forward Brayden Schenn said. "Obviously when it’s not going your way. Previous before this game, you can kind of go one or two ways about. You can pack it in for the night or you can try and come back. Got a bounce there on the first goal, gave us some momentum to get back in the hockey, and kept on fighting from there.

"It feels good to win a hockey game. We played hard. We still have to figure out our second periods. We forget how to play correctly sometimes, and that’s when we get playing a lot of defense and running around in our end. At the end of the day, 'Binner' made a lot of saves. 'Factor' was an absolute beast for us again tonight and it’s nice to win."

The same 'Factor' who played nearly 24 minutes (23:57 to be exact), had four points, was plus-2, had five shot attempts (three on goal) and won 59 percent of his face-offs (16 of 27).
It was obvious someone on this day didn't want to go home losing a hockey game again.

"Yeah, he was excellent obviously," Berube said of O'Reilly, who collected his 600th NHL point on his first goal. "Three goals, but he brings the same work ethic every night. He happened to score three goals tonight. Obviously he stepped his game up, but he's been a solid player every night for us. He wasn't the only one. We had a bunch of guys step up for us tonight, I thought really competed hard, did a lot of really good things."

The question looms is do the Blues need more anger from them, more passion like what they showed after falling behind knowing the meaning of the last remaining 11 games?

"Absolutely," O'Reilly said. "You see when we do it, we can compete with anyone. It's just being consistent with it -- even tonight in the second, again, we get away from it. We get thinking again about making the right plays and not just engaging and going after them and forcing them to make mistakes. If we do that, if we have a better second, we put ourselves in a better spot. It’s nice to see (the anger) at times, but if we want to win, and compete with these top teams, we have to have that mindset the whole time."

So then why don't they? 

Good question. Or else they wouldn't be in the predicament they're in. 

But such is the case, and with so many formidable opponents remaining, the Blues will have to channel their inner anger more often. And sustain it for more than just a game here or a game there.

And it has to come from the leaders.

"Absolutely, we know that it's got to be on the guys, it’s got to be on (our) core," O'Reilly said. "We absolutely know if we want to make playoffs, it's got to be on us -- and then everyone else follows. So it's good we stepped up, found a way. A lot of work left, a lot of things to clean up."
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Mike Hoffman (right) gets congratulated by the bench after his third-period
goal turned out to be the game-winner in a 5-3 win against Colorado.

The Blues will have to channel this one more time Monday against the Avalanche, who will be in an ornery mood. They don't lose often. They don't like to lose, and they could care less about the meaning of these games for the Blues. But in competing with Colorado all season despite winning just two of the seven games, the Blues showed they can trade punches with the big boys when they want to.

"I mean they’re the so-called best team in the league, one of the best teams in the league, so anytime you’re going against a team like that, it’s not an easy task," said forward Mike Hoffman, whose power-play goal at 11:19 of the third period with a two-man advantage proved to be the game-winner. "At the start of the game, it didn’t go our way, obviously how we wanted it to but we fought back, we battled hard. We never (gave) up. It can get negative at times when things aren’t maybe going your way, but you know, you've got to stick with it and be prepared for that next shift, next period, and I thought that was the mentality that we had tonight."

Thursday, April 22, 2021

(4-22-21) Avalanche-Blues Gameday Lineup

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. -- Let the stretch run begin.

The Blues (19-18-6) return to the ice for a three-game set at home beginning today against the Colorado Avalanche (30-9-4) at 7 p.m. (BSMW, ESPN 101.1-FM).

The Blues, who are one point behind Arizona for the fourth and final spot in the West Division, have played just two games in the 11 days after having multiple games postponed and moved due to COVID-19 protocols on other teams but will now finish the season, barring any other changes to the schedule, with 13 games in 22 days.

"You'd like to get into the flow of things and you're hoping you're playing well at the same time so that when that happens, you can keep rolling but we're still at the point where we need to get on that roll," defenseman Justin Faulk said. "Maybe this time off here, a lot of guys have rested up and get healthier and then some practice days to try and work on some things can be good for us because we all know we need to get going here and win a bunch of games as we get down the stretch here.

"It's good for teams to get on a roll. If you're playing well and you're feeling it, it's going to be nice because you're going to go out there every night with the confidence and be ready to win a hockey game. But at the same time, 13 in 22, there's been multiple times this year where we're facing 20 in 35, whatever it might be, it's just kind of the way the season's been this year. I don't think it really changes anything with the mindset."

What this does tell us is that the Blues will have little time to rest and a lot of time to get themselves prepped up for game action.

"We need to get rest obviously between the games," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "You're not going to have much time to practice, got to focus on the games and just dial it in the best we can, focus on tonight's game only right now. That's our task at hand is tonight's game. That's it."

Needless to say, not everyone is thrilled with the current setup but have no other choice.

"It is what it is. It's unfortunate and a little bit disappointing because it really had nothing to do with us, but I guess at the same time, it could have been anyone," forward David Perron said. 'I  think maybe we've added a back to back. That's how it goes."

But on the other hand ... 

"I feel like it's been great for us, rest the body a little bit," defenseman Marco Scandella said. "Just get the team going, hang out together. I think it's been great for us."

- - -

The Blues, who are 1-4-0 against the Avalanche this season, with three straight one-goal losses, including 4-3 here on April 14, hope to be catching the Avalanche at the right time.
Colorado has three key players (forward Mikko Rantanen, goalie Philipp Grubauer and forward Joonas Donskoi) all on the COVID-19 protocol list and are unavailable to play.

"I don't necessarily view it that way," Faulk said. "We've played teams all year that have had injuries, COVID stuff, whatever it might be. There hasn't been too many nights this year where we've seen a team with a full lineup. We can obviously attest to that on our end here. So I don't treat it any differently. They may have been off for how many days, but it's not like we've been playing a ton of games in this stretch either. We're not going to treat it any differently. It's just we need to be ready from the get-go and put the pressure on them."

The Blues can ill-afford to take anyone lightly right now.

"They're a great team, we know that," Berube said. "We can't look at who they're missing. We've got to go put our best foot forward here on the ice tonight. We've got to perform at a high level, that's the bottom line. I don't care who's in their lineup or out of their lineup. We've got to perform at a high level here tonight and be a highly competitive team and do things right."

Needless to say, getting off to a good start for a team that's practiced just twice since last playing April 14 and sustaining that might be a good recipe for success.

"We definitely need to do that," Perron said. "They've got a lot of speed over there though. A lot of times with those guys, their legs will just be there regardless. We do have to have a good start. We've got to focus on that, but more I think from our perspective, not worrying about how they're going to feel or not. But it's definitely something we can think about, yeah."

- - -

The Blues have their fate in their own hands with games in hand on Arizona (four) and San Jose (three), which is just three points in back of the Blues. The Coyotes are 1-7-0 their past eight games, while the Sharks are 0-6-1 their past seven, so the Blues have no excuses.

"It's the best way for sure," Berube said of having the fate in their own hands. "We can take care of our own business. That's a good thing. It's in our hands (but) we've got to go out and perform and get it done."

They'll have to perform at a high level the rest of the way.

"I think when we play 60 minutes of hockey the way we play, I don't think anyone can handle us," Scandella said. "I think it's on us to bring that and to find that in the next few games because it's make or break at this point. We don't have that much time left.

"How can we not be confident? Look at our team. When we put it together, we know what we can do, so now it's about figuring that out. We don't have that much time, but you can see it coming. I know we have certain games where it's not there, but we know that we have it and if we bring that from now until the end of the year, there's no reason why we shouldn't be successful."

When the Blues have success, it usually revolved around bullying or pushing the opposition out of the game.

Granted, their lineup has changed since winning the Stanley Cup in 2019, but in order to have success, if they find that angry mindset and push the opposition out of the game, that's when the Blues seem to have success.

"We do have a different lineup than we've had in other years," Perron said. 'I think we've got to remember that. It is definitely our mindset to come in and take over and keep pushing. Obviously the two lessons that we've got the last couple games is we've got to learn from it. If we do that, it is impressive how our team plays the way we want, we can beat anyone. It's going to be a fun stretch here to end the year. We just keep pushing."

"Absolutely, go after them," Scandella said. "We can't dip our toes in the water going into games. I think everybody realizes we've had a bunch of talks in the last few days since we've only played two games in what, the last 10 or 11 days. I think as a team, we just have to all go out with the same mentality and just play. I think we're thinking a little bit too much. It's got to be fluid. Hockey's got to be an organic thing as a team. Everything's got to work and you just play, go out there and do your thing, work as hard as you can for the guy next to you and that's the secret, it's about finding that again."

- - -

It's been a tough return for forward Vladimir Tarasenko, who missed nearly two seasons with recurring shoulder injuries that have in total, since Tarasenko initially injured his left shoulder, required three surgeries.

Tarasenko has just three goals (11 points) in 19 games this season ad addressed his situation on Wednesday.

"It takes longer than I expect to, get back the timing and everything," Tarasenko said. "... You have to believe your work. There's not many options here. You have to keep working every day. Physically, I feel fine. Timing this is getting there. Just trust myself, trust team and go from there."

Tarasenko will play with Jaden Schwartz, who has also struggled offensively himself with two goals (in the same game April 9 against Minnesota) his past 21 games, and Tyler Bozak centering them both. They've been with Brayden Schenn the last little bit but nothing was going offensively for that trio.

"With Schenn, Schwartz and Tarasenko, not a lot was going on offensively," Berube said. "Just a different look."

Tarasenko recently spoke with Berube regarding his game and his ability to get shots off quicker.

"Coaches always talk with the players, so I have a talk with Chief," Tarasenko said. "If puck doesn't go in, sometimes you need to do this more. That's a good thing to have a conversation, and I think it will be helpful for me.

"When puck doesn't go in, you start thinking about this and aiming. Maybe just need to shoot and do less thinking, the goalie have less time to prepare for shot. That's a confidence question too. I think it's getting better, but it's not good enough."

Schenn will center Mike Hoffman and Jordan Kyrou.

- - -

Robert Thomas, out with a shoulder injury, will miss his fourth straight game tonight but practiced for the second straight day.

"He's getting real close," Berube said. "Probably a good chance he plays Saturday."

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Sammy Blais-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Mike Hoffman-Brayden Schenn-Jordan Kyrou

Jaden Schwartz-Tyler Bozak-Vladimir Tarasenko

Kyle Clifford-Ivan Barbashev-Zach Sanford

Marco Scandella-Colton Parayko

Torey Krug-Justin Faulk

Jake Walman-Vince Dunn

Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Ville Husso will be the backup. 

Healthy scratched include Robert Bortuzzo and Niko MikkolaRobert Thomas (shoulder) and Mackenzie MacEachern (upper body) remain out.

- - -

The Avalanche's projected lineup:

Gabriel Landeskog-Nathan MacKinnon-Andre Burakovsky

Valeri Nichushkin-Nazem Kadri-J.T. Compher

Brandon Saad-Tyson Jost-Valeri Nichushkin

Liam O'Brien-Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-Martin Kaut

Devon Toews-Samuel Girard

Ryan Graves-Cale Makar

Patrik Nemeth-Conor Timmins

Devan Dubnyk will start in goal; Jonas Johansson will be the backup.

The healthy scratch is Jacob MacDonald. Matt Calvert (upper body), Pavel Francouz (lower body), Erik Johnson (upper body), and Logan O'Connor (upper body). Mikko Rantanen, Philipp Grubauer and Joonas Donskoi are in COVID-19 protocol.