Thursday, April 1, 2021


Blues could get Barbashev back Friday; Parayko status still up in the air; Dunn 
appears to be OK; Hoffman back in top six; players refreshed after two days off 

ST. LOUIS -- Missing pieces have been filtering onto the ice for the Blues in recent weeks, the holes that were obvious are starting to get plugged back up.

Add Ivan Barbashev to the list of walking wounded that is nearing a return to the lineup for the Blues, possibly as early as Friday.

Barbashev could return when the Blues (16-13-6) return to the ice in the first of back-to-back games against the red-hot Colorado Avalanche after missing the past 18 games with a hairline fracture in his left ankle.

Barbashev was injured Feb. 18 against the San Jose Sharks when he was hit by friendly fire in front of the net off the stick of David Perron.

"He looked good today," Blues coach Craig Berube said after practice Wednesday at Enterprise Center. "I think he's making real good strides and we'll evaluate him tomorrow and talk to him about possibly Friday. He looks pretty good, but he's got to feel like he's ready to go. We've got to wait. We'll wait until tomorrow."

Apparently, Barbashev has been skating but was on the ice for the first time with teammates for a full practice. He had been doing some light skating, which prompted Berube to quip, "Are you guys not watching?"

Barbashev's addition to the lineup should certainly give the fourth line a boost both offensively and defensively. He was taking turns skating on a line today with Kyle Clifford and Sammy Blais, flipping back and forth with Tyler Bozak at center.

"Barby's a big part of our group, the PK side of things, energy side of things," Perron said. "He was starting to build a little something with O'Ry and I before the injury, so it was unfortunate there for him. It's great to have him. Parayko, he's probably the guy that any team misses a guy like that, all the minutes he plays, how tough he is to beat 1-on-1, probably one of the top defensemen in the league defensively and also on the offensive side, when he uses his shot, things like that. ... He's probably a guy that we've missed at the top of the list there."

There were 24 skaters on the ice for practice Wednesday, including Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Robert Thomas, Barbashev, Bozak, Jacob de la Rose and Parayko, all who missed extensive time this season with various injuries.

"It's nice for sure seeing a lot of guys out there that you don't see for a while," Berube said. "I think it just changes your dynamic and how your team looks for sure and how your team feels, to be honest with you. It's been a tough year with injuries. We all know that. You've got to go through that at times. The bottom line is, we are getting healthy now. We don't have everybody back, but we've got a number of our guys back and we have an opportunity to turn things around here and it starts with Colorado on Friday. You've just got to look at the one game. Don't look beyond the one game. Just look at the one game and put it all on the line against Colorado, to me, a real good team obviously. We all know that, but we've gone into Colorado a number of times and defeated them, so there's no reason we can't do it again."

It has been a challenge, though, to get guys back and start winning immediately. That hasn't happened, and the Blues are going to need their latest additions to be difference-makers here the last 21 games.

"It is an adjustment," Berube said. "I think when we started getting guys back, there was chemistry going on with our team, we're playing well, doing some little things right defensively and keeping teams tight and keeping games tight, finding ways to win games. And then you start getting new people back and they're put in situations that maybe somebody else was in before. You kind of lose your chemistry a little bit with your club, but we've had a number of guys back for a number of games now, it's got to get past that."

* Parayko, Dunn updates -- The news of a potential Colton Parayko return isn't as clear, according to Berube.

Parayko, who's missed the past 19 games with an upper-body injury, has been regularly skating with the team for a couple weeks, took part in the full practice on Wednesday, doing most of what's needed except for winding up that big 6-foot-6 frame of his and seeing slap shots.

"Different situation, to be honest with you," Berube said. "Tomorrow, we'll see how he looks and how he feels again and we'll make a decision on him, but that one's up in the air still.
"Definitely, way more trickier. That issue he has, he's got to feel comfortable mentally. Physically, he's probably not going to feel as good as he wants to feel, but we'll have to wait and see."

As for Vince Dunn, who took part in the pregame warmup on Sunday but was scratched against the Anaheim Ducks with a lower-body injury stemming from getting hit with a shot in the knee area on Friday against the Ducks, also took part in practice but his status is also unknown at this point.

"He skated fine today," Berube said. "We'll see how he is tomorrow. I think he skated OK, not great out there, but we'll see how he is tomorrow."

* Hoffman back after being healthy scratch -- Mike Hoffman's benching was temporary.
The veteran winger, who was a healthy scratch in Sunday's 3-2 overtime loss, was on a line with Perron and Brayden Schenn when the team conducted line rushes in practice.

Berube wanted to send a message to the 30-year-old, who has two points (one goal, one assist) his past 10 games, that more is needed from him but that the trust in his abilities are still there.

"He's got to be put in a good situation to succeed," Berube said. "He's a scorer, he's an offensive player, so you've got to put him with offensive players and play him there. Sometimes, sitting out a game here or there, that's part of hockey and that's part of coaches decisions. They might not always be the right ones, but it's a decision I made. We've both got to move on and he's got to go play hockey and I've got to trust him, which I do. He's a proven scorer in this League, and I think he can do a good job for us."

It's not the first time Berube has benched a veteran player during his tenure. He sat Perron for a game Dec. 16, 2018 against the Calgary Flames.

"It's more than just him, to be honest with you," Perron said of Hoffman, who is fifth on the Blues in points with 20 (eight goals, 12 assists) in 33 games. "... It catches the attention of everyone. When you show up at 1, 2 p.m. for a 4 o'clock game and you see a lineup and he's not on there. ... I think for me personally, the good thing is I had good conversations with 'Chief' when that happened. 'Chief' is probably the best guy at that. He'll single you off like maybe he did to 'Hoff' there, but at the same time, he'll give you a chance to get back and prove that you can give more in a way. I'm really thankful for 'Chief' for that. He's great, he turns the page on that. He'll give him a decent opportunity. That's what I tried to do when it happened to me. Obviously you try and clean up every single little details that they mention to you that they want better and also bring your best foot forward as far as the qualities that make you good as a hockey player."

* Time to get away -- The Blues had a rare pause in their schedule with four days off in between games, so they decided to give the players Monday and Tuesday off before resuming practice on Wednesday.

There were supposed to be originally-games at Arizona Monday and Wednesday, but those games were played in February because of COVID-19 circumstances and thus the extra days off before playing the Avalanche.

"It's really good us on both sides, especially this year with the crazy schedule we've had and how many games we've had packed in, I think it's nice for us to be able to relax, get away, some guys spent time with their families and for the younger guys, separate your mind from hockey for a couple days and kind of get a nice reset in there," forward Zach Sanford said.
They were welcomed days off for the players and coaches and can help reset the mind and body.

"It can, for sure," Perron said. "It's rare you get two in a row. I think mostly we're pretty fortunate with our coaches, our team, staff, Ray Barile, all those guys. They understand how important rest is. It was definitely great to get away. I think that was kind of the message too, to get away if you can from hockey a little bit mentally. We spend so much time together at the rink and at the hotel on the road because we can't do anything. Hockey is one of the main topics all the time, mostly when things aren't going as well as we'd like and we're trying to find solutions. Hopefully it's good."

The coaching staff understands just how much of a grind this season has been for everyone, and despite the recent struggles, felt it was best to allow the players to get away from the game for a couple days.

"I think sometimes when things aren't going well for you and you're working hard and you come up short, getting away from the game for a couple days and just spending time with your family and enjoying that, it really is," Berube said. "I think getting your mind away from it, the stress level drops a little bit and you enjoy it a little bit more when you come back to the rink."

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