Wednesday, April 28, 2021

(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."

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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."

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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."

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* 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.

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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.

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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.

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