Monday, April 5, 2021

(4-5-21) Golden Knights-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Craig Berube threw the perfect curveball Monday morning but one that may have been somewhat predictable considering the way Ville Husso's played in recent starts.

Husso will get the nod in goal again tonight, his first back to back starts in the NHL, when the slumping Blues (16-15-6), who are 0-5-1 their past six games, look to snap their funk and keep from sliding too far out of playoff position when they host Alex Pietrangelo and the Vegas Golden Knights (24-10-2) at 7 p.m. (BSMW, ESPN 101.1-FM).

Husso was sharp in a 2-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche in stopping 32 of 34 shots in the game, and he will get the call over a slumping Jordan Binnington.

"I really liked his last game," Berube said of Husso. "I thought that he gave us a chance to win in that game. He looked good, big in net, so in my opinion, give him a shot again tonight.
"I think that Ville, his last few starts have been pretty good and I know 'Binner' played a number of games there, but again, I thought he was solid in net and I want to continue and see how he looks here again tonight."

Husso had his challenges earlier in the season, particularly at the start of games allowing the first goal within the first or second shots, but has come on, allowing to or fewer goal in six of his past nine appearances.

"When you're a goalie that has been in the minors playing and you come up and now you're in the NHL, your first year, it's a difficult transition for sure," Berube said. "You're looking at different shooters in the game, the way it's played it's a lot faster. It takes a little time to adjust and I think he's done a good job working with (goalie coach) Davey Alexander. I think Dave does a good job with the goalies. He seems like he's a lot more confident in net."

Players notice Husso's confidence growing too.

"You can tell his confidence level, whether it starts with his routine or all the way to the first shift of the game and throughout, he settles in really nicely," defenseman Torey Krug said. "He gives our team a lot of confidence. He played a heck of a game last time out. If he gets to go again tonight, I'm sure he'll give us a good chance to win."

Binnington is 10-11-5 with a 2.79 goals-against average on the season with a .904 save percentage, but just 2-8-3 in his past 14 starts.

"It's a good question. It's a question that's hard to answer to be honest with you," Berube said regarding getting his No. 1 netminder to feel good about himself again. "Only the player really knows that inside of him. 

"Binner's just got to be himself, in my opinion. He's got to be an aggressive goalie and he's got to have an aggressive mindset like he had before. The swagger in Jordan and what he brings there, that's what makes him a real good goalie. He's got to find that again."

- - -

During the Blues' six-game losing streak, they've scored seven goals, an average of 1.17 goals per game.

Goal scoring has most definitely been an issue and one that they'd like to solve, and solve fast.

"I think we're close, but close doesn't get you much in this league," said Krug, who has one goal in 37 games this season. "Just continue with it and stick with it, work to create those bounces. Pretty soon, you just continue to work and all of the sudden, the bounces end up on our stick and they end up going our way. I think we can get a little bit dirtier and this is a good opportunity tonight to raise our compete level and get inside guys. Obviously it's a big game for us, so that should bring out the best in us.

"As long as you're working, the law of averages usually even out. We have too many guys in that room with the proven track records that we've had. We'll be able to score and we'll be able to do it as long as we stick together. We've shown glimpses of it, and we're getting close. It's just a matter of sticking with it now. It's frustrating for sure, but at this point in the season, you can't let frustration kick in because you're going to fall behind even more."

Forward Jaden Schwartz, who has just two assists and zero goals since returning from an oblique injury eight games ago, said it's been something different every game.

"I think every game's a little bit different," Schwartz said. "People always say traffic on net helps, and it does, so I think just getting numbers inside and winning some more battles in front of the net. A lot of goals are second and third chances. I think we can do a better job of that. I think in all situations there's different moments of why it's not going in. I think just getting our confidence level back and believing in ourselves and our system I think is going to help.

"I wish I could explain it better, but we know we've got the guys that can put the puck in the net. Sometimes you've got to get that good feeling back. You get one or two and each line pots one, you just get that better feeling coming to the rink and things just seem a little bit better and it gets your confidence going, which is obviously important. We've got a lot of guys who have done it in the past, myself included. It's frustrating when you're counted on to produce and it's not going in. It's not a good feeling. We've just got to find a way to dig out of this together and take it one game at a time. We know a lot of us have got to be a lot better.

"Obviously (my game's) not where I'd like it to be. I've been pretty happy with most of the games other than a couple. Not getting enough quality chances, and when I am, obviously I haven't been putting it in. Obviously it's been frustrating. I'm counted on to produce and I haven't been able to do it lately. Just looking to get my game back as quick as possible. Doing a lot of good things, but once we can get one or two and feeling good, that's going to go a long way."

- - -

On the flip side, the Blues have done a better job defensively in limiting the opposition's chances and limiting the amount of goals. 

In non empty-net and overtime goals, the Blues have allowed 17 goals the past eight games, or 2.13 goals per game, which on most nights is typically good enough to win.

"We just feel confident in our defensive game right now," Krug said. "I think guys are working to keep gaps tight and our forwards are back-checking like crazy. It's made a huge difference in our transition game. We've been able to limit other teams' chances. More the same and we'll give ourselves a chance to win. We gave ourselves a chance to win the last couple games and if we keep playing that way, we'll have a chance to win some more."

"It's been frustrating," Schwartz said. "We've played a lot of good hockey games that we could have won. We just haven't found a way. I think if we stay positive and the good things that we're doing, I think we've got to learn from some of the mistakes but the last couple weeks, I think we've played some good hockey. We're just in a bit of a scoring slump and we're not able to score enough goals right now and it's hurting us. There's no better chance than to play a top team to get that going again. We're looking forward to tonight's match. We were happy with our game in Colorado. It was a tough one to lose, but we've got to find a way to keep our spirits up and get ready for tonight. It's a good way to turn things around."

- - -

In an attempt to do whatever's necessary to spark the offense, Berube has moved pieces around again.

Mike Hoffman moves on a line with Ryan O'Reilly and David Perron returns there, the Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Jordan Kyrou reunites after having great success early in the season, Robert Thomas is flanked by Russians Vladimir Tarasenko and Ivan Barbashev, and Tyler Bozak gets Kyle Clifford and Zach Sanford as linemates.

"That Kyrou, Schenn, Schwartz line was really good for us for quite some time before injuries hit," Berube said. "They were scoring pretty much every game, it seemed like they were on the scoresheet. Hopefully that line can find some chemistry again and produce for us. You look at O'Reilly and Perron, they've been together over the last few years more than anybody else and they work well together. They've got a real scorer on the other side there that can hopefully put some pucks in the net. I put that line together with Thomas, Barbashev and Vladi. It was a few years back when Vladi and Barby played and they had real good chemistry together and with a guy like Robby Thomas in the middle, for me, it should be a good line, it should be able to produce some offense for us. Then I've got a checking line together."

- - -

He wasn't here when Vegas last came to town because of a wrist injury, but Pietrangelo returns home for the first time tonight.

The former Blues captain, who departed via free agency this past off-season, will return to face the Blues in a building he called home for 12 seasons for the first time.

It was a different path than the one Pietrangelo, who played his first 758 NHL games with the Blues after being the fourth overall pick of the 2008 NHL Draft, used to take.

"Training camp, they used to shove me over there every once in a while," Pietrangelo said. "A little different, right? Obviously I didn't really know where to go this morning coming in the other way, but all good. Obviously an exciting game for me. I didn't get to come last time, but business as usual for us out there.

"Eventually, you're going to have to get it out of the way whether it's that one or now. It just is what it is. I said it before, you're going to have to play them eight times this year. It doesn't really affect me. Once you get out there, everyone's out there to accomplish the same goal."
There will be 4,100-plus fans on hand to see the former captain, who will get a video tribute upon his return but without the usual sellout crowd.

"It'll be a little bit different for him," Schwartz said of Pietrangelo. "It's a special thing for him coming back. He was such a big piece of this organization for such a long time. High draft pick and he was here for so long. He did so many good things for this city and organization, first captain to bring the Stanley Cup to St. Louis. It's going to be different seeing him on the other side and I'm sure it's going to be a little bit weird for him but special at the same time. Like I said, he was such a key piece and so important to this group for so long. He married a St. Louis girl and good chance he might live here when he's older. I know this city holds a special spot in his heart."

"He was the captain of the team here and been a real good player for a number of years in this league and for the Blues, won a Cup and (us) he was a big part of it for sure," Berube said. "He was a real good player here, but that's the game and people move on and they go to different places to play. That's a big part of the game nowadays. He'll be emotional for a shift or two, but it'll go away and he'll just play."

Under normal circumstances, Pietrangelo would have been able to visit former teammates and friends, have dinner with them and for someone who married a St. Louis girl, would have had the chance to visit family.

Not in the COVID world.

"My wife's from here, so we have family too here, right? That part's a little disappointing," Pietrangelo said. "Just in general as the season's gone on, you miss those opportunities on the road just to be able to go to dinner with guys. I know we're eating at the hotel, but you're missing those opportunities to do stuff as a group you'd maybe normally do. So that part's hard and challenging. But obviously coming here, see my family would really be important. I get to see some of the guys this morning or postgame but it would have been nice to get back and see the family, that's for sure."

The Blues faced Pietrangelo when they visited Las Vegas on Jan. 26 but this is the first one back here, which makes it a bit different.

"I'm sure it's emotional," Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said. "Obviously a little different with no fans in the building, but he was captain of a Stanley Cup team here, so that's something that I obviously don't have experience with, but it puts it on a whole different level. For him, it's just getting through it and try not to overthink it or do too much. It's nicd that he's already had one game against his old team. He's got that behind him, but this is for sure a special and different experience."

- - -

* Blues center Jacob de la Rose was on the ice for the morning skate and is eligible to go back to the taxi squad now that he's cleared waivers.

* Defenseman Colton Parayko (upper body) skated again on Monday morning but will miss his 22nd straight game. 
(UPDATE) -- Parayko was activated off injured reserve before the game and returned to play Monday.

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Mike Hoffman-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron 

Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Jordan Kyrou 

Ivan Barbashev-Robert Thomas-Vladimir Tarasenko 

Kyle Clifford-Tyler Bozak-Zach Sanford 

Torey Krug-Justin Faulk

Marco Scandella-Colton Parayko

Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo

Ville Husso will start in goal; Jordan Binnington will be the backup. Healthy scratches include Sammy Blais, Jacob de la Rose and Niko Mikkola.  Mackenzie MacEachern (upper body) remains out. Oskar Sundqvist (knee) and Carl Gunnarsson (knee) are out for the season.

- - -

The Golden Knights' projected lineup:

Max Pacioretty-Cody Glass-Mark Stone

Jonathan Marchessault-William Karlsson-Reilly Smith

Keegan Kolesar-Tomas Nosek-Alex Tuch

William Carrier-Patrick Brown-Nicolas Roy

Alec Martinez-Shea Theodore

Brayden McNabb-Alex Pietrangelo

Nicolas Hague-Dylan Coghlan

Robin Lehner will start in goal; Marc-Andre Fleury will be the backup. Vegas reports no healthy scratches. Ryan Reaves (lower body) is a game-time decision. Zach Whitecloud (upper body) is out. Chandler Stephenson will serve the third of a three-game suspension.

No comments:

Post a Comment