Wednesday, April 7, 2021

(4-7-21) Golden Knights-Blues Gameday Lineup

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. -- Changes could be looming for the slumping Blues on Wednesday.

Sammy Blais and Jake Walman could return and Mike Hoffman and Robert Bortuzzo could be healthy scratches when the Blues (16-16-6) host the Vegas Golden Knights (25-10-2) at 8 p.m. (BSMW, ESPN 101.1-FM) trying to snap out of a seven-game losing streak, and eight in a row at home (0-6-2).

Both Hoffman and Bortuzzo were on the ice at Centene Community Ice Center with Niko Mikkola, Jacob de la Rose and Ville Husso long after the rest of the group was off the ice and gone.

"We'll make some decisions tonight at game time," Blues coach Craig Berube said without elaborating any more.

For Hoffman, it would be his second healthy scratch in the past five games and it begs the question: does it have anything to do with the trade deadline looming on Monday?

Hoffman, who signed a one-year, $4 million contract, could be offered up as trade bait should the Blues make any roster moves with two games left before Monday's 2 p.m. (CT) deadline.

Hoffman is fifth in scoring on the Blues with 21 points (nine goals, 12 assists) in 36 games but has just three goals his past 20 games and is a minus-9 his past 10 games.

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Speaking of Centene, the Blues made the switch to their practice facility for what amounted to be an optional morning skate.

They've not done this in the Berube era, for sure, and if it's been done before, it may have been a long time ago.

"Just change it up a little bit," Berube said as for the reasoning. "Just change it up, that's all. We really like Centene a lot. Our practice rink has everything here. I know we've been using Enterprise as a morning skate here for a few years now, but we've just decided to make a change. 

"They did a nice job building it, and we're treated pretty good here."

Everyone participated in the skate except for forwards David Perron, Vladimir Tarasenko, Kyle Clifford, Ivan Barbashev and Tyler Bozak along with defenseman Torey Krug.

There was no mysterious secret as to why the venue was changed.

"I'm not sure. That's not in my book of stuff," joked center Robert Thomas. "It's a little different being out here this morning."

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Defenseman Colton Parayko came out of Monday's 6-1 loss to Vegas feeling fine and is expected to play again after missing 21 games with an upper-body injury.

Parayko played 19:46 and was a minus-3 in the game, but Berube feels he came through well.

"I think he's making improvements every day," Berube said. "He did some good things in the game. I was happy he got through it and he felt good the next day, so that's really positive. Obviously he's been out a log time and just a little bit of timing issues are probably going to creep in there a little bit at times. He did a lot of good things in the game too."

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The goal drought for the Blues is something that can't be ignored, and something that unfortunately for them, has been a daily topic.

During their losing streak, they've scored eight goals, or an average of 1.14 per game.

"I think we get a lot of chances," Thomas said. "I think it's just about bearing down and kind of loosening the stick. When you get in a slump, you tend to tightening up and don't really play as loose as you want to be. I think it's just about getting back to that and just sticking with it. I think our net presence is getting better. It still needs to improve a little bit and that'll help with it."

Thomas has just one goal in 19 games this season and none no points in seven games since returning from a broken left thumb.

"I'm starting to get back in the flow of things. I feel like I'm getting there, getting to where I want to be but just not there yet," Thomas said. "... I feel healthy, I'm getting back to normal now."

"We're getting chances," Berube said. "This stretch has been tough with the scoring for sure, but we do get a lot of good looks and I think guys are probably squeezing it harder than they should right now. It's easier said than done to stop doing that. We're going to get some puck luck here soon. I think the guys are going to the net harder than they have been. We talked about that quite a bit. We probably could still go there with heavier sticks and finding some rebounds and things like that. I do believe that it's getting close. I do like the start of our game last game. I thought we had some real good looks early and I thought we had some real good movement by our defense in the offensive zone. I think that was lacking for a while. I think we were just a little bit stagnant on the back end. We need a little bit more movement back there and I thought I saw that early on in that game, which is a good sign."

"It's obviously tough," center Brayden Schenn said. "You have to wait for your chances and your opportunities. Sometimes they come in bunches, sometimes they're not coming at all. I think that's when you have to find different ways to score goals than you normally do. Whether that's going to the net and getting second and third chances or about finding the open ice in different areas, it's obviously been tough on a lot of guys. Guys put a lot of pressure on themselves to produce and score goals and it just hasn't happened. Who's to say? We have 18 games left and you can turn it on here and score some goals. We have the talent in the locker room to do it. For us, I think it's not looking at what we've done in the past month or what we've done recently with scoring goals. There's always a game tonight and you can always turn it on. That's when you can get yourself in trouble is when you start looking in the past and beating yourself up over it when you can look ahead and look for better things to come than in the past."

Schenn is one of the leaders on the team, and gave an interesting take when asked if he's more vocal in trying to help the group steer the ship in the right direction or lead by example on the ice. Schenn has no goals in 12 games and just three assists.

"I think you try and do a little of both," Schenn said. "I think if you're talking too much and you're not backing it up for me offensively scoring goals, it's tough. Your voice may dry out at times. For me, I'm trying to bring different elements, whether that's getting in a fight here or you're trying to work hard or physical or whatever. You've got to try and find other ways to be effective on the ice. You're not really getting it done offensively and for me, I know i've got to be better and help this team score goals and win hockey games. I guess it's kind of a tough question to answer, but as a leader in this group when things aren't going your way, you've got to try and dig in and grind and try and turn this thing around."

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Jordan Binnington will return to the starter's net after Husso started the past two games.
Binnington is 2-8-3 with a 3.22 goals-against average and .888 save percentage his past 14 starts. He did make 12 saves on 13 shots in relief of Husso Monday.

"We need saves like we need goals," Berube said. "He's part of the team like everybody else. We're all involved in this together and we all have to be better at our job. That's everybody, me included."

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The Blues' projected lineup (will be updated during pregame the warm-up):

Ivan Barbashev-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron 

Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko

Sammy Blais-Robert Thomas-Jordan Kyrou 

Kyle Clifford-Tyler Bozak-Zach Sanford 

Torey Krug-Colton Parayko

Marco Scandella-Justin Faulk

Jake Walman-Vince Dunn

Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Ville Husso will be the backup. Mike Hoffman, Robert Bortuzzo and Niko Mikkola could be healthy scratches. Mackenzie MacEachern (upper body) is out. Oskar Sundqvist (knee) and Carl Gunnarsson (knee) are out for the season.

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The Golden Knights' projected lineup:

Max Pacioretty-Chandler Stephenson-Mark Stone

Jonathan Marchessault-William Karlsson-Reilly Smith

Alex Tuch-Tomas Nosek-Keegan Kolesar 

William Carrier-Nicolas Roy-Ryan Reaves 

Alec Martinez-Shea Theodore

Brayden McNabb-Alex Pietrangelo

Nicolas Hague-Nick Holden 

Marc-Andre Fleury is projected to start in goal; Robin Lehner would be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Cody Glass, Patrick Brown, Dylan Coghlan. Zach Whitecloud (upper body) is out.

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