Friday, April 9, 2021

(4-9-21) Wild-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Beginning with Friday's game, the Blues and Minnesota Wild will get to know each other quite well.

The Blues (17-16-6) and Wild (24-12-2) will get quite acquainted over the next four days with three matchups against each other, beginning with back to back games at Enterprise Center beginning Friday at 7 p.m. (BSMW, ESPN 101.1-FM).

The teams will play one another seven times down the stretch, with a four-game set slated for late in the month of April and early May. 

There's only been one matchup thus far, and Minnesota, despite being outshot 37-11 and the Blues owning the high danger chances at 10-3, winning the Corsi battle at 68-30 and Fenwick at 52-22, the Wild prevailed 2-0 on March 25. The goals-for for the Blues was 2.64 and 0.95 for the Wild.

"Last time we played them, we were all over them all game long," forward Jordan Kyrou said. "We just couldn't get those bounces. We were in that stretch where we weren't really scoring. I think if we got like two or three here, the floodgates would open."

Cam Talbot, who will not get the start tonight, and instead, it will be rookie Kaapo Kahkonen in goal for the Wild, stole the show in that first meeting with the Blues. But St. Louis has to feel like if they can duplicate a number of things they did in that game, the results will pan out better.

"I can't determine a win, but we played a good game obviously and limited them to 11 shots against," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "We're going to have to do the same. We've got to play good D tonight against them tonight and we're going to have to work hard to get goals. Their goatending's been good, solid all year. They've got a real good back end, they defend well. It's going to take a lot of work."

The Blues come in three points back of Arizona for the fourth and final playoff position in the West Division, and coming off a 3-1 win against Vegas on Wednesday helped raise the spirits of a team that was in an 0-6-1 funk.

"I feel like last game was big for us just getting the monkey off our back," defenseman Marco Scandella said. "We know what type of team we are. We are a big, heavy team. We just have to hold onto pucks. We're highly skilled and we can't be turning pucks over left and right. This division's too good. You're going to get scored on, so I feel like we're learning our game. We went through a tough stretch, but it looks good now. We have two important games coming up against Minnesota, three (with) one in their barn too but two in a row here. We've just got to get ready for tonight, take it one game at a time, not get too focused on the future, just play in the present."

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Count Kyrou among those happy to see Jake Walman get his first NHL goal Wednesday.
Kyrou and Walman are the best of friends, and it was fittingly Kyrou who got the primary assist after his initial shot was saved, leaving a big rebound for Walman to come in and put past Marc-Andre Fleury to make it 3-0.

"Wally, of course. He's one of my best friends," Kyrou said. "It was good to see him get his first goal and I was really happy for him.

"Me and Wally have been great friends for a while now. We both live close to each other in the summer and we hang out together. It's finally great to get to see him playing and playing well. I've always known he's a great player and he's an amazing skater, great shot, great IQ. He's great defensively. I can never beat him in practice, I don't think anyone else can. He's doing well this year and I hope he can keep it up."

The two are among the fastest skaters on the Blues, and the question was posed of who would win the race between them.

"I don't know. I don't think we've had that race yet, but I think it would be a close, tight skate, tight matchup," Kyrou said. "... Wally's pretty fast, so I don't know, we've never done that. Maybe we should do that and try it out. I'd like to see, yeah."

Walman's been paired with Colton Parayko the past two games and has benefitted from playing with the veteran d-man.

"If you look throughout the league and in the past, a lot of really good veteran defensemen take on a young guy as a partner for the year," Berube said. "It does help them, it gives them confidence and they can teach them along the way a little bit, help them out. That pair, they haven't been together a whole lot, but I've liked what I saw so far."

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The Blues want to build a winning streak, but they would like to cut down the shots against, especially off Wednesday's game in which Vegas had 51, including 21 in the second period.

"We can't take too many penalties, that's for sure," Scandella said. "Control the play in their zone, hold onto pucks. We're a big-body team, be responsible with the puck, not let them have the transition chances. We know they're a fast team, skilled team. It's going to take that."
But Jordan Binnington, who will start tonight, came to the rescue with 50 saves.

"He had a huge game," Scandella said. "He made tough saves look routine. He's a great goalie. He played an unbelievable game and just hoping that he's going to continue that way. He's a leader on our team. Only good things to say about 'Binner.' We needed that type of game and he brought it."

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Mike Hoffman, brought in to help boost the Blues' scoring this season, will be a healthy scratch for a second straight game, as will defenseman Robert Bortuzzo. The Blues will keep the same lineup in tact from Wednesday.

It will be the third healthy scratch for Hoffman in the past six games, and with the trade deadline looming on Monday, it almost seems inevitable that the veteran winger, who signed a one-year, $4 million contract at the start of the season, will get moved elsewhere.

Berube was asked about players thinking about this time of year.

"I think trade deadlines are trade deadlines. Players always think about it," Berube said. "That's a natural instinct to think about it. Maybe you want to get traded or you don't want to get traded. Everybody's different, right? People are in certain positions maybe. They might want to get moved and there's guys that obviously don't want to get moved. I don't think I feel there's any urgency within that's causing ... urgency is because of the situation we're in and guys want to make the playoffs. That's where the urgency's coming from."

Was Berube ever moved this time of year?

"I think one time I was moved," he said. "That's the only time I can remember. But I had a no-trade clause my whole career. Nobody wanted me."

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The Blues' projected lineup:

Sammy Blais-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron 

Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko

Zach Sanford-Tyler Bozak-Robert Thomas

Kyle Clifford-Ivan Barbashev-Jordan Kyrou 

Torey Krug-Justin Faulk

Marco Scandella-Vince Dunn

Jake Walman-Colton Parayko

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

Healthy scratches include Mike Hoffman, Robert Bortuzzo and Niko Mikkola. Mackenzie MacEachern (upper body) is out. Oskar Sundqvist (knee) and Carl Gunnarsson (knee) are out for the season.

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The Wild's projected lineup:

Jordan Greenway-Joel Eriksson Ek-Kirill Kaprizov

Kevin Fiala-Victor Rask-Nick Bonino

Marcus Johansson-Ryan Hartman-Mats Zuccarello

Zach Parise-Luke Johnson-Kyle Rau

Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin-Matt Dumba

Ian Cole-Carson Soucy

Kaapo Kahkonen will start in goal; Cam Talbot will be the backup. 

Healthy scratches include Dakota Mermis, Brad Hunt, Joseph Cramarossa and Nico Sturm. Marcus Foligno (lower body) and Nick Bjugstad (upper body) are out.

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