Monday, May 10, 2021

(5-10-21) Blues-Kings Gameday Lineup

One injured skater will make his return to the lineup for the Blues (24-20-9), as they get set to play their final road regular-season game today against the Los Angeles Kings (21-26-6) at 9 p.m. (BSMW, ESPN 101.1-FM).

Defenseman Torey Krug, who has missed five games with an upper-body injury, slots back in and will replace Niko Mikkola.

Krug, who has 29 points (one goal, 28 assists) in his first season with the Blues in 48 games, is expected to get paired with Justin Faulk.

"Yeah, that's the plan," Krug said. "Excited to be back in there for sure. 

"It was tough (sitting out), especially because I think we were rolling there as a group and starting to hit our stride, but ultimately I was excited to see the guys clinch while I was out of the lineup and it also just gave me a little more time to make sure I felt comfortable enough to come back in. Now I'm excited to prepare for the postseason."

Krug had a four-game point streak (six assists) before he was forced from the lineup.

"It's great he's back," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "It's good to get him in some games here before the playoffs. He means a lot. He's obviously one of our top defensemen and power play guy. Obviously a good player for us."

As for injured forwards Vladimir Tarasenko (lower body) and Sammy Blais (upper body) and defenseman Vince Dunn (upper body), the hope is that they get in before the end of the regular season, which concludes with a pair of home games Wednesday and Thursday against Minnesota.

Tarasenko and Dunn are on the trip, Blais is not.

"That's the plan," Berube said. "It would be nice to get those three guys in the lineup, but we'll have to wait and see if it happens."

Also, forward Ivan Barbashev avoided any kind of serious injury when he was seen in agony late in Saturday's loss to Vegas when he couldn't even get up and skate off on his own and put any weight on his left leg.

But Barbashev will in fact play and be slotted on a line with Ryan O'Reilly and David Perron tonight.

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Forward Dakota Joshua will get back into the lineup tonight and center the fourth line, replacing Mackenzie MacEachern.

Joshua played in 11 games earlier in the season, most recently March 25 against the Wild, and had one goal. 

"We want to look at him again," Berube said. "I thought that he played pretty well for us for a young kid coming in with no experience in the NHL, I think he was very composed, did a good job in his own end, d-zone. I thought offensively, he has good instincts and he went to the net on his one goal, which was a good goal. It's going to be good to see him play a game again."

Joshua has done nothing but work himself into the eyes of the organization and given favorable impressions from the time Berube said he saw him skate at the Prospect Tournament two years ago in Traverse City, Mich. 

"I didn't know him a ton," Berube said. "I watched him at Traverse, I believe. That would have been two years ago, I would think, but that's all I had seen of him other than just reports of him playing in the minors. He's one of those guys for me that he's a noticeable player, he's a big body, skates pretty well. What I see out of him is I know the work ethic's there, but the hockey IQ is there for me seeing him on the right side of things and just offensively, it seems like he's got composure with the puck and some offensive instincts. 

"I think you've got to analyze (hockey IQ) for a bit, you've got to look at different situations and things like that. Hockey IQ is tough. You've got to anticipate and it's more than just one little thing than what people think when it comes to hockey IQ. There's a lot of anticipation in hockey. Yes, there's a system and you have to play it and it's important to play it properly. Guys that have high hockey IQ, they're always in position and they always know where to be and things like that, but they also anticipate the game really well. That's a big thing."

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The Kings, who were eliminated from the playoffs Friday when the Blues earned a point in a 4-3 overtime loss at Vegas and subsequent 3-2 regulation loss against Colorado, will play their final home game tonight minus some key veterans in Dustin Brown, who will miss the final five regular-season games with an upper-body injury and Jeff Carter, who was traded to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline on April 9.

"They've got some young guys in there that are going to play well and then you've got (Anze) Kopitar and (Drew) Doughty," Berube said. 'You know what you can expect from those two. It's never an easy game against LA and it never was all year. They're always tough games, they play a good system, they're a well-coached team."

The Blues are locked into the fourth seed in the West Division and have nothing to play for standings-wise, but do want to keep their game sharp heading into a playoff series against either the Golden Knights or Avalanche.

"(You want) guys feeling good, feeling confident," forward Brayden Schenn said. "Obviously we know it's a weird scenario. Three games left and part of the league being done and teams being done and us being clinched. But for the most part, you want to get your game as a team and individually feeling as good heading into a playoff series. Obviously it's been a grind here recently with a lot of hockey, playing a lot of good teams and playing a lot of hard games each night. We've got three games to try and get ourselves feeling good into the playoffs."

The Blues are 5-1-3 the past nine games and 8-4-3 the past 15 after an 0-6-1 drought.

"I think the biggest thing is finding our game for a full 60 minutes," defenseman Colton Parayko said. "That's going to be huge. We know what it looks like. It's hard hockey, it's tough hockey to play, it's tough hockey to play against. Just making sure that we stick together for 60 minutes and stick together as a team, make sure we're there for each other. If we play that way, we're going to be fine. We give ourselves a good chance to win every night if we play that way. Making sure we just focus on things like that and I think we're going to be good."

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The Blues' projected lineup:

Ivan Barbashev-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Jaden Schwartz-Tyler Bozak-Brayden Schenn

Mike Hoffman-Robert Thomas-Jordan Kyrou

Kyle Clifford-Dakota Joshua-Zach Sanford

Torey Krug-Justin Faulk

Marco Scandella-Colton Parayko

Steven Santini-Robert Bortuzzo

Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Ville Husso will be the backup. Healthy scratches include Niko Mikkola and Mackenzie MacEachern. Vladimir Tarasenko (lower body), Vince Dunn (upper body) and Sammy Blais (upper body) are out tonight. Oskar Sundqvist (knee) and Carl Gunnarsson (knee) are out for the season. Jake Walman was a late scratch due to a positive COVID-19 test that the Blues believe is a false positive.

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The Kings' projected lineup:

Adrian Kempe-Anze Kopitar-Andreas Athanasiou

Alex Iafallo-Gabriel Vilardi-Lias Andersson

Austin Wagner-Rasmus Kupari-Trevor Moore

Brendan Lemieux-Jaret Anderson-Dolan-Carl Grundstrom

Mikey Anderson-Drew Doughty

Tobias Bjornfot-Matt Roy

Olli Maatta-Sean Walker

Calvin Petersen will start in goal; Troy Grosenick will be the backup. Healthy scratches include Christian Wolanin, Kurtis MacDermid and Matt Luff. Blake Lizotte (upper body) and Jonathan Quick (upper body) are out tonight. Dustin Brown (upper body) is out for the season.

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