Wednesday, May 12, 2021

(5-12-21) Wild-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Get ready for Klim Kostin. The Blues' 2017 first-round pick will make his season debut for the Blues (25-20-9) when they host the Minnesota Wild (35-14-5) today at 8 p.m. (FSMW, NBCSN, ESPN 101.1-FM).

Kostin, who returned to St. Louis from Russia a week ago Wednesday but was in quarantine the past seven days, was part of Avangard Omsk's Gagarin Cup-winning side that won the KHL title against CSKA Moscow in six games. 

"Obviously a big body guy, a power-forward type of hockey, up and down the wing and bang bodies and go to the net, just simple hockey," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "He doesn't need to complicate the game. He just needs to go north-south and manage the puck properly and use his big body.

"I'm not familiar with KHL hockey. I don't really watch it a whole lot, but watching his shifts and his tape over there the way he played, he played good hockey for those guys. It's a different league. It's tough for me to tell. He might have real good jump tonight and be right on top of things. We'll just have to wait and see on that."

Kostin, 22, who had 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in 43 regular-season games and nine points (five goals, four assists) in 24 playoff games this season, took part in the morning skate Wednesday. He will be slotted on a line with Robert Thomas and Mike Hoffman against the Wild.

"Just some size on that line," Berube said. "You've got two skilled guys that make plays. The other guy's a shooter and you've got a big body that can get pucks for them, get in there on the forecheck and go to the net. That's how I tried to view the line when I put it together."

Kostin stands at 6-foot-3 and 212 pounds and can provide the Blues with some much-needed physicality. He had 50 penalty minutes during the regular season and 44 during the playoffs using his size and strength.

"He's a big dude, a big kid," forward Brayden Schenn said. "We like that he brings a little bit of physicality here, whether he's playing in the playoffs or not. We know on our roster we always have that guy that can play extremely hard, compete hard and bring energy for us as well as bring skill.

"I don't know really what you can do. Obviously that's a lot of the coaching to get him used to the systems and how we want to play and stuff like that. I think as a teammate, you root him on, cheer for him. Obviously he had a great year over in Russia playing bigger minutes on a championship-winning team. That does a lot for a young player and hopefully comes over here and translates. Obviously the game's a little bit different from the ice sheets and the style of play, but he's a big body that plays hard. Hopefully he fits right in."

Before the Blues loaned Kostin to Russia, he spent three seasons with San Antonio of the American Hockey League and had 82 points (29 goals, 53 assists) in 181 regular-season games with the Rampage. He played in four games with the Blues last season and scored his first NHL goal Nov. 23, 2019 against the Nashville Predators.

"I only played with Klim a couple games when I was there (in San Antonio), but he's a big body, he's strong, he's got a heavy shot," forward Jordan Kyrou said. "He's a smart player. I'm sure he'll adjust well. It'll be good.

"Klim's a good buddy of mine. Happy to finally see him. It's been a while since I've seen him. ... He just came out of his season, his playoffs so I'm really happy for him. I'm sure he's ready to go for sure. 

"That's a great start. He gets to come in and play right away and get used to it again, get used to this pace. I'm sure the pace will be a little different here, so that will be good for him."
To make room for Kostin, the Blues assigned Dakota Joshua to the taxi squad and Nathan Walker to Utica of the AHL.

- - -

Vladimir Tarasenko (lower body), Vince Dunn (upper body) and Sammy Blais (upper body) all skated with taxi squad members before the morning skate on Wednesday but will not be in the lineup Wednesday.

It's possible each could play in the season finale against the Wild on Thursday, something Berube said is important.

"They skated this morning with the taxi squad. Could have availability tomorrow," Berube said. "All three of them could be available tomorrow, I'm not sure yet. We'll make that decision tomorrow morning."

Tarasenko has missed the six of the past seven games, Dunn has missed the past nine games and Blais has missed the past four games.

Also, veteran forward Tyler Bozak will be a healthy scratch tonight for rest purposes, according to Berube. He's the first player given a game off for rest.

Asked whether he'd like a game off, Schenn said, "No. I'll play. It's fine. It's what we do. We're hockey players. it's our job. I'll happily play these last two games. It's a coach's decision. I'm sure it's more than just a coach's decision. I'm sure there's roster cap management stuff that we probably don't even know about. I haven't been told anything. I'll look forward to playing tonight and tomorrow night."

Jake Walman, who did not play Monday's 2-1 overtime win over the Los Angeles Kings because of a positive COVID-19 test, is still, as of early Wednesday afternoon, on the COVID-19 protocol list.

Niko Mikkola, who missed Monday's game with an upper-body injury, will slot back in with Robert Bortuzzo, making Steven Santini a healthy scratch.

- - -

Ville Husso get the start tonight against the Wild, and presumably Jordan Binnington will get Thursday's finale before the playoffs.

Husso will make his second consecutive start for the second time this season. He is 8-6-1 with 3.43 goals-against average and .886 save percentage this season.

"When I look at the whole season and it's been a weird season for him, I don't think it's fair to be honest with you, the season, his rookie year in the NHL, totally different league than the minors and shooters and other things, the speed of the game," Berube said. "He's had a lot of work to do to adjust to that and I think he's gotten better at that as the year's gone along. (Assistant coach) Davey Alexander's done a great job working with him. The one positive out of it all is he's found a way to win games. 

"His numbers maybe aren't what we want them to be or what he wants them to be, but he's found a way to win hockey games. That goes a long way in my opinion, but it's been a big adjustment for him this year and coming up here and playing, the shortened season and the games, how they're packed in and things like that. Hasn't been easy. There's a lot of nights where he's in the net and our team's probably tired, not 100 percent, a lot of injuries, things like that. All that weighs into all that. I think Ville Husso's had a good rookie season for me, from my standpoint, and he's done a good job of working on his game and getting better."

- - -

The Blues have been locked into the playoffs since clinching last Friday at Vegas and have played the past two games with nothing at stake. These two games against the Wild also have nothing at stake for the Blues, but they do for Minnesota, which can with a little help get them home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

"Minnesota's going to come out hard," Berube said. "The game means something to them. We've got to match that work ethic that they play with and they're a competitive tam. I want to be competitive and I want to work. That's what I'm looking for from our team."

For the Blues, it's more about finding what they want out of their game so they're prepared for what's after these two games.

"I think we just want to get dialing it in for the playoffs," Kyrou said. "We want to be playing our game going into the playoffs. We want to carry that momentum in. I think recently, our team's been playing a lot of good hockey, so we just want to carry that through these two games."

"We have to prepare and be ready for what's at stake after these two games," Schenn said. "You want to be feeling good, feeling confident heading into whatever series we're in. I think it's pretty natural once you do clinch to maybe do take a step back emotionally. We've grinded pretty hard for 17 or 18 games there to try and get in playing against good teams. Obviously the LA game, I don't think there was much enthusiasm from both sides and with them being out, but we know tonight, Minny's going to play hard. They can still move up in the standings, so we've got to be ready for a tough game."

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Ivan Barbashev-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Jordan Kyrou

Klim Kostin-Robert Thomas-Mike Hoffman 

Kyle Clifford-Zach Sanford-Mackenzie MacEachern

Torey Krug-Justin Faulk

Marco Scandella-Colton Parayko

Niko Mikkola-Robert Bortuzzo

Ville Husso will start in goal; Jordan Binnington will be the backup. Healthy scratches include Tyler Bozak and Steven Santini. Vladimir Tarasenko (lower body), Vince Dunn (upper body) and Sammy Blais (upper body) are out. Jake Walman remains in COVID 19 protocol and Oskar Sundqvist (knee) and Carl Gunnarsson (knee) are out for the season.

- - -

The Wild's projected lineup:

Jordan Greenway-Joel Eriksson Ek-Marcus Foligno

Kirill Kaprizov-Ryan Hartman-Mats Zuccarello

Kevin Fiala-Victor Rask-Marcus Johansson

Nick Bonino/Zach Parise-Nico Sturm-Nick Bjugstad

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 Zach Parise and Brad Hunt. The Wild report no injuries. 

No comments:

Post a Comment