Friday, May 21, 2021

(5-21-21) Avalanche-Blues Game 3 Gameday Lineup

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. -- What happens for the Blues tonight in Game 3 of their first round playoff series against the Colorado Avalanche is anybody's guess.

Of course, that's the case when it comes to the final scoreline, but as far as a lineup is concerned, well, those answers will be known when the team takes the ice prior to puck drop in the best-of-7 series that the Avalanche leads 2-0 at 8:30 p.m. (BSMW, USA Network, ESPN 101.1-FM).

The biggest question marks come on defense, as Justin Faulk and Robert Bortuzzo each will miss the game after sustaining upper-body injuries in the 6-3 loss in Game 2.

Bortuzzo was first to leave midway through the game when he took an elbow from Tyson Jost, who did not receive supplementary discipline for his actions, and Faulk departed 6:30 into the third period when he was the recipient of an illegal check to the head from Nazem Kadri, who is expected to receive a suspension from the Department of Player Safety, which offered the Avalanche center a in-person hearing via Zoom Friday afternoon.

"He's feeling OK, but I got no comment on the hit or whatever the league does," Blues coach Craig Berube said of Faulk. "But Faulker, he's doing OK."

Berube said Faulk could potentially return at some point in this series, as well as Bortuzzo too. 

"I think there's a potential return too. It's hard for me to determine on those types of things," Berube said. "It changes, might change in two days for the worse, maybe it's better, who knows."

So the Blues will have some changes along their blue line, and could include the NHL playoff debut for Steven Santini and Mitch Reinke. Each skated on Friday morning and could jump into the lineup, depending on the health of Vince Dunn (upper body injury), who Berube said is a game time decision after missing the past 14 games.

"Santini, the games he's played has been steady and predictable," Berube said. "He looks like he's got a good head on his shoulders. I haven't seen him a lot, but what I have seen of him when he played those games, pretty intelligent player.

"(Reinke's) a puck mover. He moves the puck well, sees the ice well. He's a smart player. That's probably his best qualities."

If either play, it will be a trial by fire, but one forward Sammy Blais said each needs to enjoy.

"Just enjoy. It's playoff hockey, it's the best time of the year," Blais said. "If the guy plays his first game, just have fun out there and not be too stressed and just play your game. Whoever's in the lineup's going to do a good job for us." 

But Dunn's potential return would boost things for the Blues significantly.

"Obviously he's a very good player," defenseman Colton Parayko said. "He's been around for a long time. Just having his presence in the locker room and on the ice, it makes a difference. Whatever lineup we're able to go with, we're going to focus on that and that's all we can do. Kind of what's happened, happened and we've got to focus on trying to win a hockey game tonight."

Regardless of who's in and not in, the Blues are focused on one task

"We don't know the full lineup yet, but we've just got to focus on tonight and we've just got to be there for the game and that's all we can do is put together the best lineup and put together our best game," Parayko said. "Our focus now is onto Game 3, just putting together best game, our best foot forward and trying to get into this series here. That's our goal right now, whoever we have in the lineup, we're going to step up and give ourselves a chance to win."

The Blues should have some emotion, at least at the outset, all things considered after the Avalanche knocked out 1/3 of the Blues' blue line. But the coaching staff had the conversation with the team about staying focused on the game at hand.

"Yeah, at the end of the game (Wednesday). It is what it is," Berube said. 'Things happen in games and it's upsetting at times. We've got to focus on playing and the league will do what they have to do to take care of that stuff."

"I think the first few games were physical, so I don't think things will change there," Blais said. "Our type of game is to be physical and be hard on them. It's the playoffs and they hurt a couple of our players. We just take that as motivation and we're going to try to be ready for a big game tonight."

Defenseman Marco Scandella took another maintenance day but will play, as will forward Jaden Schwartz, who also took a maintenance day after taking a brief skate prior to Game 2 Wednesday but left early.

- - -

The Blues obviously need to get off to a better start than in Games 1 and 2, where the Avalanche out shot them by a combined 37-11 and outscored 3-0.

"I think that the first periods, we've let Colorado really dictate how the game was going to be played," Berube said. "We give up too many shots in the first period the first two games and really, gave them a lot of momentum in my opinion. I think that we battled back in the second and the thirds in both games and probably were the better team for the most part in those periods, but if you give up the first goal or first two goals and three. We've got to do a better job there in the first period and I think we'll be in better shape."

"Our start of the game's got to be important," Blais said. "I think the first two games, our first periods were not good. I think having a good start tonight will be the biggest thing.

"Just try to get to our game as quick as we can, get on the forecheck right away and put pressure on their d-men. Be on top of them and just try to play in their zone as much as we can."

One area that can alleviate that, putting the clamps on the top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog. That trio has combined for 16 points (six goals, eight assists) in the first two games, including MacKinnon, who has five goals and two assists.

"A good series so far by (MacKinnon) and it's on us to I think just starting from their d-zone," Parayko said. "We just got to make sure we're a lot tighter, we count numbers and just stay on top of them and not allow them to get speed. Just know where he is on the ice at all times, know where that whole line is. They all have good players on that line. Just shoulder checking and making sure where everyone is and just working as a five-man unit out there."

- - -

The Blues finished 5-0-1 down the stretch on home ice, and there's no better time than now to continue that trend of good play.

Their play at Enterprise Center as a whole hasn't been good enough (12-11-5 during the regular season), but it was much better lately (8-2-1), including two wins against the Avalanche.

"Our home ice really improved down the stretch, I thought at the end there, did a good job at home," Berube said. "Tonight, we've got to go win a game, we know that. We just go out and play our game for 60 minutes."

And the Blues will be able to play in front of 9,000 fans for the first time, since the boost in attendance from 4,100-plus.

"It's nice to obviously come back home," Parayko said. "We're looking forward to it having a good fanbase here tonight. Looking forward to getting to play in front of them. We love playing in front of them obviously. It's going to be an exciting atmosphere, looking forward to that and just protecting home ice. It's a good opportunity for us to get one in the series, to get back into it and hopefully take care of both of these games at home, but first thing's first is tonight."

- - -

The Avalanche's projected lineup:

Gabriel Landeskog-Nathan MacKinnon-Mikko Rantanen

Andre Burakovsky-Tyson Jost-Valeri Nichushkin

Brandon Saad-Alex Newhook-Joonas Donskoi

Carl Soderberg-Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-J.T. Compher

Devon Toews-Cale Makar

Ryan Graves-Samuel Girard

Patrik Nemeth-Conor Timmins

Philipp Grubauer will start in goal; Jonas Johansson will be the backup. Healthy scratches include Bowen Byram, Devan Dubnyk, Dennis Gilbert, Jacob MacDonald, Liam O’Brien, Jayson Megna, Dan Renouf, Kiefer Sherwood. Matt Calvert (upper body) and Logan O’Connor (lower body) are out. Nazem Kadri will be suspended.

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Ivan Barbashev-Ryan O'Reilly-Jordan Kyrou

Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko

Mike Hoffman-Tyler Bozak-Robert Thomas 

Kyle Clifford-Zach Sanford-Sammy Blais

Marco Scandella-Colton Parayko

Torey Krug-Steven Santini

Niko Mikkola-Mitch Reinke

Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Ville Husso will be the backup. Healthy scratches include Klim Kostin, Dakota Joshua, Mackenzie MacEachern, Jacob de la Rose, Austin Poganski, Dakota Joshua, Joel Hofer, Jon Gillies and Tyler Tucker. Justin Faulk (upper body) and Robert Bortuzzo (upper body) are out. Vince Dunn (upper body) will be a game time decision. David Perron, Jake Walman and Nathan Walker remain in COVID-19 protocol.

No comments:

Post a Comment