Wednesday, May 5, 2021

(5-5-21) Ducks-Blues Gameday Lineup

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. -- The clinching scenarios for the Blues are simple.

Win against the Anaheim Ducks (16-30-7) tonight, then wait for the late game between the Los Angeles Kings and Arizona Coyotes. A Blues win and Coyotes win in regulation over the Kings and the Blues (24-19-7), 5-0-1 their past six games, would wrap up the fourth and final berth in the West Division.

The players are fully aware of the circumstances, too. 

Puck drop is at 7 p.m. (BSMW, ESPN 101.1-FM).

"I think we have a chance to clinch today," forward Ivan Barbashev said. "We've been fighting for a playoff spot and it's going to be a big game tonight."

The standings are right there for everyone to decipher, but the coaching staff, well, they're preaching control what you can control and take it game by game, day by day.

"We're just taking it game by game and just get prepared for the game tonight," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "They gave us a tough game last game (a 3-1 Blues win on Monday) so I expect the same. We've just got to be ready to go. The start of the game is big.

"I don't really worry about it much. I don't look at standings. I already know where everything is in my head."

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The Blues will have some lineup changes in store with both Vladimir Tarasenko and Sammy Blais out of the lineup tonight and Kyle Clifford and Mackenzie MacEachern back in.

Berube said Tarasenko reaggravated the lower-body injury that kept him out of the last two games against the Minnesota Wild and Blais sustained an upper-body injury on Monday.

"Yes, he reaggravated it, so he's out right now," Berube said of Tarasenko.

Clifford was a healthy scratch on Monday and comes back in, but MacEachern will play for the first time since March 13. He missed 16 games with an upper-body injury but has been a healthy scratch the past six.

"He's been out for a while," Barbashev said. "I think it will be big for a physical game. He's the guy with the good speed and he can bring some energy. I'm looking forward to it."

"He's got speed and can really skate, big body," Berube said. "He's going to get on the forecheck and forecheck hard and play good defense and provide energy for our hockey team."

As for defensemen Torey Krug (upper body) and Vince Dunn (upper body), each skated on Wednesday during the morning skate but will not play tonight.

"It's tough to say really," Berube said of their potential return. "I think it's a day to day think with both of them pending on how they feel and we just go from there. I don't really have a timeline on them."

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Berube will stick with the larger defensive tandem of Colton Parayko and Niko Mikkola tonight.

That duo saw extensive action together on Monday and performed well together, but it will be their first game starting off together and is reminiscent of the Jay Bouwmeester-Parayko tandem.

"They're hard top play against for the size and not a lot of room out there, the aggressiveness," Berube said. "It's unfair to compare Mikkola to Bouwmeester, but they're both big guys that are hard to play against and there's not a lot of room out there."

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Blues 2017 first-round pick Klim Kostin, fresh off a KHL Gagarin Cup title with Avangard Omsk, was expected to arrive in St. Louis today but will have to quarantine for at least seven days, if not longer, before he can take the ice with the Blues.

"I haven't talked to him yet," Berube said. "I believes he arrives today, but I don't know for sure."

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Former Blue David Backes, a 2003 second-round pick who spent 10 of his 15 NHL seasons with the Blues, including captain from 2011-16, will possibly play his final game at Enterprise Center for the Ducks tonight.

Ducks coach Dallas Eakins confirmed Backes to be in the lineup tonight.

"We have him in the lineup tonight, but it's not just what he's meant to our organization, it's what he's meant to the St. Louis Blues organization too," Eakins said. "When you have a player like that who is so highly regarded everywhere he goes, you certainly start to understand the man, the human being that he is."

Backes has played in 964 games, including 727 with the Blues, and has 561 points (248 goals, 313 assists), of which 460 points (206 goals, 254 assists) have come with the Blues.
He took part in the morning 

"We've been skating here for the last couple days, so there's been a little bit of that," Backes said of the nostalgia of returning to St. Louis. "I've been back here a few times since leaving town but knowing that it could be the last little free skate out there, morning skate, a lot of memories and a lot of great moments that have happened in this building.

"... St. Louis is still looking to clinch a playoff (berth) so amidst the festivities and kind of the specialness for me personally, I expect it to be another hard-nosed NHL game, going down the stretch with them trying to clinch the playoffs, so we're going to try and play spoiler tonight. There will certainly be some special emotions and special feelings being out there knowing it's likely my last tour through the building as a player. I'm going to soak that all in, every moment of it, every time I get to tough the ice and do something out there. I'm going to try and make the most of it and just really imprint all the memories and probably have some old memories flood back in."

The Blues will have to be mindful that Backes, 37, will be playing with a tremendous amount of emotion.

"He was a very good leader and two-way player for the Blues for a number of years here, was the captain," Berube said. "He was the captain for some very good teams here. Obviously he was a hard guy to play against. He gave you everything he had every night doing different things for the team whether it was checking, shutting teams down, physical play in front of the net on the power play. He played a number of different roles for the team. Obviously was a good leader under him being the captain. They had a lot of good years here. He's had a very good career."

* Will have more on Backes possibly playing his final game in this building in another piece, and what he meant to the Blues and St. Louis.

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The Blues' projected lineup:

Brayden Schenn-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Jaden Schwartz-Tyler Bozak-Vladimir Tarasenko

Jordan Kyrou-Robert Thomas-Mike Hoffman

Sammy Blais-Ivan Barbashev-Zach Sanford

Marco Scandella-Justin Faulk

Jake Walman-Colton Parayko

Niko Mikkola-Robert Bortuzzo

Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Ville Husso will be the backup. The healthy scratch includes Steven Santini. Torey Krug (upper body) and Vince Dunn (upper body) are out tonight. Carl Gunnarsson (knee) and Oskar Sundqvist (knee) are out for the season.

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The Ducks' projected lineup:

Max Jones-Ryan Getzlaf-Sam Carrick

Alexander Volkov-Isac Lundestrom-Rickard Rakell

Max Comtois-Trevor Zegras-Troy Terry

Nicolas Deslauriers-Derek Grant-David Backes

Cam Fowler-Jacob Larsson

Haydn Fleury-Jamie Drysdale

Simon Benoit-Kevin Shattenkirk

Anthony Stolarz is projected to start in goal; Ryan Miller would be the backup. Healthy scratches include Adam Henrique, John Gibson, Danton Heinen, Josh Mahura and Sam Steel. Sonny Milano (upper body), Carter Rowney (knee), Andy Welinski (lower body) and Josh Manson (upper body) are out.

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