Monday, October 18, 2021

(10-18-21) Blues-Coyotes Gameday Lineup

It will be Klim Kostin time when the Blues (1-0-0) play their second game of a season-opening trip when they face the Arizona Coyotes (0-1-1) at 9 p.m. (BSMW, ESPN 101.1-FM).

Kostin will make his season debut tonight and feature on a line with Tyler Bozak and Jake Neighbours, replacing veteran James Neal in the lineup.

"Be a good forechecker," Blues coach Craig Berube said of Kostin, who has played in six NHL games and has one goal and one assist. "He's a big guy, we need him on the forecheck being physical, get to the net, using his shot, being a power forward. That's what I think his game is going to be. And then be responsible defensively."

Neal, signed to a one-year contract for the league minimum at $750,000 after making the roster out of training camp off a professional tryout, played 11:02 in the game Saturday and was a minus-1 with one shot on goal playing with Vladimir Tarasenko and Robert Thomas.

"We wanted to get Kostin in there so I took Neal out," Berube said. "I know that line probably wasn't as good as it should have bene in the game, but that's not the reason that he's out.

"I don't want guys sitting out too long, I want to get everybody involved, so it was a good opportunity to put Klim in tonight and I just made the choice of taking Neal out."

Kostin, who won a Gagarin Cup last season playing with Avangard Omsk of the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia, admitted his training camp wasn't as good as he would have liked, but, "Hopefully the (regular) season will be better than the preseason.

"I need to work every part of my game. There's a lot of things I need to improve."

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The Blues opened with a 5-3 win against the Colorado Avalanche and did some good things in the game, built up a 4-1 lead in the third period but had some tense moments down the stretch, including giving up two goals with Avalanche goalie Darcy Kuemper pulled.

They also allowed a tying goal that was called back because officials deeded it was kicked in and added a Ryan O'Reilly empty-net goal to seal the win, but Berube wants a different mentality moving forward.

"Don't play the score," Berube said. "I think maybe we played the score a little bit last game. It was kind of a different situation with we had that power play and we ended up turning it over and taking a penalty on the play. It's things like that, I think we've got to be a bit more sharp there. They pulled their goalie really early and they ended up getting a goal and gave them life. I think our second period obviously wasn't very good in the game. We just played too much of a stretch game. We didn't come back for pucks, we didn't make plays. We turned pucks over, fueled the opposition and their transition game, which is really good. 

"In the first period, I thought we were the better team, but you know that teams are going to adjust and teams are going to come out stronger in the second. Our team's got to learn that we've got to be ready for that and we've got to just play a more patient game with the puck in my opinion. Second periods are a tough change and it's tough to get your d-man off for sure. It's important that we hang onto pucks, we make the proper plays with the puck, we don't force things. Line changes are really important in the second period. It's important to get pucks in areas where we can get people off the ice, get fresh people out there and kind of have that mentality. We definitely need to improve on that."

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An area of improvement needed moving forward? Face-offs.

Aside from O'Reilly winning 75 percent of his draws (21 of 28), the rest of the Blues collectively as a group won just 10 of 36 (28 percent), including Thomas (27 percent, 4 of 15) and Bozak (1 of 7, 14 percent).

"We're normally a good face-off team," Berube said. "I know that guys struggled the other night in the dot except O'Reilly, but I think that happens sometimes in a game. It's been talked about and Otter works with guys. We always work on face-offs almost every morning skate for sure, but practices and things like that. We'll be better, we'll be better tonight."

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The Blues' shutdown defensive pair of Colton Parayko and Marco Scandella saw quite a bit of the ice Saturday.

In fact, it was the most ice time either have had in some time.

For Parayko, who played a game-high 27:26, it was his most ice time in a regular-season game since playing 27:48 against the Boston Bruins Feb. 23, 2019, and for Scandella, his ice time of 26:12 was his most since getting 28:02 March 8, 2018 with the Buffalo Sabres.

"It's always fun playing with Parayko," Scandella said. "He can play 30 minutes if he wants to. Just try and get him the puck. 

"We have great defensemen. I feel like we were trying to match up a lot against Colorado. That's why I ended up with 26 and a lot of PK opportunities. I'm ready to play those minutes when they come, but I don't think it's going to be every game. I feel like we're really on D and we don't have to play so many minutes for certain guys."

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Neighbours will skate in his second game after playing 9:00 in his NHL debut on Saturday.
He had a shot on goal and tied for the team lead in hits with three.

"I think obviously the pace is a lot higher," Neighbours said of the NHL game. "The biggest thing I noticed, you don't have a lot of time with the puck. You've got to kind of have your next play ready to go before you even get it. Definitely some adjustments that I need to continue to work on. I just need to continue to make adjustments, but for the first one, I thought it went pretty well but definitely the pace and strength of players and just time with the puck, it was very little."

It will be the second game of a maximum of nine Neighbours, 19, can play before the Blues decide to keep him or return him to the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League.

"I want to be in the lineup every single night," Neighbours said. "I was super happy to be back in tonight. It's good to get into a rhythm. Obviously feel a little bit more comfortable now getting the first one out of the way and kind of know what to expect. I'm looking to just go out there and keep improving and get better every game I get in the lineup."

Neighbours had quite the traveling party in attendance to see him, including his parents and step-parents, who are along on the entire trip to Phoenix and to Las Vegas on Wednesday.

"I had my parents here, my step-parents and a couple of their friends," Neighbours said. "It was good to have them in town obviously to see it. It was pretty cool. I had a blast out there, it was a ton of fun. Obviously it was a good game for us and getting the two points. Guys just told me to go out there, enjoy yourself, you only get your first one once. I just tried to enjoy it and it was super fun

"(It was) super emotional. I think it was a proud moment for them to see their kid go out in his first NHL game. They were just super-excited to make it down, be in the stands and get to watch us. They were in awe. They got to meet 'Schenner' (Brayden Schenn) and 'O'Ry' after the game. I think they were a little star struck, but it was pretty special."

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The Blues will see a familiar face in goal for the Coyotes tonight in goalie Carter Hutton, who signed as a free agent to join the Coyotes in the off-season.

Hutton, who spent two seasons with the Blues (2016-18) and was 30-15-5, was in goal for the Coyotes when they were blasted 8-2 in their season-opener last Thursday at Columbus, but the Blues will be wary of Arizona, playing its home opener.

"I've only got a small sample size of the games that I've watched," Berube said. "They're going to work hard. They look pretty good offensively for me, creative, trying to make plays in the offensive zone. They're a good team off the rush. We've just got to go and play our game tonight. We've got to put the work in first and that's the most important thing. We need to be a working team tonight, we need to be a tenacious, hard-forechecking team tonight, and we need to check when we don't have the puck tonight."

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The Blues' projected lineup:

Brandon Saad-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Jordan Kyrou-Brayden Schenn-Pavel Buchnevich

Ivan Barbashev-Robert Thomas-Vladimir Tarasenko

Jake Neighbours-Tyler Bozak-Klim Kostin

Marco Scandella-Colton Parayko

Torey Krug-Justin Faulk

Jake Walman-Robert Bortuzzo

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

Healthy scratches include James Neal, Kyle Clifford and Niko Mikkola. Oskar Sundqvist (knee) is out on long-term injured-reserve.

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The Coyotes' projected lineup:

Lawson Crouse-Travis Boyd-Clayton Keller

Loui Eriksson-Nick Schmaltz-Phil Kessel

Andrew Ladd-Johan Larsson-Ryan Dzingel

Antoine Roussel-Jay Beagle-Christian Fischer

Jakob Chychrun-Anton Stralman

Shayne Gostisbehere-Victor Soderstrom

Ilya Lyubushkin-Conor Timmins

Carter Hutton will start in goal; Karel Vejmelka will be the backup. 

Healthy scratches include Liam O'Brien, Dysin Mayo and Dmitrij Jaskin. Kyle Capobianco (upper body) and Alex Galchenyuk (lower body) are out.

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