Wednesday, October 20, 2021

(10-20-21) Blues-Golden Knights Gameday Lineup

The Blues are in search of a perfect road trip, but they'll have to do it without a key cog.

Pavel Buchnevich was suspended for two games on Tuesday by the NHL's Department of Player Safety as a result of a head-butting incident in the first period of Monday's 7-4 win against the Arizona Coyotes.

Buchnevich head-butted Lawson Crouse late in the first period after he was cross-checked in the face by the Coyotes forward.

Crouse was getting a two-minute penalty for his infraction, but Buchnevich received a five-minute major and match penalty for his infraction.

"You know that something like that's going to get looked at," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "You can't do that. We all know that. On the other side of things, I thought that Crouse targeted him a little bit I think on an altercation in the neutral zone. He got cross-checked in the face, Buchnevich. Things happen. That's really all I have to say about it."

The Bues will insert James Neal, a healthy scratch on Monday, back into the lineup, and since the Blues had an optional skate on Wednesday, they didn't go through line rushes, but the thought is Neal will skate with Tyler Bozak and Klim Kostin to start out and see where it goes from there, and Jake Neighbours being elevated to the line with Brayden Schenn and Jordan Kyrou.

"We have lots of depth all over our team and guys will step up and fill roles," Schenn said. "Obviously Buchy's been playing some good hockey for us and was just getting comfortable playing. Obviously he knew he made a mistake and you have to sit out a couple now."

Neal, who scored four preseason goals in five games, played 11:02 in the season-opener in Colorado and was a minus-1 in the game with one shot on goal. 

"Just to play his game," Berube said of what he wants from Neal. "From the top of the circles down, he's a good player there hanging onto pucks and controlling the play, getting to the net offensively, he'll get some power play time too tonight and then just be a good presence on the ice, leader, things like that. He's played a long time in the league and he brings a lot of veteran leadership."

As for Neighbours, he went from skating 9:00 in the 5-3 win at Colorado to getting 11:04 Monday at Arizona and earning his first NHL point with an assist on Kostin's second goal of the game in the second period.

"He earned it," Berube said of the increased ice time. "I think it's about earning it. I thought he had a heck of a game and he warranted it so I used him."

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The Blues can only hope the young guns come out to play, more often and consistently.

Kyrou, Robert Thomas, Kostin and Neighbours, all 23 or younger, combined for nine points (four goals, five assists) in the win over the Coyotes.

With the increased added responsibilities they will command and earn by playing good, sound, consistent and fundamental hockey, it will help to alleviate the taxing minutes that many of the top-end veterans will have to endure, which bodes well for the Blues.

"I think a lot of us are ready to contribute and contribute in more ways than we have in the past," said Thomas, who had two assists Monday. "I think it's a good start. Now it's up to us to sustain it. I'll speak for myself, I'm ready for more opportunity, more responsibility and I've got to go out there and earn it."

Thomas, 22, is the "veteran" of the aforementioned young guys being a prominent player on the Stanley Cup-winning team in 2019, and his advice for staying consistent is pretty sound.

"I think the biggest thing is just kind of living in the moment, feed off the energy, off the last game and bring it into next game," Thomas said. "There's no point in looking at 82 games and how long of a season it is, you might as well just stay in the moment and focus on the next game.

"... When you have different guys stepping up, it makes for a good team. It's just all about consistency and playing the right way and playing with detail. Once you have those, then every night someone else is chipping in and that's a recipe for success."

Berube will be counting on those guys to take some of the slack off guys like Schenn, Ryan O'Reilly, David Perron and others in a long season.

"Definitely," he said. "We need them to play well. If they keep playing well, we have an opportunity to be a real good team. That's to come, we'll see where it gets to, but we need these young guys to really compete and produce and play good hockey for us."

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Only five players have more points to begin the season this year than Kyrou, who has six (two goals, four assists), in just two games (Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Steven Stamkos).

Kyrou has fed off playing with Schenn and Buchnevich to begin the season, and his success hasn't gone unnoticed.

"I think the thing is it starts in the summertime. He really puts the work in," Berube said of Kyrou. "This kid works extremely hard in the weight room and his training, so he came in unreal shape. He's a competitive person, he wants to do really well, so he's got that going for him. I think he's using his speed a lot more, driving wide, attacking people 1-on-1 and using his ability. I think where he tends to get in trouble sometimes is he tends to stand still stick-handling or trying to make something out of nothing and he's learned, I think so far, to read those situations better. You can't always make something happen every shift and it's important what you do with the puck in those situations and I find that Jordan is putting the puck to a good area. He did that (Monday) night on a play and we ended up scoring a goal. Those are the types of things he's really doing a good job and he's maturing at, and the other one is when without the puck, he's tracking and he's doing a better job at d-zone coverage."

"He was good for the majority of the year last year and I think he had a hot start last year," Schenn said of Kyrou. "I think the more he realizes how fast he is and how he backs guys off, backs the D off with his speed, it's going to create time and space for him and his linemates and his teammates around him. He's obviously a very dynamic player and as long as he's moving his feet, skating hard and winning battles, he's a heck of a player for us."

Colton Parayko has to defend Kyrou in practice daily, and that gets taxing, so to see him to it on game nights has even impressed the big defenseman.

"It's tough. The speed that he's got is impressive," Parayko said. "He's got to be one of the fastest guys on our team. That alone can be dangerous and he's shifty. When you add speed to shiftiness together, it's tough to defend. He's going fast and all of the sudden, he kind of changes direction and makes it tough on a defender. Just good with the puck, he sees the play well too. The way that he's playing is where he's getting his confidence from and I think he should be confident. If you watch him play, he's fast, making plays, scoring goals Exciting player to watch and it's been fun to watch him grow. I'm excited to see where he grows to as a player."

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The Blues are in search of their first 3-0-0 start to a season since winning four in a row to begin the 2017-18 season under Mike Yeo. But they'll have to do so against a similar team to the Avalanche in the Vegas Golden Knights (1-1-0) today (9 p.m.; TNT, ESPN 101.1-FM) at T-Mobile Arena.

The Blues, like Colorado, are catching the Golden Knights without two of their top forwards in Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone, each who sustained a lower-body injury in Vegas' last game, a 6-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings last Thursday.

But the Goklden Knights still boast a strong squad, including former Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo.

"They're a good team, we all know that," Berube said. "They've got a great d-corps back there. We're really going to have to work and create opportunities against that d-corps. We're going to have to get numbers in there and out-number them in situations in the offensive zone. They transition as good as any team in the league. We're going to have to be on our toes when the puck turns over or when we lose the puck, we've got to track back hard, we've got to be tight defensively and protect the middle of the ice all game.

"Getting a win here tonight would be a great trip. It's about focus, having a good start to this game. They start fast here. We all know how the crowd here is and the building. It's important to be on your toes early and we need to play a 60-minute hockey game here tonight."

The Blues, who have scored 12 goals in two games, want to cut down on some of the goals and chances allowed thus far through two games. They've surrendered seven goals in two games and don't want to live on that slippery slope.

"Obviously still some things to work on, but I think as a whole, we've got to continue to stay connected, just work out different situations in the d-zone," Parayko said. "I think I've kind of always stressed that we've got to make sure we start our defensive task when we're in the offensive zone, and it starts with us defensemen just being tight up on their wingers coming out of their zone and making sure that we don't give them any speed, just always being with gaps even in the neutral zone, try to not allow them to carry the puck into our zone if possible."

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* Perron, who's been dealing with a lower-body injury, did not practice Tuesday but took part in Wednesday's optional and is expected to play Wednesday.

* Goalie Jordan Binnington will make his third start in as many games to begin the season. He has a 3.50 goals-against average and an .879 save percentage through two games but is 2-0-0.

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The Blues' projected lineup:

Brandon Saad-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Jake Neighbours-Brayden Schenn-Jordan Kyrou

Ivan Barbashev-Robert Thomas-Vladimir Tarasenko

James Neal-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 Kyle Clifford and Niko Mikkola. Oskar Sundqvist (knee) is out on long-term injured-reserve. Pavel Buchnevich will serve the first of a two-game suspension.

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The Golden Knights' projected lineup:

Evgenii Dadonov-Chandler Stephenson-Nicolas Roy

Jonathan Marchessault-William Karlsson-Reilly Smith

Payton Krebs-Nolan Patrick-Keegan Kolesar

William Carrier-Jake Leschyshyn-Brett Howden

Alec Martinez-Alex Pietrangelo

Brayden McNabb-Shea Theodore

Nicolas Hague-Zach Whitecloud

Robin Lehner is expected to start in goal; Laurent Brossoit would be the backup.

The healthy scratch includes Dylan Coghlan. Max Pacioretty (lower body), Mark Stone (lower body) and Alex Tuch (shoulder) are out.

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