Saturday, October 23, 2021

(10-23-21) Kings-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Time to drop the puck for the Blues on home ice, and in front of a full crowd for the first time in 19 months.

The Blues, coming off a successful 3-0-0 road trip to begin the season, will play their home opener against the Los Angeles Kings (1-2-1) at 7 p.m. today (BSMW, ESPN 101.1-FM).

It's the start of a four-game homestand for the Blues, who have outscored their opponents 15-8 in the early going.

And with all the noise and hoopla surrounding the first home game in what will be a full crowd for the first time since March 9, 2020, the Blues are fired up about it.

"It's nice to be home," captain Ryan O'Reilly said. "It's always nice having the retro (too). You can feel the history, which is nice. ... I think we're all very excited. It's been a long time since the building's been full and having that atmosphere, I think it's going to be crazy. We've all been talking about it and looking forward to it. You can feel the buzz in the city, which is great to have and it's going to be a lot of fun.

"One thing coming off the road and a long trip like that, the big thing for us is keeping that energy high. It's a big opportunity for us. We want to establish out building and that it's going to be like. Obviously they played last night and it's not letting them off the hook. We have to come out and play a hard game and a fast game right away and take control of it."

"It's nice to be home," center Robert Thomas said. "It's going to be awesome. We've seen it on the road just how much having a full crowd can do to the game, especially in front of our fans, it's going to be really exciting. It's been a long time coming and we're off to a good start and we look to continue it tonight."

Blues coach Craig Berube has spoken in length to the team about eliminating distractions of a long trip, coming home and being prepared to play.

"They're excited," Berube said. "We talked yesterday and today about mentally being prepared for tonight, talked to them about coming off that road trip and things like that. Guys are excited."

"I think it's just about enjoying the moment," Thomas said. "We know the home opener, it's going to be a lot of fun. Everyone's excited to get back in the stands, first time full crowd in a while. I think it's just about enjoying the moment and focusing on what's made us successful in the first three games of the year and just continuing that and not get distracted by the outside noise."

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The Blues will be without Brandon Saad (COVID-19 protocol) and Pavel Buchnevich (suspension) for tonight's game, while the Kings, who fell 3-2 in overtime against the Dallas Stars on Friday, could be without defenseman Drew Doughty, who sustained a knee injury with 4:01 remaining in the second period following a knee-on-knee collision with Stars defenseman and former Blues farmhand Jani Hakanpaa.

"It's unfortunate for 'Saader'" O'Reilly said. "It's such a bad bounce. Our line gets something going. We play a good game in Vegas and then obviously this happens. There's not much you can do. You keep moving forward, but the good thing about our team is our depth. We have so many good guys that can contribute and move around and play in different positions. (Klim) Kostin is going to be excellent for us. He's been playing great hockey, big body and really skilled."

Kostin, who has two goals in two games, will jump into Saad's spot on the top line playing with more and more confidence.

"You see after that first game he had getting on the board and scoring some huge goals for us," O'Reilly said. "You can just see the spark in there, he's comfortable in himself and his game and that's nice to see. He's a very good player. It's something you see and admire."

Missing Doughty would be a massive blow for the Kings, who play a 1-3-1 hybrid style of system where getting pucks in behind them and going to get it is the key to success.

"I don't think you break it down," Berube said. "You just don't play into it as much as breaking it down. That's why it's there. There's not a lot you can do. You've got to just put pucks in behind them and go get it. That's basically what they're saying, 'Go ahead, dump it in or put it in behind us and go play.' But they don't want to give anything up off the rush."

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Thomas, Vladimir Tarasenko and Ivan Barbashev will look to continue their strong play to open the season.

Tarasenko had his best game of the season and best arguably since the Cup-winning season of 2019 with a goal and 11 shot attempts (seven on target) in a 3-1 win at Vegas Wednesday.

"He's been playing lights out this year and it's been a lot of fun to be on his line," Thomas said of Tarasenko. "He's a great person and he's having fun on the ice. You can see it. He's got his smile back, he's got his excitement and it's awesome to see. I just try and get him the puck as much as possible. He's been great."

As for Barbashev, who scored his second goal of the season, an empty-netter to seal the win Wednesday, the chances have come in bunches for the defensive-minded forward.

"I've had Barby before in the minors. He scored 30 goals," Berube said. "He has the ability to make plays. He's got pretty good offensive instincts and things like that, and Barby can make plays. But his game on that line in my opinion is making sure that it goes north, he's forechecking and he's banging around and getting to the net. He's had some good scoring opportunities himself for sure. He can really help out on the forecheck an things like that on that line."

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The Blues' projected lineup:

Klim Kostin-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Jordan Kyrou-Brayden Schenn-James Neal

Ivan Barbashev-Robert Thomas-Vladimir Tarasenko

Jake Neighbours-Tyler Bozak-Kyle Clifford 

Marco Scandella-Colton Parayko

Torey Krug-Justin Faulk

Jake Walman-Robert Bortuzzo

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

The healthy scratch is Niko Mikkola. Oskar Sundqvist (knee) remains out. Pavel Buchnevich will serve the second of a two-game suspension and return to the lineup against the Kings Monday. Brandon Saad will miss the game due to COVID-19 protocol. 

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The Kings' projected lineup:

Viktor Arvidsson-Anze Kopitar-Dustin Brown

Alex Iafallo-Phillip Danault-Adrian Kempe

Arthur Kaliyev-Gabriel Vilardi-Trevor Moore

Carl Grundstrom-Blake Lizotte-Rasmus Kupari

Mikey Anderson-Olli Maatta

Alexander Edler-Sean Walker

Tobias Bjornfot-Matt Roy

Calvin Petersen will start in goal; Jonathan Quick will be the backup.

The healthy scratch will be Vladimir Tkachev. Drew Doughty (lower body) was injured with 4:01 remaining in the second period of Friday's 3-2 overtime loss at the Dallas Stars and could miss the game. Lias Andersson (groin) and Andreas Athanasiou (undisclosed) remain out. Brendan Lemieux remains in COVID-19 protocol.

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