By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The Blues will look to establish a franchise record for longest winning streak to begin a season today when they look to make it five in a row against the Los Angeles Kings at Enterprise Center (7 p.m.; BSMW, ESPN 101.1-FM).
And they will do it with Ville Husso in goal.
Husso will make his first start of the season tonight in place of Jordan Binnington, who started the first four games this season.
Husso was 9-6-1 with a 3.21 goals-against average and .893 save percentage last season, his first full season with the Blues, but coach Craig Berube said even though the Blues are playing well and it wouldn't be wise to disrupt the chemistry of the team, it's time to get Husso some work.
"Binnington has played four in a row," Berube said, "and before the schedule, we made the schedule and it's that's the game we picked he was going to play. ... It's important that your starting goalie doesn't get wore out and your backup goalie, nowadays it seems like they play a lot more games than they used to."
Husso, 26, has a penchant of allowing the early goal before getting settled in, a number of times on the first shot he sees, but he did earn the team's only shutout last season on the final game of the regular season.
"It's tough. He's got to be ready to go early and then getting out of his net early and stopping pucks and getting involved, get himself into the game early on will be good," Berube said. "It's always good for a goalie, I believe, and make saves. And there's nothing wrong with whistles. We've got good face-off guys, so calm things down a bit, get a whistle, get our guys out there, get new guys out there and go from there."
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The Blues will get forward Pavel Buchnevich back in the lineup tonight.
Buchnevich, who the Blues acquired from the New York Rangers in an off-season trade for Sammy Blais and a 2022 second-round pick, missed the last two games due to suspension for head-butting Arizona Coyotes forward Lawson Crouse Oct. 18.
"It's pretty self-explanatory," Berube said. "Players make mistakes and react emotionally at times. He's just got to deal with the consequences about it."
Buchnevich, who has a goal and an assist in two games and a period with the Blues, has done so.
"We didn't see him a lot last year," Berube said. "Everybody we talked to about him in New York that we knew said real good two-way player, can play in all situations and I think that's what we're seeing. He's got a real good mind for when he doesn't have the puck, checking, good stick, being in the right spot and when he has the puck, he can do a lot, he can make plays, he can hang on to it, he's got good size and a real good shot. I think the one thing we would like to see more is more shots and that's something that we constantly talk to him about, trying to get him to shoot a little more when he's inside the house and he's got a good opportunity."
Buchnevich will get back in alongside regular linemates Brayden Schenn and Jordan Kyrou.
"He's big, strong, sees the ice," Schenn said. "He kind of reminds me of a Jake Voracek type of player where, and I've played with him before, he's power, he's got speed and he's a pass-first type of guy. He likes to make plays and he's big and strong, he plays both ends of the ice. He and 'Rouzy,' we enjoy playing with him. Obviously it's a little bit different when they play their off-wing. 'Rouzy's got to be a little more used to that, but the three of us, we feel like we create a lot off the rush with speed and all three of us are capable of making plays."
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The Blues' start coincides with how many pucks they're putting in the net, and even though it's a small sample size, they're averaging 5.5 goals per game, the best in the league, out-scoring opponents 22-11.
"That's a lot of goals, no doubt about it, but at the same time, we do feel like we're deep, we do feel like we have guys that can play all up and down the lineup and in certain situations," Schenn said. "It's distributed even. There's not many guys that are going to be playing 20 minutes a night. (Ryan) O'Reilly is one of those guys that plays in those situations, but other than that, guys are going to have to buy in, but into roles, buy into playing certain minutes and that's what's going to win us hockey games and so far, it is."
Defenseman Marco Scandella feels the tweaks the team made to its system has played a significant role.
"I feel like we changed our system a little bit. We're not so stationary," Scandella said. "Everyone's in movement, everyone wants the puck, so we're helping each other out. We've always had the talent on the team, we've added some new faces that have helped a lot too. But I feel like we played a little bit more static last year. This year we're moving altogether and it's just flowing better and I feel like our chemistry is coming together. ... We're working a lot harder off the puck this year than we were last year."
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The Blues won't find playing the Kings easy tonight and don't expect to.
After the 7-3 thrashing they gave L.A. here on Saturday, outscoring the Kings 5-0 on special teams, including going 4-for-7 on the power play, they're expecting a might tighter game.
"We all know what winning does. Guys are loose, guys are laughing, guys are having fun, but we all know when you come to the game tonight, we've got to be ready to play," Schenn said. "We didn't look at it, but we know from last year, when you do play teams in back-to-backs, usually the team that loses the first game is a little bit more hungry on the second game. We've got to be ready for a good start tonight. They're going to come at us hard and we're not going to expect we're going to beat them like that again. They were on a back-to-back, they probably were a little tired and they got us maybe a little bit fresh. The second game of twos are a little bit tough."
"Considering the last game, it was a good game by us," Scandella said. "I feel like they're going to come in hungry. They're not going to want to lose two here. But it's our building and it's the way we play our game. If we stick to our plan, if we move pucks, skate well, I feel like we have the depth to win again."
The Kings will be missing defenseman Drew Doughty again tonight. Doughty was injured Friday against the Dallas Stars and did not play Saturday here with an apparent knee injury.
And with the Kings expected to make some line tweaks of their own, coach Todd McLellan sees a Blues team different than the one he saw last season and one he knows won't feel any pity.
"Their depth, they're a deep team," McLellan said of the Blues. "Up front, that's as deep a team as we've seen all year. And the home opener, we expected them to play the way they played. They played with a lot of pace, they played with some authority on the boards, in and around the blue paint, both ends. They play towards their identity. When you do that and you have that type of depth and that type of experience, you're going to win more than you lose."
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The Blues' projected lineup:
Klim Kostin-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron
Jordan Kyrou-Brayden Schenn-Pavel Buchnevich
Ivan Barbashev-Robert Thomas-Vladimir Tarasenko
Jake Neighbours-Tyler Bozak-James Neal
Marco Scandella-Colton Parayko
Torey Krug-Justin Faulk
Jake Walman-Robert Bortuzzo
Ville Husso will start in goal; Jordan Binnington will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Kyle Clifford and Niko Mikkola. Brandon Saad (COVID-19 protocol) will miss his second straight game. Oskar Sundqvist (knee) remains out.
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The Kings' projected lineup:
Viktor Arvidsson-Anze Kopitar-Dustin Brown
Alex Iafallo-Phillip Danault-Trevor Moore
Arthur Kaliyev-Gabriel Vilardi-Adrian Kempe
Vladimir Tkachev-Carl Grundstrom-Rasmus Kupari
Mikey Anderson-Sean Walker
Alexander Edler-Matt Roy
Tobias Bjornfot-Austin Strand
Jonathan Quick will start in goal; Calvin Petersen will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Blake Lizotte and Olli Maatta. Drew Doughty (lower body), Lias Andersson (groin) and Andreas Athanasiou (undisclosed) are out. Brendan Lemieux remains in COVID-19 protocol.
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