Thursday, October 28, 2021

(10-28-21) Avalanche-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues will be suiting up for a game tonight for the first time without Ryan O'Reilly.

When the Blues (5-0-0) put their five-game winning streak on the line against the Colorado Avalanche (2-4-0) at 7 p.m. (BSMW, ESPN 101.1-FM), they'll be doing so for the first time without O'Reilly in the lineup since they acquired him July 1, 2018, a streak of 214 straight regular-season games.

O'Reilly and forward Brandon Saad will miss the game in the COVID-19 protocol. For Saad, it's his third straight game and the first of at least four for O'Reilly.

So what will the Blues be missing?

"I think it's 200 feet of hockey to be honest with you," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "He does a lot of good stuff for the team, starting in our own end, face-offs, just being a real good shutdown player too, a real good offensive player too, penalty kill, power play. He plays in all situations."

The best way to describe what the Blues miss with O'Reilly is everything. No need going into the singular situations. 

"There's many things we're going to miss about him," forward Ivan Barbashev said. "There's face-offs, there's d-zone. There's way too many things I can say about him. We all know it's a tough loss, but we've just got to keep moving forward and keep playing our best."

The Blues have had to reconfigure their lines, but the one constant that Berube wants to keep together is Barbashev, Robert Thomas and Vladimir Tarasenko, who are off to a hot start with 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in five games.

"I think they've been really good for pretty much the season," Berube said. "They're creating lots of chances for. I feel like with O'Reilly and Saad out, instead of switching up everything, I'd like to keep some sort of lineup together that's been together and that's the one I really chose."

The chemistry developed between the three has been seamless, and it's been one line that's been a constant to the start of the season.

"I think we're just enjoying the game," Barbashev said. "It's really simple to play with them. They really want to play (in the) offensive zone, but sometimes we've got to do defense first. I think it's been working really good so far, especially it looks like we've been playing a lot of o-zone time and not much defensively, I'll say, but I'll (also) say our last couple games have been a little bit sloppy. So we improve some stuff and move forward the same way."

Barbashev is off to a hot start himself, with a career-high five-game point streak (three goals, two assists).

"It's been a really good start," Barbashev said. "The stuff I did in the summer was more important, especially coming from a tough season last year. It looks like it's been improving. It's been good so far.

"I've been there (before offensively), but for me, it's really important that I play a two-way game, especially d-zone first and then moving to offense. It's been good. I've been enjoying playing with Vladi and Thomas and it's been good so far."

For Berube, putting Barbashev in scoring positions was a no-brainer, considering he had the Russian at the American Hockey League level before with the Chicago Wolves.

"Barby's got the potential to be an offensive player," Berube said. "I think that he was in juniors and I know in the minors he scored a bunch of goals one year. At times he's produced up here when he's put in those situations and roles,. I think that it's just a matter of getting more of an opportunity and he is right now. I think over the last couple years he's been used as more of a checker, I would say, but coming into this year, he had a good camp and we're using him in a different way."

- - -

The Blues will be counting on their veterans more than ever with O'Reilly and Saad out of the lineup, and it's been good that they have had James Neal at their disposal.

Neal has scored a goal in the four games he's played, a power-play goal, but has been an effective player in the four games he's played.

"I feel really good," Neal said. "I probably haven't felt this good in four years. Everything's been awesome here and settling in nice. I like the way our team is trending here."

Neal will be the veteran, at least to start the game, playing with rookies Dakota Joshua, who will make his season debut, and Jake Neighbours.

"I think just the depth of our team, I think that's a really good thing with our club," Neal said. "We're going to have different guys obviously step up here, but we're deep up front there, but we're giving guys different chances here. Colorado's a great team. They were missing their top guys when we played them in their building. I'm sure they're looking to come in here and have a good game and we want to keep our win streak alive here. It'll be a good game tonight."

Even without two of their top-line skaters available, this is still a good and formidable Blues lineup.

"Yeah, it's great. I think we're pretty deep," forward David Perron said. "I think 'Nealer' brings that little bit of energy on maybe a line that's needed to go a little bit more that night. As we saw last game, I thought he had some good shifts in the third with our line. I also think he's a pretty good net-front guy on the power play tipping pucks, bringing the puck to the net, retrievals. Even a guy like 'Dak,' I think he had a phenomenal training camp and numbers game, he gets down to the AHL, he plays his game, gets called up. Now he gets his chance. I don't know if he's playing or not, but it seems he was on the fourth line there quite a bit today. If he gets a chance to play, you got him, you got 'Cliffy', 'Jake' doing his thing too so it's great."

- - -

It's the second meeting of the season between the Blues and Avalanche. 

The Blues won 5-3 on their opening night and Colorado's second game of the season, but the Avalanche were missing stars Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog in that game.

"With those two guys back in the lineup, they're a much more dangerous team for sure, more balanced throughout their lineup having those two guys in there," Berube said. "They're hard to handle. They're powerful and speed, they're tough to control."

- - -

With Edmonton losing 5-3 on Wednesday at home against Philadelphia, the Blues are the lone remaining Western Conference team without a loss. Carolina (5-0-0), which hosts Boston tonight, and Florida (7-0-0) remain undefeated in the Eastern Conference.

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Klim Kostin-Brayden Schenn-David Perron

Jordan Kyrou-Tyler Bozak-Pavel Buchnevich 

Ivan Barbashev-Robert Thomas-Vladimir Tarasenko

Jake Neighbours-Dakota Joshua-James Neal

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 Niko Mikkola and Kyle Clifford. Oskar Sundqvist (knee) remains in LTIR. Ryan O'Reilly and Brandon Saad are out in COVID-19 protocol.

- - -

The Avalanche's projected lineup:

Andre Burakovsky-Nathan MacKinnon-Mikko Rantanen

Gabriel Landeskog-Nazem Kadri-Logan O'Connor 

Sampo Ranta-Tyson Jost-J.T. Compher

Darren Helm-Jayson Megna-Martin Kaut

Bowen Byram-Cale Makar

Jack Johnson-Erik Johnson

Kurtis MacDermid-Ryan Murray

Darcy Kuemper will start in goal; Jonas Johansson will be the backup.

The healthy scratch is Jacob MacDonald. Pavel Francouz (ankle), Samuel Girard (upper body), Valeri Nichushkin (upper body) and Devon Toews (shoulder) are out. Rantanen left practice early and Avs coach Jared Bednar is not sure of his status for the game, so something to keep an eye on in pregame warmups.

No comments:

Post a Comment