Saturday, October 30, 2021

(10-30-21) Blackhawks-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- A familiar face was back on the ice on Saturday.

Forward Brandon Saad, secluded the past nine days in COVID-19 protocol, skated Saturday morning for the first time prior to the Blues (5-1-0) hosting the winless Chicago Blackhawks (0-6-2) today at 7 p.m. (BSMW, ESPN 101.1-FM).

However, Saad, who has a goal and an assist in three games, will miss his fourth game tonight.

"Yeah, he's cleared and he'll skate for the next few days and hopefully he'll be back next game," Blues coach Craig Berube said.

The next game would be the start of a four-game road trip through California and ends in Winnipeg, beginning with Wednesday's game and final meeting this season with the Los Angeles Kings.

"We missed him," Berube said of Saad. "Looking forward to getting him back in the lineup."

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Tonight will mark the season debut for defenseman Niko Mikkola, who will replace Robert Bortuzzo in the lineup.

Mikkola is the last remaining healthy player from the opening night roster to get into the lineup; he will pair up with Jake Walman and play on the right side.

"He's been out and hasn't played," Berube said. "We planned on playing him. We need to get everybody in there."

In 35 career games, Mikkola has five points (one goal, four assists).

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The Blues will insert veteran Kyle Clifford into the lineup tonight and make rookie Jake Neighbours a healthy scratch for the first time.

Berube wanted to make clear Neighbours, 19, sitting out has nothing to do with poor play but rather more so to just hit the reset button.

"Yeah, a lot of times with a young guy, the game's really speeding up now," Berube said. "It's good to watch a game and get a reset button a little bit. That's all it is with Jake, and it's been a tough couple games because of the way the games have gone and I've shortened the bench early in the games and he hasn't gotten the opportunity. It's been a little tough that way."

The past two games, Neighbours played 7:55 Monday against the Kings and 9:22 in Thursday's 4-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche. There was one play where Neighbours lost the puck at the offensive zone blue line at the end of his shift that led to Nazem Kadri scoring to make it a 3-1 game.

"I talked to him last night actually. I don't wait," Berube said. "A young kid like that, I want to make sure he's not getting too down on himself. We don't need that. He's done a tremendous job. Sometimes you need to take a game and you watch and the coaches will talk to him about certain things to watch for and players to watch and things like that that'll help him. We'll start over getting to practice and get after practice again and get after the next game."

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The Blues and Blackhawks will renew their rivalry for the first time since March 8, 2020 right before the pandemic rocked the world.

The two teams were in different divisions last season and did not face one another, as strange as that sounds, with the Blues moving to the West Division for one season while the Hawks remained in the Central Division.

The Blues will want to be aware of tonight's opponent, still searching for its first win of the season and a team surrounded by a dark cloud of turmoil based off the news within the past week.

"Very aware," defenseman Torey Krug said. "I think there were a couple games there where they probably deserve to win with the efforts they put in. They play hard. They have a talented group and this is the NHL, so everyone has pride and on any given night, any team can win. I know they're searching for one. We expect a big battle."

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The Blues' projected lineup:

Jordan Kyrou-Brayden Schenn-David Perron

Ivan Barbashev-Robert Thomas-Vladimir Tarasenko

James Neal-Tyler Bozak-Pavel Buchnevich 

Klim Kostin-Dakota Joshua-Kyle Clifford

Marco Scandella-Colton Parayko

Torey Krug-Justin Faulk

Jake Walman-Niko Mikkola

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

Healthy scratches include Brandon Saad, Robert Bortuzzo and Jake Neighbours. Ryan O'Reilly is in COVID-19 protocol, and Oskar Sundqvist (knee) remains on LTIR.

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The Blackhawks' projected lineup:

Dominik Kubalik-Kirby Dach-Dylan Strome

Alex DeBrincat-Philipp Kurashev-Mike Hardman

Ryan Carpenter-Jonathan Toews-Brandon Hagel 

Adam Gaudette-MacKenzie Entwistle-Reese Johnson

Calvin de Haan-Seth Jones

Jake McCabe-Connor Murphy

Isaak Phillips-Erik Gustafsson

Marc-Andre Fleury will start on goal; Kevin Lankinen will be the backup. 

The Hawks report no healthy scratches. Tyler Johnson (upper body) and Wyatt Kalynuk (ankle) are out, and Patrick Kane, Henrik Borgstrom, Jujhar Khaira and Riley Stillman are all in COVID-19 protocol.

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