Tuesday, October 5, 2021

(10-5-21) Blues-Stars Preseason Gameday Lineup

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. -- Despite those public trade demands earlier in the summer, Vladimir Tarasenko has been a happy camper these days.

And camper in the literal sense of the term, as in happy with training camp, happy with how the Blues (3-2-0), who play their sixth preseason game today at 7 p.m. (ESPN 101.1-FM, no television) against the Dallas Stars (2-0-2) at American Airlines Center.

The Blues are taking a strong lineup to tonight's game, meaning the game lineup for Wednesday at the Minnesota Wild won't be as strong, but the one going to Texas tonight is strong, and Tarasenko will be featured on a line with Brandon Saad and Robert Thomas.

"I don't know, you guys are watching the games. I think we play well, we get used to each other," Tarasenko said. "'Saader' is first year with the team so we have time to talk to him and see what he sees on the ice. Obviously I used to play with 'Tommer' before and he's a great player. 

"(Thomas is) a great player. Everyone knows he can pass the puck really well. He's very smart. I'm just enjoying playing together."

That line will be together for the second time this preseason. The trio combined for a goal (Saad) and two assists in the preseason opener against the Wild in a 6-2 win.

"I think it's gone pretty well," Saad said. "I think the first game we had some good plays, some good puck possession, just getting to learn each other, but they're obviously both good, high-skilled players, play with speed, protect the puck. I think we had some success and just looking to build off of that."

Tarasenko, who looks healthy, is skating healthy and is playing healthy, feels there is a good sense around the team. This on the heels of those trade demands to management that haven't materialized. But the veteran has performed well in camp thus far and will play in his third preseason game tonight.

"The vibe I think after 2019, there's only one way, people know what it takes to win," Tarasenko said. "I tell you last time we talked, last couple years wasn't very successful for us as a team. I think we have a really good team. I'm truly believing we can compete for winning again."

Tarasenko looks slimmer than in the past. He and teammate Ivan Barbashev trained in the summer in Miami.

"We have a place set for us that we train there for five or six weeks," Tarasenko said. "Just preparing for year. It's a big year for both of us. Trying to get ready for play. So far, so good."
So far, so good for coach Craig Berube too.

"Very fit. He worked hard all summer," Berube said of Tarasenko. "He came into camp in great shape. His testing was great. So he put in all the work that he needed to do in the summertime.

"I think he looks fine. He's got good jump in his legs. He’s skating well, I think he's shooting the puck well. He seems really happy to me and enjoying things. So that's a good sign and it's all good with Vladi."

Tonight's lineup will feature most of the players that will make the team, along with youngsters Jake Neighbours, Niko Mikkola and Scott Perunovich.

"It's always nice. When you have camp, you have a lot of guys, a lot of young guys trying to make the team," Tarasenko said. "It's kind of special moments there when you see guys skating for first time, playing for first time. Now when roster cuts, we have a lot of experienced guys, a lot of guys we used to play together before. It seems like the season is not too far away. It's important games to play them well and get ready for the season, especially against Dallas. We used to play them a lot in the previous years. It's nice to have a lot of guys in the lineup."

Perhaps it's softened the hard feelings over the summer that Tarasenko has multiple Russians around, including Barbashev, Pavel Buchnevich and Klim Kostin. Prospect Alexei Toropchenko was also in camp until he was sent down to AHL Springfield.

"We have good teammates, so they can help them too, but when you come from other country and speak different language, it's always nice to have somebody," Tarasenko said. "Like me and 'Barby' have been here for a while, so we can explain the things. We have a very good group of Russians this camp and we have fun together."

So much fun that Tarasenko invited a group of them over for a barbeque.

"Yeah, I can cook," Tarasenko said. "We have guys over in our house, we have six, seven guys. The wives were there and the girlfriends. It was a good time."

And what was on the menu?

"Everything, like steaks, chicken wings," Tarasenko said. "I like to cook, you know, but we have a big family, so sometimes you have to."

- - -

Saad continues to get comfortable playing with his new teammates as well.

Tonight, like Tarasenko, will be his third game of the preseason and second with Thomas and Tarasenko as linemates, a line that has all the earmarks of what will open the season Oct. 16 in Colorado.

"I think the guys are excited," Saad said. "We haven't had a full squad yet obviously, but just getting a taste with different players and different guys, there's a lot of talent, a lot of guys focused to be on the winning track this year and looking to make an imprint in the league. I think the excitement's high, I'm excited to be here and you look at the talent on the roster, I don't see why there's any chance where we can't compete."

Playing against Tarasenko as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets and Avalanche is one thing, but now that he's his teammate?

"I think like playing against him so much, you get to know him pretty well, so nothing too surprising," Saad said. "But to get to see it every day with his talent, his shooting ability, his play making, seeing how big and strong he is on the puck is something where you don't get to see every day playing against him. It's been fun to watch."

Saad has been compared to what Jaden Schwartz brought to the Blues, and Tarasenko knows a lot about being Schwartz's linemate, so what are his opinion of Saad?

"He plays very strong," Tarasenko said. "He can play all around everywhere. He's a smart player. He presents himself on the ice, makes it easier for me and Tommer to get him the puck. I think he can pass the puck well and finish chances. I think we have a pretty good line and looking forward to a good game tonight."

- - -

Berube and the coaching staff will get a firsthand look at what the projected lineup could look like come opening night, or as close to it as possible and are looking forward to it.

"I’m sure Dallas will have a good lineup too, it’s getting near the end here so you know teams will be playing a lot of their players like we are tonight so yeah I'm looking to see how the combinations look and the chemistry and things like that and also our team game, just the structure side of it and just doing good things," Berube said.

Berube has been pleased with the forward pairs but finding that third member has been the challenge, who will be the third wheel.

"I think we're still mulling around a third pair a little bit with a couple different things," Berube said. "I think the Saad with Thomas and Tarasenko, they've been together since camp. I think they've done a good job. They look pretty good to me. I think that they have some good chemistry there, with the way the lines set up and Vladi scoring goals and shooting then Thomas making plays and Saad is a big guy with good speed, gets on pucks goes to the net, does that grunt work that's needed. ... We had (Jordan) Kyrou up there with (David) Perron and (Ryan) O’Reilly for a bit. I moved him to Buchnevich and (Brayden) Schenn to see how that looks and I got Jake Neighbours up with Perron and O’Reilly tonight to see how he looks there. Jake Neighbours has done a good job wherever I’ve put him, so I expect him to probably play well again tonight with O’Reilly and Perron."

And on defense, the top four is pretty much set, so determining what the bottom lair will look like and who the seventh defenseman will be is still up in the air.

"Well obviously play, like Perunovich has done a great job so far," Berube said. "He's been an impressive player in camp and in the games that he's played in. (Jake) Walman, Mikkola, they've done a good job too. We have the D that was here last year, the seven D, and they've all done a good job in my opinion so far, and they're probably right where we want them to be or thought they would be. Perunovich is a guy that's a different element, he's came into camp and he’s impressed us all with his ability to move pucks and composure with pucks and make plays, things like that so it'll be exciting to see him tonight against Dallas and see how he performs."

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Jake Neighbours-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Jordan Kyrou-Brayden Schenn-Pavel Buchnevich

Brandon Saad-Robert Thomas-Vladimir Tarasenko

Dakota Joshua-Logan Brown-Klim Kostin

Torey Krug-Justin Faulk

Marco Scandella-Colton Parayko

Niko Mikkola-Scott Perunovich

Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Charlie Lindgren will be the backup.

- - -

The Stars' projected lineup:

Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin-Alexander Radulov

Jacob Peterson-Radek Faksa-Denis Gurianov

Jason Robertson-Mavrik Bourque-Tanner Kero

Joel Kiviranta-Luke Glendening-Blake Comeau

Andreas Borgman-John Klingberg

Esa Lindell-Alexander Petrovic

Joel Hanley-Andrej Sekera

Braden Holtby will start in goal; Anton Khudobin will be the backup.

No comments:

Post a Comment