Wednesday, October 6, 2021

(10-6-21) Blues-Wild Preseason Gameday Lineup

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. -- It's a back-to-back kind of set for the Blues, as they play the second of two exhibition games against the Minnesota Wild today at 7 p.m. (ESPN+, ESPN 101.1-FM).

The Blues (3-3-0) dropped a 3-1 decision at the Dallas Stars on Tuesday playing a large portion of their main group. Tonight's game provides an opportunity for guys that are still on the brink or may be battling for a few of those last remaining roster spots to make a difference.

"Yeah, I would say so," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "Listen, the reason it is the way it is tonight is the back-to-back games. Didn't want to try and get a lot of our guys in the back-to-back games. We've got some young guys playing back-to-back games tonight, but that's OK. We didn't want our veterans playing back-to-back games. It's tough."

Five guys that played last night will also play tonight, including forwards Klim Kostin, Logan Brown and Dakota Joshua and defensemen Niko Mikkola and Scott Perunovich.
There is still something to prove for them all.

"I think it's always good to see these guys in a back-to-back situation, young guys and things like that," Berube said. "I think that's always good to see. But we have a pretty good pulse on all of them and what they provide and what they can give our hockey team.

"Everybody's different to be honest with you. There's a lot of things that are involved that goes into it. I do believe that it's important for a player to play well no matter what and to show the organization and the coaching staff what he can do. Now, I'm not going to sit here and say that's going to change everything. Decisions still have to be made. It's important for guys fighting for a spot and for the whole team to go out and compete and play well."

The Mikkola-Perunovich pair played together last night and Mikkola scored but was also on the ice for the Stars' go-ahead goal in the third period when he made an aggressive pinch in the offensive zone but got caught on a 2-on-1.

"They were OK," Berube said. "I think that was a little bit different for them both. Dallas had a fairly good lineup and it was tight-checking. It was tight. There wasn't a lot of room out there, but they did some good things. Perun's got great composure with the puck like I've said all along. He showed that again last night playing in some good situations and Mikkola, I know he got the goal, but he's just an aggressive player. He doesn't give the opposition much time and space out there, closes on people quickly to me. He's a hard guy to play against is the best way I can put it."

There's also a case still left to be made for veterans James Neal and Michael Frolik, who are on PTO's ad could conceivably me making their final cases to earn contracts. It's possible one or both could play at home in the preseason finale Friday against Columbus but they have to take it as if tonight is their last chance.

"I think they can make a difference for sure and I think they've come as we thought," Berube said. "They're both veteran guys and played a lot in the league. They do different things for sure and I think they've both provided what they do well."

As for those spots on defense, the top four is pretty much set with Colton Parayko, Justin Faulk, Torey Krug and Marco Scandella, but those remaining tree spots remain a battle with Mikkola, Perunovich, Robert Bortuzzo, who should be considered a lock, and perhaps Steven Santini although he's a long-shot.

"I'm not sure where they have me slotted in on the depth chart," Santini said. "Obviously every day just trying to get better, control what you can control, have good practices, have good games, be a good teammate, do the best you can and then you know everything kind of works itself out when you do that.

"I think (the competition's) been great. I think the competition that you're speaking towards just speaks volumes about the depth of this organization. They have great players at all positions and just to be in the mix and to be you know, playing in the preseason games and competing with guys in practice, it's a lot of fun. As hockey players, we'd rather have it that way than the other way and just get it easy."

Kostin, Perunovich and Dakota Joshua will all be playing their fifth preseason game out of seven.

After tonight's game, expect the Blues to make roster cuts, probably as early as Thursday.

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The Blues' projected lineup:

Ivan Barbashev-Tyler Bozak-James Neal

Klim Kostin-Logan Brown-Sam Anas

Nathan Walker-Nikita Alexandrov-Michael Frolik

Kyle Clifford-Dakota Joshua-Mackenzie MacEachern

Jake Walman-Robert Bortuzzo

Niko Mikkola-Scott Perunovich

Calle Rosen-Steven Santini

Ville Husso will start in goal; Colten Ellis will be the backup.

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The Wild's projected roster:

FORWARDS: Nico Sturm, Jordan Greenway, Marco Rossi, Kyle Rau, Dominic Turgeon, Victor Rask, Connor Dewar, Adam Beckman, Joseph Cramarossa, Mitchell Chafee, Brandon Duhaime, Nick Swaney.

DEFENSEMEN: Jon Merrill, Jordie Benn, Dmitry Kulikov, Jon Lizotte, Joe Hicketts, Calen Addison.

GOALIES: Kaapo Kahkonen, Andrew Hammond.

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