Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Blues depth to really get tested with O'Reilly out

Team captain plays in all situations, has never missed a 
game here in three years in COVID-19 protocol along with Saad

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. -- The Blues have gotten off to a good start despite having to do so without the services of Pavel Buchnevich and Brandon Saad.

But this is different animal. This is their captain, and someone who has dressed for every game since he arrived in St. Louis in 2018.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues center Ryan O'Reilly (right) takes a face-off against the Los Angeles
Kings on Saturday. O'Reilly was placed in COVID-19 protocol Tuesday.

Blues captain Ryan O'Reilly will miss a minimum of 10 days after testing positive for COVID-19. The fact he will miss at least 10 days, or in the Blues' case, at least four games, is he is experiencing symptoms.

O'Reilly joins Saad on the NHL non-roster COVID-Protocol list, meaning the Blues get relief from their cap hits, and they used some of it by recalling Dakota Joshua from the Springfield Thunderbirds of the American Hockey League.

"It's obviously not very good news for O'Reilly, his health and the team for sure," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "It's an obstacle that we're going to have to deal with just like we had to with Saad.

"The vaccinations obviously do help with symptoms and things like that, but there's still you can get COVID and again, it's adversity that we're going to have to deal with.

"O'Reilly's out at least 10 days, I believe. I'm just not sure on Saad yet when he's back. It's getting close though."

The Blues, who won their franchise-record fifth straight game to begin a season Monday night, 3-0 against the Los Angeles Kings, have been without Saad the past two games. Buchnevich returned Monday after missing two games due to suspension for head-butting Arizona Coyotes forward Lawson Crouse Oct. 18.

But losing O'Reilly, who has played in 214 consecutive regular-season games since arriving in St. Louis three years ago, will be a blow. He's been among the team leaders in minutes on ice among forwards, goals, assists, points and face-offs who plays in every situation.

"It's definitely tough, but it's part of everything that's going on with COVID," Blues forward Jordan Kyrou said. "We've just got to stick together as a group and we've just got to battle through it. 

"It's just how life is right now. It's just an obstacle we've got to get through. We're going to get through it together as a team."

Berube added, "It's a challenge, but we have good depth here. Everybody is just going to have to step up and the next guy up, that attitude and go from there. You can't overthink it. It is what it is and the best way to deal with it is to move on, wait for these guys to get healthy and get back but in the meantime, go play hockey.

"I found out when I got to the rink. Obviously it's upsetting and surprising at the same time, but it's not something that we want to hear, that's for sure. Again, we'll deal with it."

So O'Reilly will miss at least the next four games, including home games against Colorado Thursday, Chicago on Saturday and at the Kings Nov. 3 and at San Jose Nov. 4. The earliest he can return is Nov. 7 against Anaheim.

"Yeah, it's frustrating. A little bit of surprise but these things have been popping up for the last couple of years, take them in stride," defenseman Robert Bortuzzo said. "He is obviously a big hole for us but hopefully we can lean on some of our depth here, some guys can step up. Like I said, just take it in stride and take that business approach to all this."

Berube will now have to, for the first time, arrange his lineup to play without his top center and find a skater to play alongside O'Reilly's linemate, David Perron.

"I got some ideas and things like that, but I'll make that decision tomorrow morning before practice," Berube said.

As for Joshua, he had one assist in five games helping the Thunderbirds off to an impressive 4-0-1 start.

"He had a good camp, I thought," Berube said. "Really came in and played hard and physical and used his size and his skating. That's what he is. He's a good player. He knows his role, he does it very well and we're going to need him now."

Saad, who had a goal and an assist in his first three games, has been out since Oct. 21 and will miss at least the next two games. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues forward Brandon Saad (20) has been in COVID-19 protocol since
last Thursday; he was joined by teammate Ryan O'Reilly on Tuesday. 

"Well, they're not happy obviously," Berube said of the team. "It's not a good feeling, but we addressed it with the team. This can go on all year. You never know. It's obstacles that are going to come at us and you've got to fight through it. The strength of our team is our team, we're a deep team, which is important, so we've got to go play."

The Blues tout their depth and they have certainly displayed it so far in this young season. Now it will be seriously put to the test in the short term.

"We have four great lines out there and obviously the same with our defense and our goaltending," Kyrou said. "I think we've got a lot of depth this year. It's key for us. Obviously with COVID, it's tough, and obstacles are going to happen all year long.

"We've got a deep team, like I said. We've just got to come together as a group."

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