Friday, November 12, 2021


Sundqvist not ready to return yet; Joshua out for maintenance; Husso also not 
ready to return, practicing along with Clifford; Berube splits up O'Reilly, Perron

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. -- Looks like the lineup for the Blues won't change much when they head east for a quick jaunt to North Carolina to face the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday.

The Blues (8-2-2), coming off a 4-3 overtime loss against the Nashville Predators on Thursday, will continue the gauntlet of a November schedule when they face two of the hottest teams in the NHL on a back-to-back set. First, against the razor-sharp Hurricanes (10-1-0) before coming home to face the Edmonton Oilers (10-2-0) Sunday night at home.

Oskar Sundqvist, who hasn't played since he tore his left ACL in San Jose last season on March 9, a freak accident on a collision with teammate Kyle Clifford, skated as part of the regular combinations Friday at practice, on the fourth line centering Klim Kostin and James Neal in place of Dakota Joshua, who did not practice. Sundqvist had a lengthy conversation with coach Craig Berube and head athletic trainer Ray Barile towards the end of practice giving hope that perhaps Sundqvist is ready to come back.

But Berube shed light on it.

"He's not ready yet, but 'Dak' was out of practice today," Berube said. "It's maintenance basically with him. He'll be ready to go tomorrow."

So Joshua will play in Carolina and Sundqvist won't, and neither will goalie Ville Husso, who skated for a third straight day but the first with a full squad since he was put on the COVID-19 protocol list.

"He needs a couple more days of practice yet," Berube said. "He is not a go yet."
So Joel Hofer will travel and perhaps start Saturday or back up Jordan Binnington, but with a back-to-back set, it's possible Hofer starts Saturday and Binnington on Sunday, or vice versa. Stay tuned.

Kyle Clifford, also returning from the COVID protocol list, skated today for the first time and was the extra forward on the ice, leaving just Torey Krug and Niko Mikkola remaining in COVID protocol.

"I think definitely starting to get guys back, it was kind of weird times there on the road, but getting 'Huus' and 'Cliffy' back, obviously we need bodies," Blues forward David Perron said. "We're going to need to use every guys in the locker room at some point this year. It's absolutely great to see them."

* Line juggling -- As practice commenced, the lines and pairings were different from the loss Thursday, most notably Berube split up Ryan O'Reilly and Perron.

Jordan Kyrou-Ryan O'Reilly-Pavel Buchnevich

Ivan Barbashev-Robert Thomas-Vladimir Tarasenko

Brandon Saad-Tyler Bozak-David Perron

Klim Kostin-*Oskar Sundqvist-James Neal

Marco Scandella-Colton Parayko

Calle Rosen-Justin Faulk

Jake Walman-Robert Bortuzzo

Jordan Binnington

Joel Hofer

Ville Husso

* Sundqvist was a place holder for Joshua

Splitting up O'Reilly and Perron hasn't been something Berube has done much when both are in the lineup, but in the three games O'Reilly has been back since returning from COVID protocol, the Blues captain has zero points and is a minus-2 and Perron has one assist and is a minus-3 in those three games.

"Yeah, just trying to move some lines around," Berube said. "Just trying to get maybe a little more consistent scoring throughout our lineup and balance. I think things have been fine, but we're looking to improve. That's all."

Perron has been around long enough to know change sometimes will occur and has played with Saad and O'Reilly enough this season already.

"I think Bozie's played some good hockey, I've played with 'Saader,'" Perron said. "I don't know if it's been like little timing issues or whatever, but we haven't obviously have had as high of a performance as we'd like as a line, so I think they're looking at different things right now. That's all it is, I'm sure. Down the road, it'll come back and that's really all I have on that."

So playing Bozak between the veterans Saad and Perron could turn into a nice line, and Bozak, who was solid in the loss Thursday, tends to be a guy that helps break guys out and get them going.

"He has elevated guys for us the years he's been here. He's done a good job of that," Berube said. "I think he's an easy guy to play with players. He's got great camaraderie with the teammates and things like that. He's a great veteran. He's been around. He's solid in all three areas of the ice. The Barbashev, Tarasenko, Thomas line have produced for us this year. They've been a great line. Kyrou and Buchnevich are playing real good hockey right now and I thought with O'Reilly coming off of COVID and Saad coming off of COVID, them together with Perron right now, the energy was low. Kyrou and Buchnevich have good energy right now, they're playing good hockey. That's why I put them with O'Reilly. Saad and Perron have some pretty good chemistry together, I think, the way they play the game. Saad's got speed, Perron's a shooter and Bozie can distribute the puck and do all the right things coming out of his own zone."

Berube said after the loss Thursday he feels O'Reilly's and Saad's energy levels are not quite up to par since returning from COVID. Perhaps it's affected the way O'Reilly and Perron have played the past few games.

"It's not surprising when you go through something like this, it can take some time," Perron said. "Definitely I don't think how you feel throughout the process of going through COVID, explains how you come out of it and feel really. It can take some time for just how you feel on energy levels and things like that. I guess when you don't have the same energy, then results and obviously you don't think the same way out there, you don't make the same decisions. It's going to take some time for those two and for the guys that will come back soon for us."

"It'll come back," Berube said. "I think Saad had good energy his first couple games to be honest with you and it just dropped off for him."

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