Tuesday, November 16, 2021

(11-16-21) Coyotes-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues have recalled the cavalry tonight, and there plenty of reinforcements at hand against the Arizona Coyotes tonight.

The Blues (8-4-2) and Coyotes (1-13-1) will meet at 7 p.m. (BSMW, ESPN 101.1-FM) today and they will have Oskar Sundqvist back in the lineup for the first time since March 19.

Sundqvist has missed the past eight months after sustaining a torn ACL in his left knee. Sundqvist, who also had surgeries this past summer on both hips as well, was initially injured against the San Jose Sharks following a collision with teammate Kyle Clifford; he had surgery on his knee April 6.

"It's been a long journey," Sundqvist said. "Not always fun every day, but I've always tried to have the mindset that I have to do it obviously and try to stay positive throughout the whole process. Obviously getting the season started and training with the guys has been helping me a lot to stay positive and be close to the team helps."

Sundqvist, 27, played in just 28 games last season and had nine points (four goals, five assists); he he has 72 points (29 goals, 43 assists) in 229 NHL regular-season games.

"It's been a long haul for him and us obviously but more on him, Blues coach Craig Berube said. "It's tough for him, but he did a good job. He worked extremely hard. It's a lot of work put in, the injuries he had. It wasn't just one, it was two. It's two major operations, but he's glad and we're glad he's back." 

Sundqvist walked into the press conference room at Enterprise Center and had to reintroduce himself.

"I almost have to," he joked. "I missed being out there. It's been a while."

Sundqvist was centering a line with Klim Kostin and James Neal.

"He plays that north-south game," Berube said of Sundqvist. "He drives the engine. I thought back when he was playing for us, he was one of those guys, energy guys, just playing that north game, getting on the forecheck, playing hard minutes, being physical. We used him all the time to close games out, penalty killing obviously. He definitely plays the game the right way."

Sundqvist has been rehabbing anfd skating on a regular basis pretty much since the start of training camp, but in the last two weeks or so, he's really ramped up the intensity, physicality, starts and stops, which are all important.

"I think it's a little bit of everything," Sundqvist said. "It's me feeling comfortable enough that I can do everything out there and trust everything, trust the knee in every turn and every start and stop. I fully do that now. Last week's been a big improvement on that department for me. I've got full trust in my knee and everything. I'm very excited.

"Very excited. Obviously it's been a while. I wouldn't say I'm too nervous yet. I trust everything, the knee and everything else. Just trying to get back in and keep it simple out there at the beginning. It's been a while. I think my biggest problem is going to be realizing how fast it goes out there, so just try and keep it simple in the beginning to get into it."

Sundqvist stepped onto the ice and as the team huddled before the morning skate routine, Ryan O'Reilly welcomed Sundqvist back to a round of stick taps from teammates.

"It means a lot," Sundqvist said. "I didn't expect that, but it's nice of 'O'Ry' to do that. Obviously you're excited to be back. It's been a long time. I just want it to be 7 o'clock right now so we can start playing."

Teammates are obviously excited to see Sundqvist back in the lineup.

"It's very important for us (and) for our lineup," defenseman Torey Krug said. "Obviously, he adds a piece in there that’s great on the forecheck, kills penalties. He really does it all for us. And that's an important guy to have back in your lineup. And we grow even deeper today. So that's another great sign. And we're all excited for him. It's been a long, long time. And he's put in a lot of hours at the rink. It's a tough job, what he's doing coming back from what he had, and we're all excited for him to get back in line tonight.

"He's great. He's a guy that shows up to the rink every day, and it doesn't matter what happened the night before. Or what's going on recently, he's showing up and he's working hard and he's always fun to have around the room so we can give him give him a hard time and he gives it right back and you need guys like that in the locker room."

Speaking of Krug, he will also play tonight after missing the past five games due to COVID-19 protocol. He and defenseman Niko Mikkola, who will be a healthy scratch tonight, were the last of six players (O'Reilly, Brandon Saad, Ville Husso and Clifford) to be in COVID protocol.

"Pretty good," Krug said when asked how he's feeling. "I had mild symptoms just for 36 hours or so and then was symptom-free the rest of the time. So just excited to get back, to be around the guys again and have a chance to compete. Yeah, very excited."

There was some discussion whether Krug would play tonight or not, but Berube said that was taken care of quickly.

"We discussed playing tonight, but he really pushed," Berube said. "He wanted to play. He doesn't want to be out any longer. What factors into it is yesterday he skated, he did quite a bit and he felt good, and he feels good today. Get him in there.

"Krug's great. We all know what his puck movement and his power play and things like that, the puck movement is very important."

Krug was going at near a point per game clip (two goals, six assists in nine games) before going out and he'll rejoin his pair with d-man Justin Faulk.

"Yeah, we were playing well," Krug said. "The team was winning too. I think that's the frustrating part. All that being said, what are you supposed to do? You can't control any of this stuff and you've got to take it as it goes and just live with it and move on. So I don't want to waste energy, don't want to be negative about it. Just kind of take it as it goes and get back in the locker room.

"That's a big part of it (the comfortability factor). Last year just getting your feet wet. It wasn't a normal year as well. So that was tough. I think this year, guys are comfortable building chemistry. They understand the plays that I like to make and type of tempo that I like to play with. And I think that's just a chemistry part on and off the ice, it's been great. So this year is a lot better."

And to round out the lineup, defenseman Scott Perunovich, the 2020 Hobey Baker Award winner, who was recalled from Springfield of the American Hockey League on Monday, will make his long-awaited NHL debut tonight.

Perunovich, who was averaging over a point per game with the Thunderbirds in 12 games (two goals, 18 assists), was tied for the league-lead in points.

"Just the way he played in camp. It's going to be different for sure because training camp's training camp and the regular season is different, but he's got great vision obviously and his puck play is really high end," Berube said. "I expect him to move the puck well and he's got to defend. It's different than the American Hockey League. You're playing against men up here. It's quicker and it's more competitive, so he's really going to have to compete tonight without the puck."

Perunovich is slated to be paired with Robert Bortuzzo tonight but will quarterback the second power play unit, getting thrown right into the fire.

"Very simple. Play simple, play fast," said Krug, who will quarterback the No. 1 unit. "Usually, your first read is the right one, especially being a guy, a smaller defenseman that reads the ice. Typically, those are pretty intelligent guys out there. So they need to just take their first read and make that play. So we'll be in there helping him out. And I'm sure he’s going to do a great job. He's been playing great down there."

"A guy like 'Perun', that's what he is, so we want to put him in the best spot to be successful," Berube said. "He's up here playing, let's see what he can do."

Perunovich will go in for Jake Walman, who will be a healthy scratch for the first time this season.

"It's dropped off," Berube said of Walman's play. "I think it's just not going his way. I think some of the games have been where he doesn't get a lot of ice time out there and I think that factors into the score of the game, the situations and things like that. We have faith in Wally. Again, sometimes taking a reset, watching the games helps. I think that's part of it and sometimes mentally, when things aren't going your way, it just drains on you. I think he needs a mental break a little bit."

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Center Brayden Schenn, who will miss his sixth straight game tonight, was on the ice Tuesday morning getting put through a hard workout with assistant coach Sean Ferrell.

Schenn, who sustained an upper-body injury Oct. 30 against Chicago but played in the two games following before departing the lineup for good, was doing stick work and plenty of cardio.

- - -

Clifford, who was placed on waivers Monday to make room for Sundqvist, cleared on Tuesday. The Blues (as of 1:30 p.m.) didn't make any announcements of possibly being assigned to Springfield but that would be the next step for the 30-year-old veteran.

* UPDATE -- Not long after the Blues activated Sundqvist and assigned Clifford to Springfield, they traded the veteran to the Toronto Maple Leafs for future considerations.

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

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

Torey Krug-Justin Faulk

Scott Perunovich-Robert Bortuzzo

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

Healthy scratches will be Jake Walman and Niko Mikkola. Brayden Schenn (upper body) is out.

- - -

The Coyotes' projected lineup:

Lawson Crouse-Travis Boyd-Clayton Keller

Alex Galchenyuk-Barrett Hayton-Phil Kessel

Antoine Roussel-Jay Beagle-Loui Eriksson 

Liam O'Brien-Jan Jenik-Hudson Fasching

Jakob Chychrun-Anton Stralman

Shayne Gostisbehere-Dysin Mayo

Kyle Capobianco-Ilya Lyubushkin

Scott Wedgewood will start in goal; Karel Vejmelka will be the backup. 

Healthy scratches include Cam Dineen, Ben McCartney. Ryan Dzingel (upper body), Carter Hutton (lower body), Nick Schmaltz (upper body), Conor Timmins (lower body), Christian Fischer (upper body) and Dmitrij Jaskin (lower body) are all out with injuries. Andrew Ladd and Johan Larsson are in COVID-19 protocol. 

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