By LOU KORAC
So, how does one follow up a solid performance like the Blues (9-5-2) had on Thursday night against the San Jose Sharks?
"You do it again," Blues defenseman Marco Scandella said. "You do it again.
"We had another good practice (Friday) and we just string them together here."
That's what they'll try and do today at 7 p.m. when they take on the Dallas Stars (6-7-2) at American Airlines Center, the first time the Blues will see the Stars since inside the Edmonton bubble at Rogers Place Aug. 9, 2020.
The Stars have been scuffling out of the gates, and scoring has been the biggest issue, although they'll be an ornery group tonight coming off a 7-2 beating at the hands of the Minnesota Wild Thursday in St. Paul.
"They've always been a good, defensive team, strong goaltending," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "You've got to fight for space out there and we've got to work."
That's why the team chose to get after it for a hard practice Friday and used Saturday as an optional.
"Well that's what we're trying to bring," Scandella said. "We're trying to get out of a rut. We can't just hold our heads high after one win. We're trying to string a few together. We have a really good team here and we have to get back to dominating teams like we were earlier in the year."
The Blues will be playing their eighth game in 14 days tonight, and the challenge of managing ice time vs. rest is imperative for the use of energy.
"I think it's been good," Berube said. "I haven't really noticed a real drop in energy. There were a couple games coming from those road trips out west coming back home, that takes the energy out of you a little bit where I noticed the energy wasn't great, but I thought we had great energy last game."
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There will be no lineup changes from the 4-1 win over the Sharks Thursday other than Jordan Binnington as the projected starter in goal.
But one aspect to keep an eye on as the season progresses is if backup Ville Husso plays as he has his previous three starts, including two this season, he will get more work and will allow Binnington to rest more often.
"Yeah for sure," Berube said. "I think that was the plan before he got COVID. His first game was excellent, then he got COVID. We're definitely going to need him and we're going to use him."
Husso, who shut out the Wild in his final start last season on May 12 with a 31-save effort, opened this season with a 34-save 3-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings Oct. 25 before he was knocked out for 10 days after testing positive for COVID-19.
He came back Thursday and made 26 saves in another impressive effort giving Husso a 0.33 goals-against average and .989 save percentage his past three starts.
"I think it was just a lot of work that he put in in the summer and a lot of work that Davey (Alexander) and he put in at training camp, even before camp just working on things," Berube said. "He just looks more comfortable in net to me more than anything. I think he's confident right now. Even looking at him, he goes out and plays a lot more pucks. He looks big in net, so that's confidence."
Also, with Niko Mikkola back from COVID protocol, he will be a healthy scratch again tonight.
"We're planning on getting him in there for sure, but I thought the defense looked really good last game, I didn't want to make a change for tonight's game," Berube said. "But you're right, we've got to get Mikkola in there. He's an important part of our team, and we'll find room for him. We'll have to do what we've got to do to get him in."
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The same lineup means, not that it's a shock, but defenseman and 2020 Hobey Baker Award winner Scott Perunovich will play his third NHL game.
He collected his first NHL point, an assist on a Robert Thomas goal, Thursday against the Sharks. He played 18:26 in his debut Tuesday against Arizona and 19:25 against San Jose.
"He's got high-end skill," Berube said. "He's got elite vision and puck play. He can really make plays with the puck. He's a very good two-way player, he's got a great stick. He does a great job on the defensive side of things. He's a pretty solid all-around hockey player."
Teammates are already aware of how good an impression Perunovich has made in the early going.
"I’m extremely impressed to be honest with you," center Tyler Bozak said. "There’s so many little things out there that honestly might not be noticed by a lot of people that he does that are just super smart plays. He makes an incredible first pass, which is something that is very underrated. He gets the puck up to the forwards, right on the tape, at the right time, it seems like every time.
"He’s a guy that definitely has a long career ahead of him. Super smart player, which is awesome to see."
The plays Bozak is referring to are not ones that have been taught.
"I think a lot of it would be instinctual," he said. "I think just his hockey sense. Obviously being a smaller guy, he probably had to adjust a bit growing up playing defense, and had to do those little things that maybe some other guys wouldn’t do that were bigger. And I think that’s helped him ton. He makes very good plays (like that). He also has an incredible stick that we even see in practice. It’s hard to pass through him and get pucks by him.
"Obviously won a Hobey Baker in college, so that just goes to show you how good he’s been before he got here, too. So he’s been doing a great job so far. And I think we will see a lot of him moving forward."
And then there's the 23-year-old that seems humbled by the experience and playing with confidence.
"First of all, I want to talk about the person. He's a great person in the locker room, gets along with everybody, so it's great having him, and as a player, he moves his feet, he's very elusive out there and he's a smart player," Scandella said. "For a small guy, he puts himself in good positions and he's creating offense. I can't say enough good things about him. Hopefully he continues playing the way that he is because he's really helping our team.
"... We've embraced him and just happy for him. I feel like we have a really good group of defensemen that we're all vocal with each other, pump each other up, and that goes for our team. We're not a jealous group. When one guy is having success, we're all pulling for him and vice versa. I feel like we have a really special group and that's what's going to keep us together and make us hopefully go deep in the playoffs."
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* Jordan Kyrou has a six-game point streak (six goals, two assists) and has scored in five of six games, including three straight.
* Vladimir Tarasenko has a five-game point streak at AAC (four goals, two assists) and has 24 points (16 goals, eight assists) in 28 games against the Stars in his career.
* David Perron, who hasn't scored in 11 straight games (but has six assists in that span), has 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists) in 39 career games against the Stars.
* Pavel Buchnevich has seven points (two goals, five assists) his past six games, which includes a four-game point streak (one goal, four assists); he has six points (two goals, four assists) in five games against the Stars.
* Robert Thomas has eight points (one goal, seven assists) his past five games.
* Ryan O'Reilly has three assists the past two games after no points in five games returning off COVID protocol.
* Torey Krug has 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) in 13 games against the Stars.
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The Blues' projected lineup:
Jordan Kyrou-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron
Pavel Buchnevich-Robert Thomas-Vladimir Tarasenko
Brandon Saad-Oskar Sundqvist-Ivan Barbashev
Klim Kostin-Tyler Bozak-James Neal
Torey Krug-Colton Parayko
Scott Perunovich-Justin Faulk
Marco Scandella-Robert Bortuzzo
Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Ville Husso will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Jake Walman and Niko Mikkola. Brayden Schenn (upper body) remains out.
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The Stars' projected lineup:
Jason Robertson-Roope Hintz-Joe Pavelski
Michael Raffl-Jamie Benn-Denis Gurianov
Joel Kiviranta-Tyler Seguin-Luke Glendening
Jacob Peterson-Radek Faksa-Alexander Radulov
Ryan Suter-John Klingberg
Esa Lindell-Miro Heiskanen
Joel Hanley-Jani Hakanpaa
Jake Oettinger will start in goal; Anton Khudobin will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Andrej Sekera, who has a non-COVID illness and Riley Tufte. Braden Holtby (lower body) is out.
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