Monday, November 22, 2021

(11-22-21) Golden Knights-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues return home looking to get back to winning ways when they host the Vegas Golden Knights today at 7 p.m. (BSMW, ESPN 101.1-FM).

The Blues (9-6-2) are coming off a 4-1 loss to the Dallas Stars on Saturday after arguably putting together one of their best games of the season, 4-1 against the San Jose Sharks here at Enterprise Center on Thursday.

The Golden Knights (11-7-0) are coming off a six-game homestand in which they won five of six and are getting healthier again, although they won't have Max Pacioretty (foot) back from injury just yet.

The Blues will make one lineup change from Saturday with Robert Bortuzzo sitting out with an undisclosed injury and Niko Mikkola stepping in to take his place.

"It's more of a maintenance day for him," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "He got dinged up last game, so Mikkola will go in for him tonight."

Mikkola will play for the first time since Nov. 4 and announced he'd miss time being in COVID-19 protocol; he's played in two games this season.

"I feel fine. It wasn't that bad for me and been practicing like pretty hard for like one week and ready to go," Mikkola said. "It's pretty tough (not playing). Just need to get working hard and be ready for when I get called to play and it is what it is.

"I didn't feel like I had the best camp but like the same thing as I'd be working like on the last year and thing I will play fine when I got a couple of games."

Mikkola will be paired with Marco Scandella making up the third defensive pairing.

"Yeah, he played a couple solid games and got COVID," Berube said of Mikkola. "That's unfortunate. We've been wanting to get him back in there, bog body. He's aggressive and difficult to play against.

"I think sometimes going into training camp when you're a young guy, you want to stand out and make the team and be one of the top six D and you put a lot of pressure on yourself and I think he put a lot of pressure on himself and didn't perform well enough. Other guys out-performed him. He's still on the hockey team obviously and like I said, he played a couple good games before COVID hit him so hopefully he can just feed off that and get going again.

"He's aggressive and he skates pretty well for a big guy, gets on top of people, he's physical and he's got a big, long stick. He uses it pretty well and penalty killing, we need him for penalty killing too. He gets in the way, he's a big guy."

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Oskar Sundqvist will play in his fourth game since returning from a torn left ACL and surgeries to both hips.

The Blues center said he's still working his way back into the flow and that the timing has been the biggest adjustment.

"I think the pace is all fine now," Sundqvist said. "It's more just the timing of stuff. Feel like I'm over-skating in some situations where I can take a little bit easier and just glide into it instead of skating full stride into it. It's coming more and more, it's been feeling better with timing wise and all that stuff for every game. So hopefully it keeps improving.

"It's been fun. Obviously you miss being back, a bit up and down for myself during games and you just find the right level throughout.

"(Hips are) sore but fine. Yeah. It's a lot of treatment going on after games and days after so. But we're we're doing a good job keeping an eye on them. So good."

Sundqvist has been centering the identity line with Brandon Saad and Ivan Barbashev.

"Same Sunny. He's relentless out there, energy, his work ethic, it rubs off the rest of the team," Berube said. "(Timing will) take a while, but his aggressiveness and his second and third efforts make up for a lot of that.

"I told you it was an identity line. I believe that with the way they play and how we want to play. Not everyone plays the same way, I'm not saying that, but it's just an identity of how the game ... it sets a tone for us. It sets a tone, that's what we're looking for right away."

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Former Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo has done the part of playing against his former teammates and been in this building already last season.

But tonight will be different.

Pietrangelo, in his second season with Vegas since signing as a free agent there prior to last season, will play here in front of a large crowd for the first time.

When the Golden Knights visited St. Louis last season, attendance was capped in the low 4,000's, but this will see a full capacity, if the building is indeed full.

"It'll be pretty special," Pietrangelo said. "It's going to be fun playing in front of a full crowd. I had a lot of good times with the fans here. They were nothing but great to me. I hope I was the same to them. It was a little disappointing last year not having the building full. It's a fun place to play for anybody, but obviously it's going to be more special having family in the stands."

Pietrangelo has 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 18 games, including nine points (three goals, six assists) his past nine games.

"He's been fantastic," Vegas coach Pete DeBoer said. "One of the reasons we've been able to survive and be in the position we're in with what we've gone through has been our goaltending and the play of our big guys that have been in the lineup and he's right at the front of that list. He's been solid every single night, leading the way for us from a defensive point of view and offensively chipping in, but his leadership has been exceptional through this stretch in keeping us on the right path and in a position to be able to get through some of the stuff we've dealt with."

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What the Blues want to avoid from Saturday's game was a repeat of allowing two shorthanded goals, a power play goal and subsequently, an empty-net goal. 

In 5-on-5 situations, they were fine. But the special teams was clearly an issue.

"Power play I thought in the Dallas game, we were sloppy," Berube said. "We didn't execute with the puck. Dallas did a good job killing and they were aggressive. Our puck play wasn't very good and with the shorthanded goals, it was just a matter of on the one reloading harder, or waited on it on a 50-50 puck and they poached by it and got by us, and on the other one with (Torey) Krug, that unit, it's the right play for him to step in there and keep that puck alive; we're trying to score, but you've got to get one or the other, the puck or the man to limit that 2 on 1 there.

"We've dealt with it in San Jose. We really did a good job there. Carolina, the one unit did a great job there, they're ultra-aggressive and Vegas is aggressive. It's quick puck movement, really quick puck movement and getting pucks through to the net right away, creating some chaos and rebounds around the net."

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Blues center Brayden Schenn took part in the morning skate but will miss his ninth straight game. However, Berube said Schenn is "very close."

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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

Niko Mikkola-Marco Scandella 

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

The healthy scratch will be Jake Walman. Brayden Schenn (upper body) and Robert Bortuzzo (undisclosed)

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The Golden Knights' projected lineup:

Evgenii Dadonov-Chandler Stephenson-Mark Stone

Mattias Janmark-Nicolas Roy-Reilly Smith

Adam Brooks-Jake Leschyshyn-Keegan Kolesar

Paul Cotter-Brett Howden-Jonas Rondbjerg

Nicolas Hague-Alex Pietrangelo

Brayden McNabb-Zach Whitecloud

Ben Hutton-Dylan Coghlan

Robin Lehner will start in goal; Laurent Brossoit will be the backup. 

The healthy scratch is expected to be Ben Jones. Jack Eichel (neck), Max Pacioretty (foot), William Karlsson (foot), Shea Theodore (head), Nolan Patrick (upper body) and Alec Martinez (facial laceration) are all out. Jonathan Marchessault, William Carrier and Michael Amadio are all on COVID-19 protocol.

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