Tuesday, November 2, 2021


Clifford fourth Blue to hit COVID list; Saad expected to return Wednesday; 
Neal loses teeth; O'Reilly to join up on trip; Sundqvist nearing return

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. -- Add Kyle Clifford to the list of those bitten by the COVID-19 bug.

The Blues forward was the latest to test positive and placed in the league's COVID-19 protocol, and the Blues have added him to the non-roster list, becoming the fourth player to sit out because of it.

Clifford joins, in order, Brandon Saad, Ryan O'Reilly and Ville Husso as those who will miss multiple games.

With Clifford presumably out a minimum of 10 days, since the team doesn't disclose who is symptomatic and asymptomatic, he will miss the upcoming road trip to Los Angeles, San Jose, Anaheim and Winnipeg.

"It's not good. We lose players," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "I don't know, I really don't have an answer for you with how this is all going to turn out. It's four guys now. We get Saad back, which is good. He can take Clifford's spot and (Joel) Hofer's up here right now for Husso, and O'Reilly will be back on this trip."

O'Reilly has missed the past two games and will miss at least the games against the Kings and Sharks but is eligible to return Sunday against the Ducks.

Husso was put on the non-roster list Sunday when the Blues used native Mike McKenna as the second goalie at practice and will miss the road trip, prompting the team to recall Hofer, who was 3-0-1 with a 1.74 goals-against average and .936 save percentage with Springfield of the American Hockey League, to back up Jordan Binnington.

So as of now, for the time being, the Blues feel they are equipped enough to handle games without bringing up reinforcements.

"Right now, we're going to go with what we've got," Berube said.

* Saad targeted for Wednesday -- There is good news of this though, with Saad becoming the first player to get back on the ice after the forward missed the 3-1-0 homestand. He was on the ice for a third straight day Tuesday and is on target to return against the Kings on Wednesday.

"We'll go by how he feels," Berube said. "I told him that we've got back-to-back games here so I want to make sure he's ready to go.

"He always looks fast to me. He's got good speed out there. It's very noticeable. He looked good today in practice. I have not talked to him after practice to see how he's feeling and what he's thinking yet. I won't know that until later."

Saad skated on a line with Tyler Bozak in the middle and Pavel Buchnevich on the right.

"I think he feels really good out there, looks good," center Robert Thomas said of Saad, who has a goal and an assist in three games. "Hopefully he's back in the lineup soon. It's a big addition for us and a welcomed face for sure."

* Neal leaves practice early -- Veteran wing James Neal left Tuesday's practice early for, at first, unknown reasons, but Berube shed light on what really happened.

Seems as if Neal, taking part in a drill, departed practice after losing some teeth and had to get to the dentist before the team departed for Los Angeles.

"Got his teeth knocked out, so he's at the dentist," Berube said. "Unfortunate accident, so he's at the dentist right now."

Seems it's not Neal's first dive into the dentist because of teeth issues, judging by this Sportsnet article: https://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/flames-james-neal-cant-explain-keeps-getting-teeth-knocked/.

In Neal's spot in the line rushes, Jake Neighbours was skating with Dakota Joshua and Klim Kostin, an all-rookie line.

* Sundqvist return nearing -- Oskar Sundqvist accompanied the team on its four-game trip and is nearing a return to the lineup after doctors cleared the forward for contact.

Sundqvist took part in contact drills for what is believed to be the first time on Tuesday.

"He's getting a lot closer now," Berube said. "We talked last week. He can start contact. He's been doing more and more, which is a good thing. We've got to just continue pushing him. Hopefully, soon, he feels good enough to play."

There is a case of the player knowing best when he feels he can return, but technically, Sundqvist, who was placed on long-term injured-reserve at the start of the season, is eligible to return Nov. 9 in Winnipeg.

"Doctors and clearing him. He's got to clear himself, when he feels he's ready," Berube said. "Also there's a date that they have. We're kind of going to go by the target date right now."

A date Berube did not wish to disclose.

* Blues look to remain perfect away from home -- The Blues opened the season with a 3-0-0 trip, winning games at Colorado, Arizona and Vegas by a combined 15-8.

They'll try to remain perfect for as long as they can beginning with a third and already final regular-season meeting with the Kings, who the Blues downed 7-3 and 3-0 on Oct. 23 and 25.

"It'll be a tough trip for sure going into L.A.," Berube said. "They've won their last two games. It'll be a tough opponent. It's a good road trip. We're going to have to play some good hockey. 

"We came home, did a good job at home going 3-1. Now it's time to get back on the road. We had a good start to the year on the road and we've got to continue to keep that success going on the road. It's important. You've just got to keep banging away at it."

The Blues (6-1-0) will play San Jose on Thursday, which will be their first back-to-back sets of the season, then have a couple days off before playing at Anaheim Sunday and finishing it off with a Central Division game against the Jets Nov. 9.

"I think it's a really good road trip for us," forward Ivan Barbashev said. "We've got four big games, especially right now since we're winning a lot. We just got to continue the same way and really looking forward to it."

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