O'Reilly looks set to return, hated missing games; Blues in tough spot
cap-wise; Rosen to make Blues debut; team equipped without Schenn
By LOU KORAC
Ryan O'Reilly hates watching.
Ryan O'Reilly hates watching.
That part is obvious after the Blues captain had to sit and watch the past four games after being put in the league's COVID-19 protocol for testing positive for COVID-19.
"It was very weird. I haven't done that in a long time," O'Reilly said Saturday. "Just watched from home, it was different. I didn't like it. It was tough to not be able to do anything, but it is what it is. These kind of things happen. I'm excited to be back. It's going to be fun. Boys are playing well, had some good wins there. I'm excited to join them.
"I don't know if I was screaming at the TV, but definitely was anxious. It's tough not being in control of anything, just having to watch the boys play and little things, but again, they did well, found ways to win games. It was good."
The Blues haven't made the official call, but it looks like O'Reilly will be back in the lineup Sunday night against the Anaheim Ducks in the third of a four-game trip.
It comes at a good time for the Blues too, who sent Brayden Schenn (upper-body injury) to get evaluated and the losses of defensemen Torey Krug and Niko Mikkola, each placed in COVID-19 protocol Friday night. Forward Kyle Clifford and goalie Ville Husso are currently there now. Forward Brandon Saad returned from protocol two games ago.
"I don't think it's official. I don't think we've talked about it, but I feel good, I've skated twice now and I feel good," O'Reilly said. "The stamina's not great, but still, energy's good and I think I'll be fine. I don't think we've confirmed that. I haven't talked with Ray (Barile) and Chief (Craig Berube) to make sure that I'm in for sure. I'm sure we'll know soon."
O'Reilly skated on his own before joining the team in California, then skated with a few players Friday and was slated to practice with the team Saturday.
"It's obviously exciting," defenseman Colton Parayko said. "We obviously missed him. A big part to our team. A key piece. Just even having him around the room and at the rink and stuff like that, it's obviously a big part of our team. Looking forward to having him back. It's what we're going to have to battle through this year is that kind of stuff. Next guy up or whatever you want to call it, but every team's going through it. At the end of the day, we're just happy to have him back."
Berube is optimistic O'Reilly will play.
"I am," he said. "He's the type of guy that keep himself in great shape. He's going to want to play.
"He's skated on his own once. Yesterday he skated with some extra guys here and he's going to skate today with us."
When Saad tested positive, he said he was surprised by it. O'Reilly wasn't.
"I actually kind of felt it towards the end of that game, the game before I tested positive, I can kind of feel I was starting to get a little short of breath," O'Reilly said. "I wasn't sure and I was hoping that it wasn't anything and then I got home that night and started to cough quite a bit and energy level was really, really low. I figured and sure enough, I get the call in the morning. Was very disappointed, but it happens and I had probably two rough days where I was kind of really tired and coughing quite a bit, but after that, it wasn't too bad. I was able to work out a bit and hopefully try to stay in shape. I think it made the transition back a little better, but overall, I feel good. My energy's good and hopefully I can come in and make an impact."
With Krug and Mikkola joining Clifford and Husso in COVID protocol, and with Saad and O'Reilly out, that makes six skaters that will have missed the minimum of 10 days.
"We all want to be responsible and such, but it's tough. It's happening," O'Reilly said. "It's not just our team. You look around the league, it's happening everywhere. It is what it is. You have to deal with it. The good thing about it, I think it shows how deep we are and how good of a team we have that we can still compete and find ways to win. We're losing bodies at this, but we're trying to be smart, we're doing what we can and we'll have no more incidents.
"Something pops and you can tell we're all disappointed. It's frustrating, especially when guys are feeling good and don't feel like they don't have any symptoms. It's tough that way, but it's out of our control. It is what it is and we've just got to keep moving forward, hang on and hopefully no more."
It probably makes the Blues wonder what else they can do differently, but ...
"I don't know what. It's just one of those things," Berube said. "We follow protocols, we're all vaccinated. Obviously it's just part of life, it's part of hockey, part of all sports. I've talked to the team and I'm telling you guys, it's obstacles that you just got to overcome."
* Tough setback for Krug -- Krug was off to such a solid start this season with eight points (two goals, six assists) in nine games, but not just because of the offense, but he and d-partner Justin Faulk have gotten off to a solid start to the season.
Krug will miss the next four games and would be eligible to return as soon as Nov. 14 against Edmonton.
"It's kind of the year we have to go through here with all this stuff, but he's been playing unbelievable for us," Parayko said of Krug. "It's been fun to watch and tough to lose him right now, but looking forward to getting him back obviously soon and it'll be good."
* Blues in tough spot cap-wise -- As it stands, the Bues are down to 20 available skaters on their roster to play, and any more injuries and/or players placed in COVID protocol, they will have to play shorthanded because of cap constraints, something that is not only strapping them but other teams in a similar situation.
"We were talking about that a little bit," said Parayko, the Blues' player rep with the NHL's Player's Association. "I don't know if we really necessarily thought it was going to get to this calling guys up and not, how that was going to work. I think that's just the nature of the year. I think we're just going to have to kind of push forward. Obviously it's something that you want to maybe look into and maybe kind of address, but I don't think that we thought that was where it was going to go. It's kind of the nature of the beast this year. Every team, it's not just us. Every team's going through it where you just got to push through in times like this and get through it."
Needless to say, Berube would like it to change.
"Doug (Armstrong) has done a great job of putting a team together with a lot of depth, whether it's the group of people we have here or in the minors," Berube said. "We've got guys that are capable of coming up and filling in and playing. That's definitely an important part. It's part of the job, part of the coaching is adjusting and putting new combinations together, people being put in different roles and asked to do different things.
"Yes, it's important. What we've got going on here, there's nothing that we can do about it. It's running through the league and that's the way it is. I believe something should be done."
* Rosen to step in -- Defenseman Calle Rosen, recalled from Springfield of the American Hockey League on Friday after the Blues reassigned Dakota Joshua, will make his Blues debut on Sunday against Anaheim.
He was slated to be the extra d-man when Krug was put in COVID protocol, but when Mikkola was also put there late Friday, it thrust Rosen into the lineup.
"He's a good skater. His head's up, he makes plays with the puck," Berube said. "Smart player, but his feet are really good. I thought he had a really good camp. I really liked the one game he played was excellent. Second game was just OK, but the whole team was just OK in that game. I think that had something to do with it, but he's a heady player, the way I look at him. He's solid."
Rosen played in two preseason games with the Blues and had a goal and four assists with the Thunderbirds in seven games.
"He's a great player," Parayko said. "He's been around for a while. He reads the play well, makes great plays, good with the puck, good puck mover and obviously those are the guys you want on your team. I'm looking forward obviously to having him back there. He's just consistent, smart and just makes the right plays, always in the right spot. When you have that, that's exactly where you want to be as a defenseman."
* Blues equipped at center without Schenn -- The loss of Schenn, who will miss at least the next two games and perhaps longer, will be hard to overcome, but getting O'Reilly back, having Robert Thomas, Tyler Bozak, Ivan Barbashev, even Pavel Buchnevich who is normally a wing that can play center, really sets the Blues up to overcome Schenn's loss for the immediate future.
"It's a tough loss. I feel for Schenner," Berube said. "He's one of our guys that fights through anything, whether it's injuries or things like that. He's a battler. It's unfortunate that we lost him here. Hopefully he's back sooner than later, but it's a tough loss.
"Barbashev's been used on the wing for most of the season, but he's played center for us before, we all know that. That's how valuable a guy like Bozak is. Here's a guy that is capable of moving up and down your lineup and put in a different role and doing different things. A very valuable guy. Buchnevich can play center too."
* O'Reilly streak broken -- O'Reilly had never missed a game with the Blues since he was acquired via trade from the Buffalo Sabres on July 1, 2018, a string of 214 regular-season games and 39 playoff games.
"I was definitely a little heartbroken when I found out I'm not going to be able to go out there and play," O'Reilly said. "It's weird. I don't like it, I don't like watching the game from that angle. It's tough. You can't really control anything and seeing it from there, it's tough to get a good feel of what's going on in the room and the bench and just the whole game, it's tough. It's not a fun place to watch the game. I like to be out there and helping. But I'm back now and looking forward to playing."
The Blues went 2-1-1 without O'Reilly, who was able to maintain communication with teammates through group chats and calls.
"It was nice," O'Reilly said. "Obviously guys were concerned and I was talking to them. It was good. We obviously have the group chat and was talking to the guys on that. It was good. I think they miss me. That's what some of them said, which is nice. It's good to have contact with them and it's good to be back to join them."
Even his buddy David Perron?
"When I saw him, he started crying," O'Reilly joked. "He was pretty emotional and gave me a big hug and he tried to kiss me. It was good. It's good to see him."
About the kissing part ...
"No, I don't think (it happened), but we definitely missed him, that's for sure," Parayko laughed.