Tuesday, November 9, 2021

(11-9-21) Blues-Jets Gameday Lineup

The time has arrived, and it's D-Day for Jake Neighbours.

As in Decision Day.

Neighbours, the Blues' 2020 first round pick, will play in his alloted ninth game today at 7 p.m. when they finish off a four-game trip against the Winnipeg Jets (6-3-2) on BSMW, ESPN 101.1-FM.

After tonight, the Blues (7-2-1) must make a decision on the forward, whether they keep him in the NHL for the remainder of the season and allow his entry-level contract to kick in its first season or return him to the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League.

Neighbours, 19, has a goal and an assist and is a minus-2 in eight games thus far and has had his moments where he's looked really good, and then as coach Craig Berube put it, scores of games have dictated ice times in other games and the amount of usage they've needed from Neighbours in others.

"I think there's been games where I've really liked him," Berube said. "He's done some real good things. A lot of the games and the score, the time of the game, just a lot of things playing to how much ice time that he got. It's not easy if you don't get a lot of ice time. We all know that, but overall, I think he's done really well. He's a smart player like I've always said, he's killed penalties for us in these eight games, he's done a good job, he's scored a goal, he's around the puck all the time, he's got a nose for the puck. It's going to be a learning process for him, a kid that young coming into the league."

Here's a breakdown of Neighbours' games:

Oct. 16 at Colorado: 9:00 TOI, no points, one shot on goal, even plus/minus, 15 shifts

Oct. 18 at Arizona: 11:04 TOI, one assist, one shot, even plus/minus, 17 shifts

Oct. 20 at Vegas: 10:01 TOI, no points, no shots, even plus-minus, 13 shifts

Oct. 23 vs. Los Angeles: 11:49 TOI, one goal, two shots, minus-1, 15 shifts

Oct. 25 vs. Los Angeles: 7:55 TOI, no points, one shot, even plus/minus, two penalty minutes, 11 shifts

Oct. 28 vs. Colorado: 9:22 TOI, no points, no shots, minus-2, 14 shifts

Oct. 30 vs. Chicago: healthy scratch

Nov. 3 at Los Angeles: healthy scratch

Nov. 4 at San Jose: 9:23 TOI, no points, two shots, plus-1, 14 shifts

Nov. 7 at Anaheim: 9:32 TOI, no points, one shot, even plus/minus, 15 shifts

The Blues have really liked Neighbours, but it could be a situation where they may have to send him down from a cap-related purpose, or they like him so much that they feel he's better suited to remain in the NHL.

Neighbours will skate on the fourth line again tonight with veterans Tyler Bozak and James Neal.

"I think he's a great player," Bozak said of Neighbours. "I think he's very mature for his age, does a lot of the little things, all the tough stuff, battles extremely hard and has a ton of skill on top of it. He's been fun to play with, he's a great player, he's going to have a really long career. Obviously he's gotten close to all of us. It would be really fun if he stuck around."

- - -

Aside from the facing the Colorado Avalanche twice already, the Blues (7-2-1) will face only their second Central Division opponent tonight, with the Chicago Blackhawks being the other and first matchup with the Jets since Feb. 6, 2020.

"They're deep down the middle," Berube said of the Jets, who are 6-1-2 their past nine games. "They've got (Pierre-Luc) Dubois, (Mark) Scheifele and (Andrew) Copp. They're a pretty deep forward group, they can score goals, power play, their power play's always been dangerous. They've got some real good offensive players. It's important that we understand what we need to do when out there in terms of checking and managing pucks. We've got to play our game. We've got to forecheck hard here tonight, we've got to attack the offensive zone and put pucks on net, get some goals against this team."

The Blues are 1-1-1 on the trip and looking to end it on a high note tonight, although they don't want a repeat of Sunday's 4-1 loss against the Anaheim Ducks.

"I thought we played a little slow at times," Berube said. "Just with our transition game, we didn't move the puck quick enough. Our defense didn't get it up to our forwards' hands quick enough. Just getting them on their heels a little bit more. I thought we created a lot of opportunities offensively. Gibson I thought played well. We've got to find a way to get more of the types of goals we got in San Jose. I didn't think there were a lot of second and third opportunities offensively in that Anaheim game."

All things considered though, taking 15 of a possible 20 points thus far in the season isn't anything to scoff about.

"I think as a whole, it's a really good start for our team," Bozak said. "I didn't think we had our best that night obviously, but stuff like that's going to happen. It's a long season, you're going to have games like that, you're going to have stretches with some tough games mixed in there. I think what we've got to do is just reset and get back to what's made us successful this year, go back to that and just play our game."

- - -

* Berube said goalie Ville Husso, in COVID-19 protocol, can resume skating with the team Thursday, he believes.

* Forward Kyle Clifford and defensemen Torey Krug and Niko Mikkola remain in COVID protocol and will miss tonight's game.

* Blues forward David Perron will play in his 617th game as a Blue, passing Bob Plager for 10th in team history.

* Blues forward Brandon Saad comes in with four goals in his past four games.

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Brandon Saad-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Jordan Kyrou-Robert Thomas-Vladimir Tarasenko

Klim Kostin-Ivan Barbashev-Pavel Buchnevich

Jake Neighbours-Tyler Bozak-James Neal

Marco Scandella-Colton Parayko

Jake Walman-Justin Faulk

Calle Rosen-Robert Bortuzzo

Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Joel Hofer will be the backup.

The Blues report no healthy scratches. Oskar Sundqvist (knee) remains out although he is eligible to be removed off long-term injured-reserve beginning with tonight's game after being out the required 10 games and 24 days when he was put on it, and Brayden Schenn (upper body) will miss his second game. Torey Krug, Kyle Clifford, Niko Mikkola and Ville Husso are out due to COVID-19 protocol.

- - -

The Jets' projected lineup:

Kyle Connor-Pierre-Luc Dubois-Evgeny Svechnikov

Jansen Harkins-Andrew Copp-Nikolaj Ehlers

Adam Lowry-Mark Scheifele-Blake Wheeler

Dominic Toninato-Riley Nash-Kristian Vesalainen

Josh Morrissey-Nate Schmidt

Brenden Dillon-Neal Pionk

Logan Stanley-Dylan DeMelo

Connor Hellebuyck will start in goal; Eric Comrie will be the backup. 

Nathan Beaulieu is the lone healthy scratch. Dylan Samberg (ankle) and Paul Stastny (lower body) are out with injuries.

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