Friday, December 31, 2021


MINNEAPOLIS -- The Blues took the walk from the visiting dugout onto the ice surface at Target Field and couldn't help but be in awe.

And doing so at 6 p.m., 24 hours before the Blues (18-9-5) take on the Minnesota Wild (19-9-2) in the 2022 Discover NHL Winter Classic, the Blues got all the simulations out of the way for depth perception, what it will feel like playing outdoors and most importantly, brave the temperatures, which are expected to be a record for an NHL outdoor game below zero.

"I don't know if that's why we did it, but definitely not feeling as cold as it will be but similar just trying out different gear under our equipment just to see how it's going to feel basically for game time I guess," Blues forward David Perron said. "The benches are heated a little bit, so that might help when guys are sitting just kind of break it off for a couple minutes there. I think it's going to be good. For Binner, it's going to be interesting for him too first (outdoor) game trying a few things. It's going to be super cold, maybe his hands, feet, all that stuff so you try a couple things as well."

There's a significance of taking that walk up to the ice and performing under frigid conditions, something many of these guys have done before.

"It was kind of our childhood growing up after school," Blues defenseman Colton Parayko said. "Every day, we had a rink by our elementary school and it was after school, everybody met up there, you throw your sticks in the middle, two sides and the game is on. A lot of fun days, cold days. You just don't even realize what the temperature is. Just having fun. I think that's what the beauty of it is. Just overall, I think Minnesota has done a very good job and the NHL. Obviously we're excited."

Goalie Jordan Binnington, playing in his first outdoor game, wanted to reserve judgment until he actually witnessed and felt the elements. He took a simple approach. 

"Yeah, I tried not to overthink it," Binnington said. "You just kind of got started, next thing you know you’re in the heat of practice and I think once you got warmed up pretty good, the climate, I didn’t feel it as much and you weren’t really thinking about it. It was definitely cool and definitely different being out there with the guys and I think we had a good time and a good skate, too. We’re all looking forward to tomorrow night."

The Blues put in a practice and lined up as follows:

Brandon Saad-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Jordan Kyrou-Robert Thomas-Vladimir Tarasenko

Logan Brown-Tyler Bozak-Pavel Buchnevich

Klim Kostin-Ivan Barbashev-Oskar Sundqvist

Niko Mikkola-Colton Parayko

Torey Krug-Justin Faulk

Marco Scandella-Scott Perunovich

Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Charlie Lindgren will be the backup.

The extra skaters included forwards Brayden Schenn, James Neal, Nathan Walker, Alexei Toropchenko, Jake Walman and taxi squader Calle Rosen.

It would have seemed to indicate that Schenn, after all his work of getting himself prepped to perhaps play in the game, would not being on the extra line, Blues coach Craig Berube said Schenn could play.

"Still a decision to make maybe with Schenn," Berube said. "He could be available. That’s something we've got to think about, make sure that he feels he’s comfortable playing. And we feel like we’re putting him in a good spot.

"It comes from him more than us. He’s got to be honest, which he is. And understand, yeah, we don’t want to lose him again over one game. We just got to make a decision on it like I said. We’ll talk about it here some more, again, talk with 'Schenner' and see where he’s at."

The Blues will get Pavel Buchnevich, Ivan Barbashev and Oskar Sundqvist back into the lineup.

Buchnevich missed Wednesday's 4-2 win over Edmonton with a non-COVID related illness; Barbashev came off COVID-19 protocol with the league modifying the quarantine period from 10 days to five days, and Sundqvist comes back after missing two games in COVID protocol.

"We’re fortunate to have these guys," Berube said. "Barbashev will be back, Buchnevich, Sundqvist. So those guys will be back."

Perron added, "It's great. Any time we can have our full team, you look at our lineup and how deep we are and some of the guys that won't haver the chance to play games, they're NHL players, they're players that have done a great job in the last month or two to really come in and bring some positive energy, really excited to come to the rink and do a really positive thing out there on the ice. It's a credit to them. It was great to watch them play to be honest. I think they brought a lot of passion and our team needed it. We got a lot of points there that we needed."

As for the lineup, with Buchnevich and Barbashev back, Berube and the coaching staff chose to, for now, stick with the Kyrou-Thomas-Tarasenko line.

That line combined for seven points (three goals, four assists) in the win over Edmonton and Berube wants to see it moving forward after liking what he saw.

"Yeah, I did. I do," Berube said. "They had a heck of a game together. Like I said, they’ve played together before and they seem to have pretty good chemistry. We’ll see though. It’s a quick adjustment if we need to make it."

* Van Ryn will miss Winter Classic -- Blues assistant coach Mike Van Ryn was placed in COVID protocol Saturday and will have to miss the game on Saturday.

Van Ryn is in charge of the defensive unit and the Blues will move assistant Jim Montgomery into Van Ryn's role, at least for one game.

"It’s unfortunate," Berube said. "I feel for him and the team and his family. It’s a tough situation. But Jimmy Montgomery will run the defense."

Parayko said although the Blues will miss their coach, they should be fine.

"It's nice to have Van Ryn back there and obviously he's very knowledgeable and just throughout the game, pick different spots when different teams have different forechecks, etc. etc," Parayko said. "He's good helping us out on the bench that way. Obviously Montgomery's been around for a long time, he sees it all really well also. A little different. Never had him back there, but just another game we should be OK."

Doesn't mean Van Ryn won't be missed.

"Yeah, it’s obviously a tough break," Blues defenseman Justin Faulk said. "I don’t think anyone wants to end up there at any point, especially right now. Everyone’s feeling for him. We wish he was able to take part and everything, I don’t know what’s going to happen. We have six D in the lineup who all want to be coach tomorrow. So, we’re going to see how will do that. Maybe one guy can get the first, second or third, whatever. But he’s obviously super helpful. He understands the game, he played it, he’s done a great job with all of us and you know, whatever coach is back there, obviously has a ton of experience, too. It is what it is, we’ll get through it."

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