Thursday, December 16, 2021


MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. -- Jordan Binnington was back on the ice with his teammates for the first time since he was placed in COVID-19 protocol Dec. 2.

The Blues goalie has missed the past seven games and is ready to tackle his role as the team's No. 1 goalie, even as soon as Friday when the Blues (16-8-5) get a rematch with the Dallas Stars (13-11-2) on Friday at Enterprise Center. The Blues downed the Stars 4-1 Tuesday in Texas.

"I feel good," Binnington said. "I feel good to go. We'll see. It is only one skate, but I want to be in there whenever I can. We'll see.

"I'd say (practice Thursday) went pretty well. It was fun to be back out there with the guys for sure and just having that pace. But I feel good and I'm excited to be back."

Binnington, who is 8-5-3 with a 2.80 goals-against average and .912 save percentage this season, said his time down didn't affect him too much from a physical standpoint and he wasn't too sticken with any sort of illness.

"I had some symptoms," Binnington said. "Mostly kind of like a sinus/head cold I would say. Lasted for a couple days but nothing crazy and then I had a lot of days where it was a lot of just kind of waiting to be free. I played a lot of pool. I got a pool table so I played a lot of that, some reading, got the guitar out, didn't really learn anything with it. I was kind of just walking around the house trying to find stuff to do. I made some phone calls, got the life organized, whatever was going on that day.

"... I think give or take a little bit of what you need, but when I was locked up there, I was kind of trying to get the hand-eye coordination going and moving the body and trying to push myself. I feel up to pace.

"You've got your stuff at home. I've got a bike at home and some weights, et-cetera. Like I said, I felt pretty good for the latter half of the days. I was pushing myself. Obviously we're in mid-season here. It's a high pace and every game is big. I'm doing what I can to be ready when I get in there."

So ... Binnington the pool shark eh?

"I might be getting up there to be a pool shark, I'd say," Binnington said. "It's kind of recent ... I got a table last summer and then we had an empty room here, I got a table and it's been a lot of fun. I definitely enjoy it."

Charlie Lindgren, who is 4-0-0 with a 1.29 GAA and .956 save percentage in three starts (four appearances), has filled in admirably along with Ville Husso, who is now down with a lower-body injury, and Jon Gillies, who has since been traded to the New Jersey Devils, which makes it easier for the coaching staff to be more cautious with Binnington and give him the ample time to get back into a groove before getting him in game action.

"For sure I agree," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "And I think the goalie situation coming off COVID is different than player up front or on the back end. So I think it’s important that 'Binner' gets a couple practices in.

"I thought 'Binner' was fine. He made it through practice. Obviously I think he still needs a little more time. But I have not talked to him since practice is over, so I’ll do that. But he’s out there and he worked hard, I thought he looked OK."

Binnington has certainly seen it from afar and is impressed.

"It was kind of an interesting situation there," he said. "I think the boys have done a great job. We've been getting points and wins. It's been good to see. It's been really good hockey to watch. We've been aggressive top down and the guys getting called up and getting chances have more ice time and really stepping up. We're playing aggressive and we're tough to play against. I think it made it easier that we were kind of winning games rather than losing when you can't be in there."

* Perron, Neal, Kostin, Perunovich also skating -- A quartet of skaters participated in Thursday's full practice, which included 24 guys on the ice in all and include forwards David Perron, James Neal and Klim Kostin and defenseman Scott Perunovich.

Perron, who was placed on long-term injured reserve retroactive to Nov. 27 with an upper body injury believed to be concussion-like symptoms, skated hard and participated in all battle drills; he is eligible to return Tuesday at the Ottawa Senators.

Kostin, eligible to come off LTIR Sunday from an upper-body injury sustained Nov. 25, also finished practice and took part in all drills, but Neal didn't. Berube said he "tweaked" his upper-body injury and did not finish practice.

"Perron and Kostin were able to finish practice; Neal not," Berube said. "He tweaked it again so he left. But Perron and Kostin finished practice and they seem OK."

Perunovich, who missed Tuesday's win in Dallas with non-COVID related illness, skated Thursday and could return Friday but was skating as the seventh defenseman.

"He’s a player that’s ready to play Friday," Berube said. "I think he’s had some real solid games. We all know what he can do with the puck and his vision is excellent, and his puck play’s excellent. 

"I think defending, he’s been OK. I think there’s things he needs to still work on and get better at. But that’s a lot of young guys. But he’s working at it, and it takes time. But that’s one area. Like, he’s not overly big so he’s got to defend a little bit different than someone like (Colton) Parayko. But overall I think he’s played some real good hockey for us. I think he’s got great composure out there and confidence. He’s a heckuva power play guy, too. We’ve seen that some of the plays he’s made on the power play are high-end."

* Protocol update -- The NHL has sent out a memo to teams that enhanced protocols will go into effect until at least Jan. 7.

Some of the measures the league will impose include restrictions on indoor dining while on the road, wearing masks and social distancing while in club facilities and daily testing, instead of testing every 72 hours, except on days off.

Players are also recommended to get a booster, if eligible.

"It's not a lot that we can do about it," forward Oskar Sundqvist said. "Obviously we just need to follow those rules and just follow the protocol. I'm a little surprised by it, but there's nothing to argue about or nothing really to say. Follow the rules and play hockey, that's about it."

"I don't know if that's said and done. There's a lot of stuff out there on Twitter I think and we're still figuring out in the background what's going to happen," Binnington said. "Obviously I just had COVID so I feel like I can't really get it again, right now al least. I'm hoping I can still do stuff. I don't know what the ordeal is, I haven't heard much and we're kind of waiting it out and just trying to make it so we can keep playing hockey."

As for the Olympics, Binnington, a Canada hopeful, isn't leaning one way or the other on whether he'd go if called upon.

"Yeah again, I think that's kind of just out in the media not really knowing what's going on," Binnington said. "There's been some phone calls and they're kind of explaining the situation to us. I think it's tough to predict what's going to happen then because we really don't know what's going on now. Kind of similar to the whole bubble situation. No one's really making a decision. I think it was just waiting to see how things are going and how things play out before they make this decision."

* D-Day coming for Logan Brown -- Forward Logan Brown will play in his ninth game for the Blues on Friday, and even as an emergency recall because of all the injuries and COVID-19 protocol, if he plays in his 10th game and/or reaches 30 days since he was called up, which was Nov. 28, Brown would need to clear waivers if the Blues were to send him back down.
Brown, who cleared waivers when the Blues assigned him to Springfield prior to the season, has two goals and three assists in eight games.

"Him coming back up here from Springfield, I thought he was a much-improved player with his skating," Berube said of Brown. "He seems quicker and stronger. I think he’s doing a good job so far. I think there’s room for improvement still and we talked to him about that. He’s aware of things he needs to do better. And, you know, you just keep working at it.

"He’s got a lot of ability and he’s got great size, so it’s a work in practice but he’s doing a good job. He’s giving us real good minutes and doing some good things out there."
Dakota Joshua, who has played in nine games in his latest recall, has played in nine games but is waiver-exempt, needing to have played in three seasons and/or 54 games, and Joshua is in his second season and has played in 27 NHL games.

Also waiver-exempt are Kostin and Alexei Toropchenko, but Nathan Walker and Matthew Peca, also emergency recalls, are not, but neither of them is at risk of needing waivers.

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