Thursday, December 2, 2021

(12-2-21) Blues-Lightning Gameday Lineup

It's never a dull moment in the world these days, but more specifically for the Blues, truer words were never more accurate.

It's been a COVID-19 world everyone is living in, and for the Blues, add goalie Jordan Binnington to a list that won't seem to go away. 

After forward Tyler Bozak joined a growing list that made him the seventh player this season to be affected by a positive test, Binnington was added to it on Thursday before the Blues' rematch against the Tampa Bay Lightning (12-5-4) today at 6 p.m. at Amalie Arena (BSMW, ESPN 101.1-FM).

* UPDATE -- And puck drop, the Blues also added defenseman Justin Faulk to the COVID protocol list.

That's not even the whole story here; it's a big enough story in itself, but the back end is even better because the Blues (12-7-3), who beat the Lightning 4-3 in shootout at home Tuesday, rallying from a 3-0 deficit, need a backup goalie and had it all set that Charlie Lindgren was being called up from Springfield of the American Hockey League, but due to cap constraints (will explain below), the Blues are not able to recall Lindgren until Friday and will use an emergency backup goalie tonight. His name is Kyle Konin, a 23-year-old whose most recent past experience was playing college hockey for Grand Valley State in 2019-20.

Konin had a 2.75 goals-against average and .904 save percentage with Grand Valley State in 19-20 and will serve as the backup to starter Ville Husso against the Lightning.

"Craig [Berube] and I talked to him about 20 minutes ago," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said Thursday. "Had a good conversation. He had a morning skate today with his beer league guys and he said he was on fire and ready to go, so we're excited to have him in here and he's excited."

Berube said of Konin, "He's excited. Seemed like a decent, nice guy. We'll meet him tonight when we come back for the game and he'll be here, get him introduced to everybody and feeling comfortable. It'll be fun. It'll be great experience for him. I've never met the guy, just talked to him on the phone briefly. He seemed like a real good guy."

Under the collective bargaining agreement rules and with the Blues up against the salary cap ceiling, according to article 50.10 (e) of the CBA, in order for them to make a roster move, they have to play one game with one player fewer than 18 skaters and two goalies in order for them not to be affected by the cap and make a recall without making a corresponding roster move. 

Also, Joel Hofer, recalled earlier this season when Husso was out because of COVID, has a roster bonus that would push the Blues over the cap ceiling, thus eliminating him from a call-up without the Blues making a roster move to make cap space, so they have to play Thursday without Lindgren, who is making the league minimum of $750,000, before recalling him on Friday.

And since the Blues have James Neal and Klim Kostin on long-term injured reserve and cannot use the LTIR cap money, this is the avenue they must take.

"It's just one of those things you just have to roll with because we have [David] Perron (upper-body injury) out ... our injuries and our COVID [Tyler Bozak] and then another COVID, we don't have the cap space to bring a guy up for tonight and under league rules, we'll use Tampa's emergency guy and tomorrow we'll bring up Charlie," Armstrong said. "... It's cap-related.

"Under the league rules, you're allowed to call up the goalie after you go with an emergency for one game. A goalie making league minimum plus $100,000. Because we're in LTIR on other players, Hof's bonuses count against him, so he's over the legal limit to call him up and also Charlie is playing well. It's really a pick 'em right now, so we're excited to give him an opportunity with our group."

Lindgren, who has played well with Springfield with an 8-1-1 record, a 2.16 GAA and .925 save percentage, makes the minimum, but Hofer has a cap hit of $795,000 plus a performance bonus that puts him at a $910,333 average annual value hit, and put him over the $850,000 total threshold.

"CBA rules is once you play short one game, you can recall another guy," Armstrong said. "You can recall a guy at the league minimum, plus ($100,000). So we'll have to play with Kyle tonight and knock on wood, he'll remain a 60-minute cheerleader and we'll go from there."
Binnington, who will miss a minimum of 10 days, is the eighth player and Faulk became the ninth the Blues have put in COVID protocol this season, joining Brandon Saad, Ryan O'Reilly, Kyle Clifford, Husso, Torey Krug, Niko Mikkola and Bozak, who is currently on COVID-19 protocol who will miss a second game Thursday.

"It's nothing new for us," said Krug, who missed five games from Nov. 7-14. "Obviously we just hope he's feeling good and healthy and doesn't have too many side effects or anything. Obviously second to that, we've just got to prepare like we normally do. 'Huus' has been playing great this year and he's going to step in and do the job for us and we're going to play good in front of him. Just like another situation that we've got to face with, deal with.

"It's just a mentality, right? Realizing that at any given moment, someone could go down and be out for 10 days, realizing it could be any guy on your roster. Obviously everyone plays an important role. Starting goaltender's a big one for us and at any given moment, someone else, someone new is going to have to step in and fill the void. That's why GM's prepare the rosters the way they do so that they can overcome things like that, especially in a year like this where there's so many uncertainties. You just look to realize every day when you wake up that something else might be different and you just got to take care of yourself and do your job the best to your ability because next guy in line's got to do the same thing.

"I don't know if I've been around an emergency backup situation. It'll be new for me, but obviously its got to be fun for those guys to come in, dress in an NHL locker room, take warmups and sit on the bench. Pretty neat for him."

Berube said, "We don't like to hear that news, like any of our guys that got COVID this year. It's tough news to get, but Husso's played well, we trust him and rely on him so hopefully we'll get somebody up here soon for a backup, but we just move on boys, that's all we can do. We talked about going through this, it could go on the whole year with everything with this COVID. It's just another roadblock, but we've just got to get through it."

When asked about Konin and before Armstrong gave anyone a chance to ask for specific details, he laughed when he said, "You can do a Google research on him."

As for Husso, he will man the pipes for the next four or five games at the very least until Binnington is eligible to return, and even then, just like Husso, Binnington will need some days to get back on the ice and get his reps in.

"He's done a really good job," Berube said of Husso, who is 3-1-0 with a 1.76 GAA and .936 save percentage this season. "Right from training camp, it's paid off. He's come into this year and played well, he's done a good job, working hard in practice, his practices have been really good. We'll just go on from there. We're just going to worry about tonight's game. That's it."

- - -

Meanwhile other than Husso, the Blues will keep the same lineup from Tuesday's game, meaning they will use 11 forwards and seven defenseman for a third straight game trying to defeat the Lightning for a sixth straight matchup.

Forward Pavel Buchnevich has 14 points (six goals, eight assists) the past 12 games and has seven points (four goals, three assists) in a four-game point streak, while forward Ivan Barbashev has four goals in a three-game goal-scoring streak.

Robert Thomas, who has 12 points (one goal, 11 assists) his past 11 games, explains how the Blues need to try to make it three wins in a row tonight.

"The biggest thing, we haven't got off to good starts," Thomas said, "but I think our resilience and our battle back has been our strong suit. If we can clean up those starts, it'll make it a lot easier on us. I think we've just got to keep going. The biggest thing is that resilience that's made us successful in the past and all the best teams have it. It's good to see we've got it and now it's just putting together that full 60 minutes."

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Brayden Schenn-Ryan O'Reilly-Jordan Kyrou

Pavel Buchnevich-Robert Thomas-Vladimir Tarasenko

Brandon Saad-Oskar Sundqvist-Ivan Barbashev

Dakota Joshua-Logan Brown

Marco Scandella-Colton Parayko

Torey Krug-Niko Mikkola

Scott Perunovich-Robert Bortuzzo

Jake Walman

Ville Husso will start in goal; Kyle Konin will be the backup.

The Blues have no healthy scratches. David Perron (upper body), James Neal (upper body) and Klim Kostin (upper body) are out. Jordan Binnington, Tyler Bozak and Justin Faulk are out due to COVID-19 protocol.

- - -

The Lightning's projected lineup:

Ondrej Palat-Steven Stamkos-Alex Barre-Boulet

Alex Killorn-Anthony Cirelli-Gabriel Fortier

Pat Maroon-Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-Corey Perry

Boris Katchouk-Ross Colton-Taylor Raddysh

Victor Hedman-Jan Rutta

Ryan McDonagh-Zach Bogosian

Mikhail Sergachev-Erik Cernak

Andrei Vasilevskiy will start in goal; Brian Elliott will be the backup.

The healthy scratch will be Cal Foote. Brayden Point (upper body), Nikita Kucherov (lower body), Mathieu Joseph (lower body) and Gemel Smith (lower body) are out.

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