Thursday, December 30, 2021

No Buchnevich, no problem for Blues in 4-2 win over Oilers

After teams gets Perron, Thomas Kyrou back, Buchnevich sidelined 
with illness, thrusts new line of Thomas, Kyrou, Tarasenko together

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues should be used to this by now, right?

Just when they get the fanbase excited about the return of some key players -- on Wednesday it was forwards David Perron, Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou -- the cavalry took a hit again.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Jordan Kyrou (left) and Robert Thomas returned to the lineup for the Blues
in a 4-2 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday.

This time, it was Pavel Buchnevich, who missed Wednesday's 4-2 win against the Edmonton Oilers with a -- take a deep sigh of relief -- non-COVID related illness.

Buchnevich was one of the Blues' most consistent producers of late with 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) in his past 21 games. And he was part of one of the more dynamic lines of late with the all-Russian feel with Vladimir Tarasenko and Ivan Barbashev.

It didn't matter.

Even with Barbashev sidelined due to COVID-19 protocol and Buchnevich out against the explosive Oilers, Tarasenko was left to fend for himself.

But it's nice to have that luxury of adding Thomas and Kyrou to a line, two of the more up-and-coming young skaters in the NHL. And that trip didn't disappoint, combining for three goals and four assists.

"That line was pretty dynamic, making plays," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "They’ve played together before this year and they looked good back then, too. It maybe didn’t get the results that they got tonight. But they were dynamic tonight. I thought they made plays, attacked the net well. They obviously got rewarded tonight."

The Blues are also playing without Brayden Schenn, another key missing piece. But it doesn't seem to matter.


"I think we miss a lot of guys this year," Tarasenko said. "I think it's coming from coaching staff and from the team. At this point, anything can happen and you need to be ready for whatever is happening. When you miss guys, it's always sad when the guys don't play, but the key is to just to keep working harder and work more together, work collectively and I think teamwork give us success this year."

Going into the game, the Blues (18-9-5) already knew they'd be without Barbashev, on pace for career numbers with 25 points (11 goals, 14 assists) in 31 games. Thomas, who missed seven games with a lower-body injury, was getting dropped between the two Russians. But then Buchnevich was out, and now what?

Well, Berube always balances his lines out and has the luxury of adding more of an offensive-minded player there. Insert Kyrou, and presto, a formidable line still exists.

"Yeah, we’ve got depth here in the organization, obviously up at the NHL (level) too," Berube said. "But guys, they get called up and they do a good job for us. It’s a nice luxury with Kyrou on that line. I can pop him up there when somebody goes down. We mix and match quite a bit game in and game out, move guys around and they do the job."

That line certainly did the job Wednesday. It was creative, it was engaging, it was making plays, it was hounding pucks, and it was dangerous each and every time it stepped onto the ice.

"We play together before," Tarasenko said. "We try to play similar style like we play before, work hard and create chances for each other. Be unselfish and just enjoy the game. This is the most important part. Sometimes it's hard to control and you get angry during the games. Just try to have fun there while working hard."

Tarasenko and Kyrou each had a goal and two assists, and Thomas scored upon his return.

"Vladi’s a great player, Tommer’s a great player, both can score, both can make plays, we can read off each other well and we’re playing really well out there," Kyrou said after missing four games with an upper-body injury. "Obviously  when you're sitting out, it's kind of tough just watching from up top because you want to be down there playing with the guys, helping them win. So it's definitely nice that I'm back, actually a lot of us are back this game, so it was a good team win tonight."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Robert Thomas (18) celebrates after scoring against the Edmonton
Oilers and Mike Smith (41) on Wednesday at Enterprise Center.

Regardless of who's in and who's out, the Blues seem to figure it out, don't feel sorry for themselves and just attack that challenge at hand no matter the circumstances.

It could have been easy for them to see there was some discombobulation with the lineup and it was easy for them to look ahead now at playing in the 2022 Discover Winter Classic against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday at Target Field in Minneapolis. But they didn't. These were two huge points that thrust the Blues into first place in the ultra-competitive Central Division.

"You’re never sure I guess before," Berube said. "But I really liked our first period. I knew we were dialed in, and our team was ready to compete and do the right things, so it was good to see."

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