Saturday, January 29, 2022

Blues head into All-Star break on sour note following 4-1 loss to Jets

Team decided vacation starts sooner than expected, 
play on ice was reflective in loss on home ice

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues knew there would be a break for them once they finished off a Saturday matinee against the Winnipeg Jets.

A 2 o'clock start would put the end of the game roughly around 4:30 p.m. or so, and they needed to put in one solid game to go out on a high note.
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Blues forward Pavel Buchnevich (89) pursues the puck with Jets defenseman
Ville Heinola during action Saturday afternoon at Enterprise Center. 

Unfortunately, the players didn't get the memo that vacation didn't start until 5 p.m. or so, because as they skated through the motions of a lackluster 4-1 loss to the undermanned Jets playing their backup goalie for the first time in nearly two months, the Blues somehow thought their week-long hiatus started at 2 p.m.

On the heels of a solid 5-1 win against the Calgary Flames on Thursday, the Blues followed that up with a thud. Their execution was poor, their ability to skate was non-existent, their mistakes were magnified, their puck management was inefficient and their ability to put pucks on net against a goalie that hadn't win since Nov. 5 was not exactly the script the Blues (26-13-5) had in mind.

Oh, the Jets (18-16-7) had lost six in a row (0-4-2) and were playing without four of their top six defensemen. 

"Not a lot of emotion. Not a lot of push," Blues coach Craig Berube said. 'We had some opportunities. 

"We missed the net 16 times in the game. But six Grade A chances missed the net. So you’re not going to give yourself an opportunity doing that."

"I think we were flat," forward Brayden Schenn said. "I don't think we had the intensity we needed to beat a good team. I don't think we moved our feet enough, didn’t take care of the puck enough and ultimately fell behind and weren’t able to grab it back."

Ville Husso, who was 9-0-0 in his past 10 starts with a 1.50 goals-against average and .951 save percentage dating back to April 10, 2021 and 6-0-0 with a 1.11 GAA and /965 save percentage this month, couldn't bail the blundering Blues out this time.

They actually took a 1-0 lead on Vladimir Tarasenko's power-play goal at 6:08 of the first period and had actually got off to a decent start. But for whatever reason -- maybe they were too focused on their flight reservations or starting their vacations early -- the bottom fell out of the Blues' compete level.

"I wouldn't say a flat day, but it was another game not the way we're supposed to play. I think we play very well lately at home. I don't what is it. Some days are like this, and like Schenner said before, we have breakdowns, we have a really tough first half and it's time to get some energy and rest up for second half and get ready for playoffs.

"Losing is tough, doesn't matter where you play, home or away, but I think the reason we have success in past years when we have success is ability to step up after games like this. The game is done, we need to make adjustments and get ready for second half, like I said before."

The first goal against was a combination of bad luck and poor execution.

With the Blues in control of the puck behind their net, Colton Parayko plays it to the right to Justin Faulk, who moved it ahead near the blue line to Jordan Kyrou. For whatever reason, as his teammates were skating north, Kyrou brings the puck back into his zone, to the surprise of Faulk and the two collide. Husso comes out to play the loose puck and instead of pushing it to the side boards, he tries to go forward on the backhand, hits Paul Stastny with it and the former Blue eventually tucks in a backhand into the empty net to tie the game 1-1.

More on Kyrou in a moment, but the Blues got out of the period tied 1-1 and a chance to regroup.

It didn't get much better. In fact, it got worse, and when Winnipeg took a 2-1 lead on Kyle Connor's goal at 7:57 of the second, it came when the Blues turned the puck over when Faulk and Thomas couldn't make a connection, and instead of going to the puck handler along the wall (Pierre-Luc Dubois), Kyrou stood still on his skates allowing the Jets center to make a play to Connor and he beat Husso off the near post.

"We had two guys collide into each other. And 'Huus' is probably wanting something different with that puck," Berube said. "That was the one goal. The second goal, we’re all standing around watching him. And he jacked it into the net. That’s basically what it boiled down to."

An interesting way of putting it, coach, but spot on and right to the point. The standing around was the part that should bother the Blues. There was a lot of that going on, and as a result, puck decisions were not effective.

A Nate Schmidt power-play goal followed at 12:35 of the second to make it 3-1. It came off a one-timer from the point and Husso without his stick, knocked out of his hand moments before the goal by teammate Robert Bortuzzo.

But the game was still there. What the Blues completely lacked was any desire to get pucks to the net. They had two shots on goal against Comrie in the second.


And it wasn't as if the Jets were just smothering the Blues and keeping the puck out of their hands, it was a lack of shooting pucks, waiting too long to unload or making a poor puck play.

"Just shoot the puck. Don't give up some shooting chances, but sometimes it's nice, guys try to make plays, unselfish, but sometimes you have to take responsibility for shots," Tarasenko said. "It's not good enough if you just funnel pucks from the outside, but when we have inside shot, I think we can use it more. There's a positive side too. Guys can make plays, guys playing unselfish hockey, but as we know in the playoffs, sometimes we get closer games. Need to find the lane between making a nice play and take responsibility for the shot."

The Blues lacked that aspect throughout this game.

Kyrou and Robert Thomas, each a minus-3 in the game along with their linemate Tarasenko, were their own victims of missing out on some of those Grade A chances.

"You get Grade A’s, you've got to shoot and score," Berube said. "Missing the net like that, you’re not going to score. So it’s just a matter of executing better."

"We're normally a good second period team," Schenn said. "But I think the reason why is because we get pucks in, we pick up the puck, we hem teams and then we set each other up with good line changes which enables us to sustain O-zone time. Tonight, we just didn’t do that, didn’t do enough of it anyways. I guess the results show."

There wasn't much of a pushback to begin the third period either. The Blues went shorthanded two minutes in, and before they tried to get some sort of push, it was too late, and even though they scored a power play goal, going 1-for-5 was reflective of how poorly executed it was despite having seven shots in those five attempts. 
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist (70) tries to control the puck while being
defended by Winnipeg's Johnathan Kovacevic on Saturday.

"I think it boils to execution," Berube said. "Again, I didn’t think we moved the puck very well on the power play. We were predictable on it, we weren’t direct on it. We were on the outside too much. And the shot selection wasn’t very good. That’s kind of what I saw on the power play tonight."

And when Stastny scored into an empty net with 2:35 remaining after what was a totally blown call by officials on the ice when Ryan O'Reilly, playing in his 900th NHL game, was tripped by both Pierre-Luc Dubois and Brenden Dillon but wasn't called, it capped off what will undoubtedly leave a bad taste in the mouths for the Blues until they play again on Feb. 10 against the New Jersey Devils.

"We have to be able to follow games up better," Schenn said. "I think we’re going to use these 12 days off here, guys can reset, refocus. We’re going to look at the positives of having a good first half and we’re going to have to make a strong push in the second half the way the division is."

(1-29-22) Jets-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Ryan O'Reilly doesn't see himself stopping any time soon.

So when the Blues' center and captain plays in his 900th NHL regular-season game this afternoon against the Winnipeg Jets (2 p.m.; BSMW, ESPN 101.1-FM), if things fall into place and there are no injuries to deal with, 1,000 games will come next season.

But first thing's first, and that's 900, of which 427 was played with the Colorado Avalanche, 224 with the Buffalo Sabres and today will be his 249th game with the Blues.

"It's something I don't really think about," O'Reilly said. "I feel like I have a lot more that I want to do and many years ahead of me. It's not something I like to think about very much, but yeah, it's crazy. I still feel young and still feel I have a lot to learn. It's crazy. I can't remember that first game and the steps that you go through in just trying to make the team and then trying to establish yourself and take another step and then another step. It's just funny, it never stops. You never stop trying to improve and get better. I think I've been fortunate to be healthy for the most part. There's a lot more I want to do and I just want to keep going.

"... I feel full of energy and hungry to do more in the game and contribute. I think the older you get, the better you have to take care of your body and be smarter with a lot of ways you train and such. Over the last couple years, it's something we started to figure out, but it's been a process. Everything's a process and it's fun though, it's a lot of fun."

O'Reilly, 30, has 643 points (229 goals, 414 assists), of which 221 points (74 goals, 147 assists) have come with St. Louis. 

"It's special. I'm so proud of him obviously," forward and friend David Perron said of O'Reilly. "Every single day, he's our hardest worker out there, he's our leader, he's the guy that sets the tempo in games and in practices to how we need to compete basically, to how we need to play. He just has respect for everyone. He talks to you, old guy, young guy, anyone really in the rink the same way that he does if you meet him in public. I'm very impressed by him. He's a great guy, he deserves everything that he gets. We're happy he's getting 900. He's getting it pretty young now. What is he, 31, 32, 31 probably. I think he's got many, many more games in the league."

Arguably one of the greatest trades in Blues history occurred July 1, 2018 when general manager Doug Armstrong traded forwards Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka and 2016 first-round pick Tage Thompson, along with a first round pick in 2019 and a second round pick in 2020 for O'Reilly, who in his first phone call with Armstrong said, "Let's go win a Cup," which he promptly did in 2019.

"Looking back since coming here, first getting here, I think I was so impressed with the team and to be brought into this culture and be a part of it, to see how it's kind of developed and to be able to witness it and to try to be able to contribute to it has been so cool and really helped my career in so many ways," O'Reilly said. "It's something you want to keep growing with and helping this team and organization do more, achieve more. I think we're in a good position this year where we can do something special. It's not going to be easy, but the way we're built, there's so many good pieces that for myself being a part of it, it's something special and it's so much fun being a Blue and the alumni they have here, it's the culture and how much of a hockey town this is now. It's something that I enjoy so much and I want to give so much more too."

O'Reilly has 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists) in 39 games with the Blues this season and has really come on as of late with 10 points (five goals, five assists) his past nine games.

- - -

Perron had one of his best games this season Thursday in a 5-1 win against the Calgary Flames, even though he wasn't on the scoresheet.

Perron, who played 17:27 playing on a line with Brayden Schenn and Brandon Saad and that unit paved the way for the win on Thursday.

Perron was engaging, physical, he protected pucks well and was noticeable all over the ice, finishing with three shots on goal.

"You're always trying to get better as the season goes on," Perron said. "We have a pretty deep team and that changes a lot of stuff obviously. I haven't been as productive as I obviously want recently, but I think there's a way to still bring positive energy and I felt like I had a lot of chances (Thursday) night and they'll come around. I think competing on the puck and getting back to basics in my game, I had fun playing with 'Schenner' and 'Saader' last night."

Since Perron returned from the concussion he sustained in Chicago Nov. 26, he had an assist and scored in the Winter Classic his first two games back. Then COVID-19 protocol came calling and in the eight games since, Perron has just one assist.

But if he plays like he did Thursday, his effectiveness will start to be felt on the scoresheet.

"I think that's it," Perron said. "When you search a little bit, it's almost like you don't have that same feeling when you shoot the puck that you do when you're just confident. I had been on a pretty long streak just feeling good about my game, myself and everything, and the injury happened. I had the groin stuff early in the year, then I get COVID and all that stuff, so it's just getting back to basics, kind of leaving towards this break on a good note, feeling better about my game. No matter what the result is, just trying to bring a lot of positives, bring some momentum to our team. I also felt not only in Calgary but some of the other games, I didn't feel like our forecheck has been as much of a staple as it has been maybe in years past, but part of that is on my shoulders too. I'm a guy that needs  to get in there, play heavy, compete on pucks and protect it. I want to keep doing that.

"You come back from (concussion), you're probably a little tentative at the start. I felt like my first game back against the Oilers, next one was the Winter Classic, I thought they were two good games. I kind of had low energy and I ended up testing positive two days later. I think that's all part of it, but I'm not looking for an excuse, I'm looking for ways to get productive again, get to my game, be an effective player for the team and just be part of the whole solution."

- - -

* Forward Jordan Kyrou has 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) his past 12 games.
* Defenseman Justin Faulk has posted a plus or even rating in 18 straight games and is plus-20 overall in that stretch. He now shares second among all defensemen with a plus-27 mark for the season, behind Colorado's Devon Toews (plus-35).

* Forward Ivan Barbashev has 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) over his last 14 games.

* Saad needs one goal to hit 200 in the NHL.

* Forward Pavel Buchnevich has eight points (three goals, five assists) in seven games against the Jets. 

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Ivan Barbashev-Ryan O'Reilly-Pavel Buchnevich

Jordan Kyrou-Robert Thomas-Vladimir Tarasenko

Brandon Saad-Brayden Schenn-David Perron

Klim Kostin-Tyler Bozak-Oskar Sundqvist 

Niko Mikkola-Colton Parayko

Torey Krug-Justin Faulk

Marco Scandella-Robert Bortuzzo

Ville Husso is projected to start in goal; Jordan Binnington would be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Logan Brown and Jake Walman. Scott Perunovich (undisclosed) remains out.

- - -

The Jets' projected lineup:

Kyle Connor-Pierre-Luc Dubois-Cole Perfetti

Andrew Copp-Mark Scheifele-Blake Wheeler

Paul Stastny-Adam Lowry-Austin Poganski

Kristian Vesalainen-Jansen Harkins-Evgeny Svechnikov

Brenden Dillon-Nate Schmidt

Ville Heinola-Neal Pionk

Declan Chisholm-Johnathan Kovacevic 

Connor Hellebuyck is projected to start in goal; Eric Comrie would be the backup.

Healthy scratches could include Dominic Toninato and Nelson Nogier. Nikolaj Ehlers (knee), Nathan Beaulieu (lower body), Logan Stanley (upper body), Dylan DeMelo (lower body), David Gustafsson (lower body), CJ Suess (upper body) and Dylan Samberg (upper body) are all out. Josh Morrissey is in COVID-19 protocol.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Saad, Schenn, Perron lead way for Blues in 5-1 win over Flames

Veteran, experienced forward line combines for three goals, two assists, 
provide heavy, physical play after 7-1 stinker against Flames Monday

ST. LOUIS -- Monday's complete stinker against the Calgary Flames was not going to come without some sort of change in the rematch on Thursday.
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Blues forward Brayden Schenn gets off a shot against the Calgary Flames
on Thursday. He scored a goal and had an assist in a 5-1 win.

A 7-1 bludgeoning didn't bring about any phases where the Blues were happy. They've had other games in which they were badly outplayed but in some shape or form, came away with a point and/or points.

So when coach Craig Berube tweaked up the forward lines and put up on the board 20-10-57, it was with the intentions of setting the tone, playing with a purpose and playing with an edge.
Brandon Saad, Brayden Schenn didn't disappoint. That trip combined for three goals and two assists in a 5-1 win against the Flames in the rematch at Enterprise Center on Thursday.

Saad scored twice and had an assist, Schenn had a goal and an assist and although Perron didn't register a point, he was noticeable all over the ice. It was a line that the Blues (26-12-5) counted on and got production from at both ends of the ice.

"I thought we did a good job of keeping it simple and playing in their end," Saad said. "We had a lot of cycle shifts, we were easing to the net and changing sides and I think that leads to success. Regardless if the pucks are going in, they're a good transition team. I think we just did a good job of simplifying."

Schenn added, "I’ve played with everyone so you just try to go out there and make it happen as fast as possible. You don’t try to take a period or a game to get things going.  We all felt like we had the same mindset from the first shift tonight, we were heavy and hard and we ended up getting rewarded with some goals.

"... You can look at it really any way. I think the three of us try to bring the same mindset or the same mentality every night and that's trying to be good 200-foot players for us and both guys on my wings, they're heavy, they're hard to knock off the puck and I'm sure they're no fun to play against. So I enjoyed playing with them tonight and we have one more game before the break to keep building."

There are plenty of experienced veterans for Berube to put together at his disposal. This was 2,346 games worth of NHL regular-season experience that has been in every situation possible.

"That’s three veteran guys that have been around," Berube said. "They know how to play the game properly. They have the ability, all of them, to score goals and play a heavy, grind game in my opinion. Like get down low in the offensive zone, hang onto pucks, controlling the play. They all got good size. They were a real effective line tonight."

Saad and Schenn scored first-period goals to spark the Blues, who probably deserved more than a 2-1 lead because what they did Thursday was nowhere to be seem Monday was they backchecked with regularity, got on the forecheck much better and absorbed Calgary's forecheck without turning the puck over and chasing pucks being hemmed in, in their zone.

But they got the offense rolling against Jacob Markstrom, who recorded his NHL-leading sixth shutout on Wednesday, and were relentless.

"There's a lot of factors, but it's tough when we're in their building, it's back-to-back and I think we were just careless with the puck," Saad said. "We were trying to make too many plays. We have a very skilled team where sometimes you've got to find the balance of making a play or just getting it in deep and making their D turn. Too many mistakes, we didn't have our brains on that game and obviously they capitalized on a lot of chances."

Schenn, who has eight points (five goals, three assists) in five games since returning off the COVID-19 protocol, felt the difference was night and day.

"The difference between the two games, I think we went to Calgary and thought it was going to be a little bit easier," Schenn said. "Not easy, we turned over the puck. We didn't have our skating legs. We chased it the whole night, it just kept on snowballing on us. And tonight, I think we had a good mindset to get the puck deep. We knew they were on a back to back and just try and play heavy and hard which we did tonight. And obviously (Ville) Husso was great again for us tonight."

Saad's second of the game, his 15th of the season in his 39th game, which matched his season total in 44 games with Colorado last season, made it 3-1 in the second period. It was done with hard work behind the Calgary net along the boards by Perron and Schenn as the puck was freed up for Saad in the slot. 

As for Perron, who played 17:27 Thursday, he was as engaged as he's been since his concussion he sustained in Chicago on Nov. 26. 

"Yeah, I think so. I think that’s the most I’ve seen him engaged, competing with the puck and hanging onto it. Making plays. Shooting," Berube said. "He did a lot of good things tonight.

"That’s his game. I’ve talked to him a little bit about it before. He did that tonight. He was a real good player for us tonight."

Perron was doing all the right things with the puck and he even got into a tussle with Calgary's Dillon Dube, wrestling the Flames forward to the ice near the Blues bench.
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Blues forward Brandon Saad (right) gets congratulated by the bench after
scoring one of two goals in a 5-1 win against the Calgary Flames.

"I think it helps our team," Saad said. "When you can play with that passion, he plays with that edge and he's so good at protecting the puck and getting in those battles. He has that feistiness to him. I think any time you see that, it's going to get you up on the bench."

All-in-all, it was a good bounce-back game for the Blues, who haven't lost two in a row in regulation since Nov. 14-16. 

"I thought everybody did a great job tonight. Everybody up front," Berube said. "Back end I thought was really good. I thought our back end was hard to play against, closed, they broke pucks out, they did a good job, making plays – composure plays. But it was a team effort."

(1-27-22) Flames-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Tyler Bozak wasn't sure what the expect when the journey began.

But here is the 35-year-old, 799 NHL regular-season games later about ready to notch another century mark on his career with his 800th game when the Blues (25-12-5) get a rematch against the Calgary Flames (20-12-6) at Enterprise Center today (7 p.m.; BSMW, ESPN 101.1-FM).

Bozak, who is one of three active players in the NHL (Seattle's Mark Giordano and New York Islanders' Andy Greene) to play in 800 games or more as undrafted players, has played 205 games with the Blues since joining them as a free agent in the summer of 2018, winning a Stanley Cup with the Blues in 2019. Prior to signing a three-year, $15 million contract with the Blues, Bozak played 594 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs in nine seasons.

"Obviously your goal as a hockey player is to play at the highest level possible and that was definitely something I wanted to do, but not being drafted didn't add fuel to the fire, so to speak, or anything like that," Bozak said. "I kept trying to get better and just kept playing and loved it and here we are.

"It was not something that I was really focused on at all or had been talked about. It wasn't on the radar, so I wasn't expecting to get drafted. It wasn't something that was a letdown or anything like that. I was a pretty late bloomer and still kind of coming into my own and figuring out how to play the game. I got lucky to have some good coaches in juniors and then in college and blossomed from there. Definitely proud of being undrafted and carving out a career like I've had where we're at 800 games now. To be able to win throughout that career has been awesome too. I'm definitely proud of what I have accomplished and obviously there's been a ton of people that have helped me along the way."

Bozak, who played college hockey at the University of Denver, has 458 points (170 goals, 288 assists) and continues to carve out a niche even in his later years.

"That's a great accomplishment," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "It's a lot of games to play. We all know what type of player Bozak is. He's done a great job in his career, has been a very good player, a very intelligent player and he's still going. We all like 'Bozie' a lot and what he brings to our team.

"He's intelligent, for one. I think when you're a smart player like him, you can get through things because of your brains, but he still looks good, he still moves good out there. He's in good shape. I don't think physically he's beat up too bad. He's still a young guy. Maybe his age isn't young for  the game, but his head and heart are still young in my opinion and that's why he's still playing in the league."

- - -

The Flames, who distinguished the Blues 7-1 on Monday when the Blues concluded their three-game trip, come in on the heels of a 6-0 thrashing of Columbus on Wednesday, putting up a franchise record 62 shots in the process. They put up 48 on the Blues Monday and 47 in their 5-3 loss at Edmonton last Saturday.

It's certainly something that gets the Blues' attention.

"It's similar to our game in some ways," Berube said of Wednesday's Calgary win. "They came out hard in the first period, really set the tone for the game and how it's going to be played. They just compete hard and they get a lot of pucks to the net from everywhere.

"You've got to have the puck and you've got to do something with it. It's the most important thing is making plays and putting pucks in, understanding what kind of situation you're in and if you have room, have room to skate and make a play that's available. If not, then you've got to put pucks in and you've got to be willing to go get them. That forecheck's going to be huge. We've got to compete for that puck and get it. The more we can have the puck and make them play in their own end, then they're not going to get shots, right? You can't just give the puck back to them and not compete for it. They're going to get it, they transition really well and they go the other way. When they get in the offensive zone, they're strong on it. They don't give it up too easily."

St. Louisan Matthew Tkachuk, who has 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in a six-game point streak and Johnny Gaudreau, who has 14 points (two goals, 12 assists) in a six-game point streak, are two players the Blues will have to certainly be mindful of.

Tkachuk had a career-best five assists against the Blues Monday and has 17 points (four goals, 13 assists) in 12 games against the Blues in his career.

Gaudreau had a goal and three assists Monday.

"Time and space is huge and making it hard on them," Berube said. "When you confront them, you've got to be physical and you've got to have good sticks and you've got to eliminate them, but  time and space and numbers will be really important."

Being humbled like the Blues were on Monday certainly is a motivating factor, and they'll need to be ready when the puck drops tonight.

"It's exciting to have another opportunity," Bozak said. "Obviously not the way we wanted that last game to go. Kind of got away from our game. They have a great team, they play hard and they made us pay. It's exciting to get to play them again and hopefully change the outcome of last game and have it go a little more in our favor tonight.

"I think most importantly, we've got to focus on ourselves. I think we need to play the way we do when we're successful and play our game. Obviously they have a lot of talented players over there that we have to be aware of when they're on the ice, take away the time and space and not turn the puck over. I think that's the biggest thing. I think that's a bad habit that's crept into our game a little bit. The really good teams will make you pay when you turn the puck over."

"Obviously we want to beat them this time, but first of all, we want to play way better than we did against them the last time," forward Oskar Sundqvist said. "It's going to be fun to play them again here and get a chance to redeem ourselves."

- - - 

* Goalie Ville Husso will start for the fifth time in the past seven games. He came on in relief of Jordan Binnington for the third period Monday and stopped all 13 shots faced. Husso is 5-0-0 with a 1.20 goals-against average and .963 save percentage over his past five starts.

* Forward Jordan Kyrou has 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) the past 10 games.

* Forward Ivan Barbashev has 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) his past 13 games.

* Center Ryan O'Reilly has nine points (four goals, five assists) the past eight games.

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Ivan Barbashev-Ryan O'Reilly-Pavel Buchnevich

Jordan Kyrou-Robert Thomas-Vladimir Tarasenko

Brandon Saad-Brayden Schenn-David Perron

Klim Kostin-Tyler Bozak-Oskar Sundqvist

Niko Mikkola-Colton Parayko

Torey Krug-Justin Faulk

Marco Scandella-Robert Bortuzzo

Ville Husso will start in goal; Jordan Binnington will be the backup. 

Healthy scratches include Logan Brown and Jake Walman. Scott Perunovich (undisclosed) remains day-to-day. 

- - -

The Flames' projected lineup:

Johnny Gaudreau-Elias Lindholm-Matthew Tkachuk

Andrew Mangiapane-Mikael Backlund-Blake Coleman

Milan Lucic-Sean Monahan-Dillon Dube

Trevor Lewis-Adam Ruzicka-Brett Ritchie

Noah Hanifin-Rasmus Andersson

Oliver Kylington-Christopher Tanev

Nikita Zadorov-Erik Gudbranson

Dan Vladar is expected to start in goal; Jacob Markstrom would be the backup. 

Healthy scratches include Michael Stone and Brad Richardson. Tyler Pitlick (lower body) is out.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

It's reset time for Blues after Calgary debacle

Team's 7-1 loss to Flames exemplified some flaws of past two games in 
Canada; rematch with Calgary should yield an angry, determined Blues squad

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. -- The proverbial time to hit the reset for the Blues was in full force after the debacle that was a 7-1 defeat against the Calgary Flames this past Monday.

The Blues had the day off on Tuesday after their three-game jaunt to Seattle and Western Canada that included back-to-back games in Vancouver and Calgary.

They got away with some things, thanks to the play of Ville Husso in goal, in a 3-1 win against the Canucks on Sunday but it all came to a head against the Flames, who spotted the Blues a lead -- albeit briefly -- before the onslaught commenced.

From a player's perspective, a reset is inevitable during an 82-game season and they can benefit from having one, from a humbling point of view more than anything.

"Yeah I think so. You need a wakeup call every now and then, maybe not like last game, but for sure, a reset here and start all over," forward Oskar Sundqvist said. "We know what we have to do to be successful and last game, we didn't do anything that we usually do that's our type of game. So a reset here and go after them tomorrow."

From a coaching standpoint, not so much.

Coach Craig Berube doesn't buy into the theory that a butt-whipping can be good for a squad, but he does know that keeping the focus in the here and the now is what's most important.

"I don't know if it can be good for you or not," Berube said. "It happened and it's over with and we've got to move on and focus on tomorrow's game. We've got to learn from it and move on and get ready for tomorrow's game. 

"I'm not sure about a reset. I don't know what we would be resetting, to be honest with you. I didn't think we started very well in the Vancouver game, found a way to win. Thought we played better in the second and third period and then in Calgary, it didn't get better."

The Blues obviously didn't have their legs, they lacked the necessary energy to compete, and speaking of compete, it was non-existent.

"We've got to learn from it and come out angry tomorrow," center Robert Thomas said. "That's all we can do about it now.

"I'd say (we're) determined. We've got a lot of pride in there. We didn't take that lightly, so we'll come out ready to go tomorrow."

The Blues (25-12-5) were back on the ice Wednesday with a full practice and changed up some of their line combinations.

"It was a good practice," Berube said. "Guys understood the situation of what happened in Calgary and we've got them again here tomorrow. There will be plenty of motivation after the last game. But I thought guys did a good job, they were focused today, they had a good practice and the energy seemed pretty good today."

The roles will be reversed this time around. The Blues were coming in on the second of back-to-back games. The Flames will do so Thursday, having played in Columbus on Wednesday.

* NOTES -- Defenseman Scott Perunovich did not skate due to an undisclosed injury and was being evaluated, according to Berube. 

... The Blues assigned veteran forward James Neal to Springfield of the American Hockey League. Neal, 34, was on the taxi squad but with some of the new rules regarding it of being on there for up to 20 days and taxi squads expected to be eliminated after the All-Star break, the Blues had to figure out what to do with Neal, who has already cleared waivers; he had two goals and two assists in 19 games this season and there's no indication yet whether Neal wants to report to the AHL.

"We'll see. It's a tough situation for a guy like that that's played a long time in the NHL," Berube said. "He's still looking to play and compete and want to be a part of a team. It's a tough situation for him for sure. I have all the respect in the world for 'Nealer.' He's a great team guy, he worked really hard and we'll see what happens."

... Berube believes that Niko Mikkola, who was benched for the third period after the defenseman was a minus-5 through two periods Monday, will bounce back adequately from that experience.

"Yeah I do," Berube said. "I think it's just one of those nights. A lot of players go through it in their careers and he's just got to be mentally strong and go out and just be aggressive and do what he does."

Sunday, January 23, 2022

(1-23-21) Blues-Canucks Gameday Lineup

If anyone knows how the Vancouver Canucks feel about a lack of manpower, it's the Blues, tonight's opponent in British Columbia.

The Canucks (18-18-4) host the Blues (24-11-5) at 9 p.m. today (BSMW, ESPN 101.1-FM) and will be without a plethora of regulars due to COVID-19 protocol and injury.

No. 1 goalie Thatcher Demko and forwards J.T. Miller, Conor Garland and Bo Horvat are all out for the Canucks because of protocol, and backup goalie and former Blue Jaroslav Halak is out because of border issues with the US regarding a timeline for protocol, which in Canada remains at a minimum of 10 days; he's in fact out of NHL COVID-19 protocol. 

Also, the Canucks will be missing their third- and fourth-string goalies from the American Hockey League, Spencer Martin and Arturs Silovs due to protocol, so Mike DiPietro will get the start tonight against the Blues and will be backed up by EBUG Rylan Toth.

Remember when the Blues had to go through this similar scenario with an EBUG in Tampa? And remember when the Blues have gone through stretches of having to play guys from the AHL when they'd be missing a handful of regulars?

They know what the Canucks are feeling. It doesn't mean the Blues will take anything for granted.

"When you're missing regulars out of your lineup, sometimes the guys coming in (are) playing a simpler style of hockey and it brings out the best in everyone," defenseman Torey Krug said. "It's something that we've got to be aware of and that being said, if we do our job and take care of business on our side, we'll be in a good chance to win a game. A good test tonight."

And as coach Craig Berube noted with the jammed standings in the Central Division, "Look at the standings guys. That's all the motivation you need, how tight it is and the importance of every game." 

The Canucks have played drastically better since they brought in Bruce Boudreau as coach. 
They are 9-3-2 since they hired Boudreau on Dec. 7 when he replaced the fired Travis Green.
Boudreau is 577-305-117 in 999 games with the Washington Capitals, Anaheim Ducks, Minnesota Wild and Canucks and will be coaching in his 1,000th game tonight in the NHL. 

"Fast hockey. They're looking to transition really quick," Berube said of the Canucks. "They've got some real high-end guys that can move and skate. Hughes on the back end is dynamic. They're playing a fast game. In the offensive zone, they've got a lot of movement. They do a real good job of getting moving around with their guys and it creates a lot of confusion and chaos. (Elias) Pettersson, (Quinn) Hughes, these guys, they got some high-end guys that can make plays. That's the thing that pops out to me the most."

- - -

The Blues are in a similar situation that the Canucks are in with Halak. The Blues will be without forward Pavel Buchnevich, who scored in Friday's 5-0 win at Seattle, due to border restrictions. 

Buchnevich, who was in COVID protocol but came off after the recently-implemented five-day period, is serving the 10th day according to Canada's protocols and could not get into the country with the Blues when they bussed north to British Columbia on Friday night. He stayed behind in Seattle and got in an optional skate today and will skate tomorrow in Calgary prior to the Blues facing the Flames and expected to be in the lineup.

"'Buchy' will be good to go tomorrow," Berube said. "He's doing good. He'll be in there tonight, I think ready to roll.

"He actually had ice there (in Seattle) in the morning. He had the option of going on. Tomorrow he'll get a skate in in the morning with the extra guys."

In Buchnevich's place tonight, Logan Brown steps in after being a healthy scratch and will skate alongside Ivan Barbashev and Vladimir Tarasenko.

"He's a guy we can use in the top nine," Berube said of Brown. "'Buchy' can't play so he has the ability to produce offensively, make some plays. We'll pop him in that hole where 'Buchy' was and see how it goes. 

"He's a guy that's got good puck skills and he's played some good hockey for us. Hopefully we'll see how it goes tonight. He'll be excited to get back in there and make a difference."

- - -

Goalie Ville Husso will get his third straight start tonight against the Canucks.

Coming off a 27-save shutout of the Kraken on Friday, Husso is 4-0-0 with a 1.25 goals-against average and .959 save percentage his past four starts, stopping 116 of 121 shots.

"The way he finished last year, things were rolling for him, and now this year, he's just a confident guy and whenever he gets the chance to play, he does a good job of coming out and giving us a chance to win," Krug said of Husso. "He's been great and obviously we're lucky to have him."

Jordan Binnington was getting in the extra work post-morning skate and is expected to get the nod in Calgary on Monday.

- - -

The Blues will play the middle of a three-game road trip tonight and looking to continue the impressive things they did in a 5-0 win over the Kraken on Friday, a game in which they scored a shorthanded goal (Tyler Bozak), power-play goal (Brayden Schenn), even-strength goal (Buchnevich and Jordan Kyrou) and a penalty shot goal (Colton Parayko) for the third time in franchise history.

"The intensity was really good in that game," Berube said. "Right from the first period, I thought that was one of our better first periods in a while from the standpoint of the intensity and being on our toes, playing hard, physical. I liked our game that way. I think defensively, we checked hard, blocked shots. If you looked at the blocked shots, I think we had 21. I thought we checked really hard in the game and our special teams were good. Penalty kill was excellent, power play got us a goal. That was the biggest thing that stood out to me in that game."

- - -

* Kyrou comes into the game with 15 points his past nine games (six goals, nine assists).

* Krug has nine points (two goals, seven assists) in his past nine games.

* Barbashev has 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) his past 11 games.

* Tarasenko comes in with an eight-game point streak (six goals, seven assists).

* Center Ryan O'Reilly has nine points in his past six games (four goals, five assists), including six points (three goals, three assists) in a three-game point streak.
- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Brayden Schenn-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Brandon Saad-Robert Thomas-Jordan Kyrou

Logan Brown-Ivan Barbashev-Vladimir Tarasenko

Klim Kostin-Tyler Bozak-Oskar Sundqvist

Niko Mikkola-Colton Parayko

Torey Krug-Justin Faulk

Marco Scandella-Robert Bortuzzo

Ville Husso will start in goal; Jordan Binnington will be the backup.

The healthy scratches will be Pavel Buchnevich and Jake Walman. Scott Perunovich (undisclosed) remains day-to-day. 

- - -

The Canucks' projected lineup:

Nils Höglander-Elias Pettersson-Brock Boeser

Matthew Highmore-Juho Lammikko-Tyler Motte

Tanner Pearson-Jason Dickinson-Alex Chiasson 

Justin Bailey-Sheldon Dries/-Vasily Podkolzin

Oliver Ekman-Larsson-Tyler Myers

Quinn Hughes-Tucker Poolman

Kyle Burroughs-Luke Schenn

Mike DiPietro will start in goal; Emergency goalie Rylan Toth will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Jaroslav HalakBrad Hunt and Justin Dowling. Guillaume Brisebois (undisclosed), Travis Hamonic (lower body), Brady Keeper (leg) and Brandon Sutter (illness) are out. Thatcher Demko, J.T. Miller, Conor Garland, Bo Horvat, Spencer Martin and Arturs Silovs are in COVID-19 protocol.

Friday, January 21, 2022

(1-21-22) Blues-Kraken Gameday Lineup

When the Blues open a three-game trip tonight with their first-ever visit to Seattle to face the expansion Kraken for the first time at Climate Pledge Arena (9 p.m.; BSMW, ESPN 101/1-FM), they'll do so with a full lineup.

Well, almost full lineup.

Aside from defenseman Scott Perunovich, who continues to be day-to-day with an undisclosed injury, the Blues (23-11-5) will have everyone at their disposal against the Kraken (12-23-4) when forward Pavel Buchnevich is the last of the recent players to serve time out in COVID-19 protocol.

"We've had a lot of COVID guys and injured guys, so it's nice to have almost everyone back here and get to work together and see what we can bring to this road trip," forward Oskar Sundqvist said. "If you look up and down the lineup, it's a really good lineup. I think this is probably one of the best lineups I've played with in my time in St. Louis. There's such good depth in there too. I'm very excited to see what we can bring here together."

Knock on wood, the Blues are healthy and have decisions to make in the lineup and how the lines are put together, a nice luxury for coach Craig Berube.

It includes putting David Perron back together with running mate Ryan O'Reilly tonight along with Brayden Schenn.

O'Reilly, Schenn and Ivan Barbashev combined for 11 points in a 5-3 win against Nashville on Monday.

"I was surprised for sure after the game they had the other day, but I'm sure as they look at stuff and are like Buchy's coming back and they're trying to find chemistry throughout the lineup, all that stuff," Perron said. "Definitely I'm not going to complain about it, I'm going to look to build off that and I thought I had a decent start to the season, but the injury and a couple things happen, I just got to get back to that and keep improving every day."

The Blues are facing the Kraken for the second time in nine days. The pesky Kraken, who have won two straight after nine straight losses (0-8-1) gave the Blues all they could handle in St. Louis Jan. 13 when they led 1-0 heading into the third before the Blues rallied for a 2-1 win behind goals from Robert Thomas and Buchnevich.

"We talked this morning, I think we're ready," Berube said. "We had good practices, but we have to understand the situation in here with Seattle. They play well, they play hard. It's not going to be an easy game. They beat San Jose last night (3-2), they played hard against them. It was kind of a physical game too. We talked to our guys. You can't go into this game lightly, you can't take them lightly. We have to make sure that we come out in the first period, we're on our toes and we're skating and we're working. That's what it's really going to boil down to. 

"I think they've played good defense all year. They don't give a lot of shots up, they're pretty tight. They get a lot of numbers in on the puck. We went over that this morning about what we need to do with the puck in these situations. We're going to have to work for everything tonight. They compete hard and they work hard and they play with good structure in their system. It's going to take a real effort here tonight."

- - -

Putting Perron back with O'Reilly and Schenn could get Perron back on track.

Since coming back from his injury Dec. 29 against Edmonton and missing a week in protocol, Perron has a goal and an assist in six games.

"I felt really good against the Oilers the first game back, felt real good the Winter Classic and then the next game in Pittsburgh, I don't know if it was symptoms of whatever, but I just kind of had no energy that week," Perron said. "I definitely did not like the way I played and I'm definitely looking forward to getting back to my normal self playing some good hockey for the team and contributing in many ways.

"It's great for sure, but I don't know if we're done dealing with all kinds of stuff. Still got a bit til the All-Star break until they fully change everything, but most of us are kind of in a 90-day holiday, so we should be good to go here moving forward, get moving forward as a whole group together. We're pretty deep, so it's good to see."

Berube balanced the lines up quite nicely, but he had plenty of players at his disposal. And getting Perron going again will be a priority.

"I think that's the goal, but looking at the other guys coming back in the lineup, it was just a matter of putting people together that have worked well together in the past," Berube said. "We had to do some maneuvering around a little bit, and that's how that worked out."

- - -

There's no question the Blues have established some home dominance, going 16-4-2 at Enterprise Center, but now it's time to get the road mojo going.

They'll play 11 of their next 16 away from the friendly confines of home and would like to greatly improve on the 7-7-3 record.

"I think the biggest thing would be starts," center Robert Thomas said. "I think in your own rink, you're able to get the momentum of the crowd when you're down. It's harder on the road because they feed off their crowd's energy. I think the biggest key should be our starts and getting off to a good start."

"It's kind of weird to think about because ... we haven't had that many road games in the last month or so," defenseman Justin Faulk said. "I don't even think it's in guys' heads. No one's talking about it for sure. We know what we need to do to play good hockey. We've been finding ways to win games over the last few weeks and what not. I think we can have that carryover here on the road and just keep building our game, but I didn't know the road record until you said it, and I don't know if many other guys in that room necessarily do because we're not really focused on what the record is today, but just building our game and continuing to get better."

- - -

Buchnevich has been cleared from COVID protocol and will return tonight, but he will have to miss Sunday's game at Vancouver.

In the US, protocols that were put in place in late December by the league and the PA, players that test positive are required to quarantine for a minimum of five days but can return after that if they have two negative COVID tests.

Buchnevich has done that, but going into Canada still requires travelers to be at least 10 days removed from a positive test, and Sunday will be the 10th day for Buchnevich, so he won't be able to join the team's flight to Vancouver for Sunday's game against the Canucks.

Buchnevich will stay in Seattle and skate at the Kraken's practice facility before flying to Calgary Monday morning to meet the team and be ready for the game against the Flames.

- - -

* Forward Jordan Kyrou has 14 points (five goals, nine assists) his past nine games.

* Forward Vladimir Tarasenko has 12 points (six goals, six assists) in a seven-game point streak.

* Barbashev has 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) his past 10 games.

* Buchnevich has 12 points (three goals, nine assists) his past eight games.

* O'Reilly has eight points his past five games ( four goals, four assists). 

* Defenseman Torey Krug is a point a game player the past eight games (two goals, six assists).

* Defenseman Marco Scandella will play in his 100th game with the Blues tonight.

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Brayden Schenn-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Pavel Buchnevich-Ivan Barbashev-Vladimir Tarasenko

Brandon Saad-Robert Thomas-Jordan Kyrou

Klim Kostin-Tyler Bozak-Oskar Sundqvist

Niko Mikkola-Colton Parayko

Torey Krug-Justin Faulk

Marco Scandella-Robert Bortuzzo

Ville Husso is projected to start in goal; Jordan Binnington would be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Logan Brown and Jake Walman. Scott Perunovich (undisclosed) remains day-to-day but is skating.

- - -

The Kraken's projected lineup:

Marcus Johansson-Jared McCann-Jordan Eberle

Yanni Gourde-Alex Wennberg-Calle Jarnkrok

Ryan Donato-Riley Sheahan-Mason Appleton

Alexander True-Karson Kuhlman-Joonas Donskoi

Mark Giordano-Will Borgen

Vince Dunn-Adam Larsson

Carson Soucy-Jeremy Lauzon

Joey Daccord is projected to start; Philipp Grubauer would be the backup. 

Healthy scratches could include Haydn Fleury and Colin Blackwell. Jaden Schwartz (upper body), Morgan Geekie (upper body) and Jamie Oleksiak (illness) are out. Chris Driedger and Antoine Bibeau are in COVID-19 protocol.