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."

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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."

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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."

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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.

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* 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.

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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.

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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. 

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