Tuesday, February 22, 2022

(2-22-22) Blues-Flyers Gameday Lineup

The Blues will be back at full strength as they wrap up a four-game road trip.

Vladimir Tarasenko returns for the Blues (29-14-6) today against the Philadelphia Flyers (15-25-10) after missing one game with an undisclosed injury. He is expected to slot back in on a line with Robert Thomas and Pavel Buchnevich, which produced 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in three games prior to Tarasenko's absence against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.

Puck drop today is at 6 p.m. (BSMW, ESPN 101.1-FM).

"Yeah, he's good to go, so it's good to have him back tonight," Blues coach Craig Berube said of Tarasenko, who is tied for the team lead with Buchnevich and Jordan Kyrou in goals (18) and with Buchnevich in points (45).

Also, goalie Jordan Binnington will make his first start since a 7-4 loss against the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 10 and just his third start  in the past 10 games.

"It's on us just to defend, defend hard, limit their chances, especially their Grade 'A's," center Brayden Schenn said. "We're not worried about 'Binner'. 'Binner's very capable of getting out of a funk and we expect obviously big things out of him tonight and we're looking forward to him being back in the net. He's a guy that's worked hard kind of when he's been out and I'm sure he's ready for his chance."

Perhaps a stroll down memory lane will fuel Binnington's fire. He made his first NHL start at Wells Fargo Center on Jan. 7, 2019, a 3-0 shutout win that helped start the fire for the Blues in their Stanley Cup run.

But as of late, it's been tough sledding for Binnington, who is 11-10-3 with a 3.35 goals-against average and .898 save percentage on the season but has lost each of his past three starts and allowed 18 goals on 102 shots (.824 save percentage). 

"He's just got to make saves, make the saves he's supposed to make and play the game the way that he normally plays it," Berube said. "He plays the puck really well, he's an active goalie getting out of his net, doing things like that, playing with confidence. That'll be really important, staying with it, staying busy and don't get out of character. Be yourself and just do your job."

- - -

Tonight marks a return of Berube to his roots of where it all got started for him, from his playing days and from the coaching ranks.

Berube began his NHL career with the Flyers in 1986 and spent seven seasons in the City of Brotherly Love spanning two stints and also began his coaching career in Philadelphia, first with the Philadelphia Phantoms of the American Hockey League as an assistant for two seasons beginning in 2004 and as head coach for two seasons beginning in 2006. 

Berube moved up to be an assistant with the Flyers for seven seasons before moving up to become head coach for two years beginning in 2013 before being fired.

He became associate coach of the Blues in 2017 before replacing Mike Yeo, coincidentally the Flyers' present interim coach, on Nov. 20, 1018.

"I've spent a lot of time here over the years as a player and as a coach," Berube said of being back in Philadelphia. "It's always great to come back here. It's been a while since we've been back here obviously. A lot of memories here and really, got my start as a player and as a coach here in this city.

"When I took over as the Flyers head coach, I was myself. I never strayed from that just being myself and being very brutally honest about everything I do and approach with my players, coaches, anybody, management. I think that's what I continue to do. You always learn and try to get better as a coach over the years from other coaches and different people that you can learn from, so you can always take in a little bit here and there on different things to become a better coach. I think over time I've learned to trust myself as a coach and my decision-making. I think I don't second-guess myself and I think the one thing I changed as a head coach from Philly to St. Louis is really using my coaching staff quite a lot here in St. Louis. I rely on those guys where maybe I didn't do that as much here in Philly."

Berube was 75-58-28 in his two seasons with the Flyers, reaching the playoffs once.

"You look at it like you're going to get another chance," Berube said. "Sometimes it takes long(er). The one thing I guess leaving Philly, I really hadn't made too many connections outside of Philly. I'm a pretty quiet ... I don't approach a lot of people, I don't approach a lot of people on other teams. Basically when I was here in Philly, I was with Philly. When you leave, when you get fired, teams are not going to hire you usually unless they really know you a lot of times. That's a big part of it. I get some coaches that don't have jobs that have very good coaching records, won a Cup maybe or whatever. They get another look because of their past. I didn't have a lot of experience as a head coach, but I had Bob Clarke and Paul Holmgren, they did a lot for me. I talked to Doug Armstrong and he gave me another opportunity to get back in the game and Doug gave me another opportunity."

When he became associate coach with the Blues, it came on the heels of one solid season with the Blues' AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves in 2016-17. Berube was 44-19-13 with the Wolves that season before getting bumped up to Yeo's staff.

"I didn't know him extremely well, but I knew of him because I was in the minors and he was coaching," Berube said of Yeo. "We chatted and talked. He's a very smart coach, very good guy. I learned a lot of from him just being around him and how he worked the details of the game, he's a very detailed guy, how he approached the game. You always take things from a lot of different people, little things here and there and use them down the road or use them as you go along coaching. It was a tough situation at the time, it really was."

- - -

Not only is it a homecoming of sorts for Berube, who makes his summer home outside of Philadelphia, but it's also a bit of a homecoming for Schenn, who his first six full NHL seasons with the Flyers (2011-17).

"All the focus on 'Chief', make them focus their attention on 'Chief' and 'Chief' coming back is fine by me, but it's always fun coming back here, a lot of good memories," Schenn said. "Played on some teams where I had a lot of fun. Obviously this is where it all got started and I got a good opportunity when I was here. It's always special coming back."

Schenn, originally drafted No. 5 overall by the Los Angeles Kings in 2009, was dealt to the Blues at the 2017 NHL Draft for a package of the 27th pick in that draft (Morgan Frost), center Jori Lehtera and a conditional 2018 first-round pick which the Flyers turned into Joel Farabee.

"For me, the times I've been traded, it's never one you expected," Schenn said. "You get a phone call during the draft from (Flyers general manager) Ron Hextall and I was traded. It came out recently, I don't know who knew and who didn't, but honestly St. Louis has been the best thing for my career. Got a good opportunity, won a Stanley Cup, played on a lot of good teams here, competitive teams. I've enjoyed every minute being in St. Louis."

Schenn moved on to St. Louis and has spent five season, including this one, with the Blues. He put up career years in goals (28), assists (42) and points (70) his first season in St. Louis, won a Stanley Cup in 2019 and signed an eight-year, $52 million contract Oct. 4, 2019. 

"Opportunity and you have to make the most of it," Schenn said of his success here. "That's no secret, but maybe just the style of game I play, maybe being in the Western Conference. There's lots of factors that go into it. But I think from being in St. Louis, it's just always been the mentality, just a piece of the puzzle and everyone buys into the team mentality. Essentially that's winning hockey. That's why they've been successful for so many years.

"I think (the Flyers) were supposed to pick like 12-15 that year. They moved up to No. 2 in the draft and they had the chance to get Nolan Patrick or (Nico) Hischier. I was playing center at the time. It was a little bit wing but mostly center. Both of those kids are obviously players in the league now and are centermen. 'Hexy' felt like he was going to grab one of them and maybe I was just the odd man out for whatever reason that may be. It's all part of the business and there's lots of moving parts and things that go into you being traded. So for me to finger point it, I'm not exactly sure what it was."

- - -

Not only is this a trip down memory lane for Binnington, but it's also one for defenseman Robert Bortuzzo.

Bortuzzo was part of the group that made a visit to The Jack's NYB the night before the Blues played that game in 2019. It's where Laura Branigan's 1982 hit 'Gloria' was reinvented for the team, and they adopted the tunes as their postgame victory song.

"We didn't," Bortuzzo said when asked if he returned where it all began. "You know what, that would have been a real good idea. Those boys were real good to us over the years. Couldn't make it out yesterday, but we spent some time as a team and had some fun.

"... Wow. What is that, three years ago? I don't know, yeah, it really does (sink in). I think that was one of 'Binner's starts here. That does seem like ages ago."

Bortuzzo, Robby Fabbri, Alexander Steen, Jaden Schwartz and Joel Edmundson were the players that made the trek to the club that evening, and only Bortuzzo remains.

"Wow, yeah, I'm getting old," Bortuzzo said. "Lots of good men. That was a great crew that night. Still super-tight with all those guys, but they're missed and they're all doing great things now."

- - -

The Blues are 3-0-1 on their current trip and would love nothing more than to take seven of eight points. They play a Flyers team well out of the playoffs and one that is winless in five (0-3-2).

"They've played a lot of tight games lately, so it's not like they're just out there and they're playing and they're getting blown out," defenseman Torey Krug said. "I think most of the games have been one-goal games late and we realize they have some talent in that locker room, they're really good off the rush and in this league, if you're sleeping against anyone, you're going to pay for it. We've just got to be ready.

"To walk away with seven out of eight points would be important for us, especially this time of the season where everyone's collecting points. You've got to keep your spot in the standings. It would be a big trip for us if we did that."

It's not as if the Blues can afford to take anyone lightly, as evidenced by recent losses to the Devils on Feb. 10 and to the Canadiens (3-2 in overtime) on this trip.

"You've got to come out with urgency and you've got to take advantage of your chances and you've got to bury them," Berube said. "That's where a lot of the urgency for me comes into play. We get opportunities but we don't capitalize on them or execute and that's where we've got to take advantage. When we get our chances here tonight, we've got to bear down and execute and we're going to have to do a good job defensively making sure we're on our toes and reloading hard and just playing the right way.

"We've got to play our game, we've got to focus on what we're going to do in the game. We've got to execute and we've got to be ready with urgency and intensity in the game. That's the biggest thing. If we go into that game and we have urgency right away in the game and we're executing, doing the things we're supposed to do playing our style of game, we'll be in good shape."

"So far, we've had a pretty good trip," Kyrou said. "It would definitely be a big win for us at the end of a road trip."

- - -

* Schenn has nine points in his past seven games (five goals, four assists).

* Tarasenko has 22 points (10 goals, 12 assists) his past 16 games.

* Buchnevich has a five-game point streak (three goals, six assists) and has three consecutive multi-point games.

* Defenseman Justin Faulk has a six-game point streak (one goal, five assists), his longest as a Blue and the second longest of his career. He had a seven-game point streak (three goals, six assists) with Carolina from Nov. 12-25, 2015.

* Binnington is 2-0-1 with a 2.29 GAA and .911 save percentage in three games against the Flyers.

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Brandon Saad-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Pavel Buchnevich-Robert Thomas-Vladimir Tarasenko 

Ivan Barbashev-Brayden Schenn-Jordan Kyrou

Klim Kostin-Tyler Bozak-Oskar Sundqvist

Niko Mikkola-Colton Parayko

Torey Krug-Justin Faulk

Jake Walman-Robert Bortuzzo

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

Healthy scratches include Dakota Joshua and Logan Brown. Marco Scandella (lower body) remains out.

- - - 

The Flyers' projected lineup:

Oskar Lindblom-Claude Giroux-Cam Atkinson

James van Riemsdyk-Scott Laughton-Travis Konecny

Max Willman-Morgan Frost-Gerry Mayhew

Isaac Ratcliffe-Patrick Brown-Zack MacEwen

Ivan Provorov-Justin Braun

Travis Sanheim-Rasmus Ristolainen

Keith Yandle-Nick Seeler

Martin Jones could start in goal; Kirill Ustimenko could be the backup.

The healthy scratch could be Kevin Connauton. Carter Hart (eye) could be available after being scratched with an eye infection on Monday. Ryan Ellis (lower body), Derick Brassard (hip), Nate Thompson (shoulder), Kevin Hayes (hip), Joel Farabee (upper body) and Wade Allison (knee) are all out.

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