Thursday, March 17, 2022

(3-17-22) Penguins-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- It appeared the Blues would get two key cogs back for their game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at 7 p.m. today (BSMW, ESPN 101.1-FM) but that's not the case.

Pavel Buchnevich will return after missing three games in concussion protocol after skating for three straight days, including this morning. However, Robert Thomas, who missed Sunday's 4-3 overtime loss against the Winnipeg Jets with a non-COVID-related illness, appeared set to return tonight after taking part in practice on Wednesday and today's morning skate, even working with one of the power-play groups and participating in the practice in its entirety, but coach Craig Berube indicated that Thomas will not play, thus missing a second straight game.

"Thomas is not in," Berube said. 

When asked if he's still not quite there, the coach responded, "No."

Thomas was skating between Jordan Kyrou and Vladimir Tarasenko, and then was on the power-play group with Justin Faulk, Buchnevich, Ivan Barbashev and Kyrou, a clear indication he would be in, but the 23-year-old Thomas simply isn't feeling it yet.

"It's hard to explain, to be honest with you," Berube said. "He doesn't feel ready to play yet. That's where he's at."

But the Blues will get Buchnevich back, and after the news of Wednesday that Tyler Bozak (lower-body injury) will be out a minimum of four weeks and then be reevaluated, he will take the spot vacated by Bozak.

"It's a tough one," captain Ryan O'Reilly said of Bozak. "It's tough to lose him. He's such a guy that does everything right. You can put him in any situation and he finds a way to impact the game. It's tough to lose him, but we are a deep team. We have other guys that have opportunities now to play and make an impact. Hopefully it's a speedy recovery and he'll be back soon."

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There have been some deals already kicking off the days leading up to Monday's 2 p.m. NHL trade deadline, including defenseman Ben Chiarot, a player on the Blues' radar, who was sent to the Florida Panthers for a prospect, a first-round pick and a fourth-round pick.

The Blues haven't pulled the trigger on anything, yet, if they do anything at all, but for the days leading up to Monday, they just have to focus on the games at hand and let the chips fall where they may.

"This time is always nerve-wracking and such around the league," O'Reilly said. "You can tell around the league everyone's kind of nervous, but for our group, we're confident, we have a very good team here. Who knows what will happen. Our focus is on playing these games and getting these points. If something happens, it happens, but we just try to stay in the moment as best as we can."

Staying in the moment means not taking about it, not bringing it up in the room and playing games.

"That's what you've got to do," defenseman Colton Parayko said. "You've got to focus on coming to the game or to the rink and just working hard and just doing the best in your role. We have a good team. I'm excited about the stretch run and where this is going to go. We have a good dynamic. It's one of those things where it's a part of it, everybody kind of knows what the trade deadline week is like or whatever. We're just looking forward to just moving forward as a group after the deadline. I don't think we've really talked about it. Nobody's really talked about it in the room. We just go about our business, show up and just keep on working."

As for the coach, sure, Berube has a part in who comes in and who goes. Not so much as to pulling the trigger on deals, but general manager Doug Armstrong will run names by him and get Berube's input on if said player(s) can help the team, but for the most part, they tend to block the chatter out until something becomes concrete.

"Yeah, I do. There's not much I can do," Berube said. "I like our team. You don't know what's going to happen, but things happen. You try and improve your team, maybe you stand pat. My job's just to get the team ready to play the next game. That's it. I've got to focus on Pittsburgh tomorrow and get our team ready to play Pittsburgh. The deadline will come and it will go. Maybe something happens, maybe it doesn't. 

"I like our team, I do. We have an ability to score goals in different ways. Our special teams have been good, our goaltending's been solid. We've got a lot of good pieces."

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- Tonight marks a stretch of five consecutive games against the east for the Blues. They are 11-9-3 in such games this season.

- Forward Brayden Schenn has a three-game point streak (one goal, four assists).

- Kyrou has six assists in a three-game point streak, but he hasn't scored in four straight.

- Defenseman Torey Krug has a three-game point streak (one goal, three assists).

- Forward David Perron has six points (five goals, one assist) in a four-game point streak, including at least a goal in each of the four games.

- Tarasenko has a three-game point streak (one goal, five assists).

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The Blues' projected lineup:

Brandon Saad-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Jordan Kyrou-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko

Ivan Barbashev-Logan Brown-Pavel Buchnevich

Mackenzie MacEachern-Oskar Sundqvist-Alexei Toropchenko

Marco Scandella-Colton Parayko

Torey Krug-Justin Faulk

Niko Mikkola-Robert Bortuzzo

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

The healthy scratch is Jake Walman. Robert Thomas (illness), Tyler Bozak (lower body) and Scott Perunovich (wrist) are out. 

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The Penguins' projected lineup:

Jake Guentzel-Sidney Crosby-Evan Rodrigues

Danton Heinen-Evgeni Malkin-Bryan Rust

Radim Zohorna-Jeff Carter-Kasperi Kapanen

Brian Boyle-Teddy Blueger-Dominik Simon

Brian Dumoulin-Kris Letang

Mike Matheson-John Marino

Marcus Pettersson-Chad Ruhwedel

Tristan Jarry will start in goal; Casey DeSmith will be the backup. 

The healthy scratch is Mark Friedman. Jason Zucker (hernia), Brock McGinn (upper body) and Zach Aston-Reese (illness) are out.

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