Tuesday, May 10, 2022

(5-10-22) Blues-Wild Game 5 Gameday Lineup

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Reinforcements are on their way back.

And just in time for the Blues in a pivotal Game 5 against the Minnesota Wild in the Western Conference first round today at 8:30 p.m. (BSMW, ESPN, ESPN 101.1-FM) with the series tied 2-2.

Defensemen Nick Leddy and Robert Bortuzzo will return to the lineup tonight at Xcel Energy Center, providing a boost to a lineup on the blue line that desperately needs it with veterans Torey Krug and Marco Scandella each sidelined with a lower-body injury.

Leddy has not played since sustaining an upper-body injury, believed to be concussion symptoms, in Game 1 when he was checked from behind by Matt Boldy, and Bortuzzo was injured in Game 2 when he took a puck off the side of his face and near the right eye from close range blocking a shot by Joel Eriksson Ek.

Leddy was paired with Colton Parayko and Bortuzzo was paired with Niko Mikkola.

"They got two morning skates and they felt pretty good so they're probably good to go," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "They've got good experience back there. They're veteran guys that have played a lot of playoff games and have been  around. It's important to have. Those guys have been good players for us. We missed them when they're out."

The Blues have used Calle Rosen, who will stay in the lineup tonight, and recalled Steven Santini under emergency conditions as stop gaps but will get two steady, solid veterans back.

"Yeah, it's huge," defenseman Justin Faulk said. "I think both have been big parts of our team to get us to where we are. They are two different types of players, but both equally needed in our group. Borts, obviously, just a great guy and the penalty kill, hold it down out there. Simple as it can get it -- and I mean that as a compliment in the most sincere way I could say it. And Leddy, he's just so calm, too. He's been in the same situations and what not. So it's, it's nice to have two more guys coming back healthy and helping us out."

Leddy will once again see a lot of Wild star Kirill Kaprizov, who has scored five goals in three games since Leddy departed the lineup. Leddy held Kaprizov to no points in the series opener.

"(Leddy's) an unreal skater," Faulk said. "I don't think he gets intimidated by someone that is also a very good skater. He can keep up with anyone in the league, that's for sure. I've known that, since I’ve seen him skate forever."

Players are more than glad to see the two back.

"That’s huge for us," center Robert Thomas said. "'Bobbo' is a guy that lays it all out on the line for us every night. He’s huge on the PK, he’s huge on the 5-on-5, close situations. He’s a heart-and-soul on our team and it will be great to have him back. Leeds is the same. He’s steady, he’s a guy that breaks the puck out extremely well and he does a lot on his own back there. So, those are two huge pieces to have back for us and we’re excited for them."

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The Blues will stick to the same structure they used in a 5-2 win in Game 4, going with 11 forwards and seven defensemen.

Berube did so Sunday as protection for Scandella, who couldn't finish the game, and there's some justification to doing it again with Leddy and Bortuzzo returning, but also to get Scott Perunovich back in as the quarterback of one of the two power play units as well as get him on the ice in offensive zone situations.

Berube had Perunovich quarterbacking the top unit again Tuesday.

"Composure for sure," Berube said. "He has the ability to look things off and see people that are open and subtle little fakes and things like that that opens things up just a little bit. That's all you need though. He's very good at that. He's shifty on the blue line, moves the puck back there. He's got a decent shot too, he can use his shot, but I think it's just the ability to see the ice and move that puck.

"He's got really good ability. He just has that in him. I told you before he's played in a lot of big games, he doesn't get fazed by too much. He's got a lot of composure."

What Berube also would like to see is Perunovich shoot the puck, which he deferred on Sunday.

"He did. Yeah, he could have taken some shots, for sure," Berube said.

It means that Alexei Toropchenko and Tyler Bozak will have a rotating partner up front, something the forwards like.

"Yeah, I think we play a little more simple up front," Thomas said. "I think our D did a great job of closing out plays in the D-zone, moving it up to us, and we were kind of able to get some transition game going. So, I think it was just kind of a whole team effort - the D made it easier on us and we didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot.

"Especially in the games, the way they’ve kind of gone with a lot of special teams, it kind of disrupts the flow a little bit. So, a little bit of extra time kind of keeps everyone in the flow and keeps everyone moving along."

The Blues have done really well this season when going with 11 forwards and seven defensemen and don't mind the rotation, at least the players don't. The coaches have a few more challenges.

"I've done it quite a bit this year," Berube said. "Up on my end with the forwards, I get one of my top players out extra ice time with that line and they like it. I don't mind it. On the back end, it's a little more tougher with Mike (Van Ryn) on the D finding ice time at times for guys, but we'll see."

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Jordan Binnington gets the start after backstopping 28 of 30 shots in Game 4.

One aspect that Berube likes from Binnington is his ability to help with transitioning pucks up the ice more efficiently and fluidly, especially with having to use different defensemen in the series.

"It helps it back there," Berube said. "He moves it to people. He has the ability to make a play with the puck maybe to a forward, obviously to a d-man. He reads the play well and he'll bypass the forecheck a lot of times, which helps your D out a lot. It helps the D that he gets to a lot of rims. Your D is not going back on a rim, that's a tough play for a D. It's good he gets out of the net really well."

It will also help in the early going when the Wild, at home, will have jump in its game from the outset.

"Well, the start of the game. We've got to make sure that we're ready to roll," Berube said. "They're going to come hard for sure. They're at home and they're going to be energized. They're going to want to put pressure on us right away. We've got to make sure that we're doing a good job breaking the pucks out of our zone and getting pucks out. Don't give them easy plays. We've got to check well and stay above people and just wait for our opportunities."

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Faulk and Parayko will be relied on heavily again after each played over 30 minutes in Game 4.

Faulk led all skaters with 31:10 and Parayko topped out at 30:37, but having Leddy and Bortuzzo back could help alleviate those minutes.

"It's fine. I mean, realistically, it's not that much different," Faulk said. "I mean, it's tough, but I would say the next day is pretty similar.

"If I ever say that I don't, I probably won't be in this league much longer. I don't think any player should ever say there's too much (playing time), right? I think pretty sure if you ask every guy on that team if they like extra minutes, they'll all say yes. Realistically, it's a way to stay in the game -- and not saying that you aren't with less minutes -- but I think every player, as you play more minutes, you feel more engaged into the game, whether that's someone jumping from 10 to 12, 20 to 22, whatever it is, you can notice it. If you can't be engaged, you're probably not going to be out there."

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A side note, the Blues assigned forward Mackenzie MacEachern, who has had an upper-body injury, to Springfield of the American Hockey League on a conditioning assignment. In doing so, they are allowed to keep Santini here.

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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

Alexei Toropchenko-Tyler Bozak

Nick Leddy-Colton Parayko

Calle Rosen-Justin Faulk

Niko Mikkola-Robert Bortuzzo

Scott Perunovich

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

Healthy scratches include Logan Brown, Nathan Walker, Dakota Joshua and Steven Santini. Torey Krug (lower body) and Marco Scandella (lower body) are out.

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The Wild's projected lineup:

Kirill Kaprizov-Ryan Hartman-Mats Zuccarello

Kevin Fiala-Frederick Gaudreau-Matt Boldy

Jordan Greenway-Joel Eriksson Ek-Marcus Foligno

Nicolas Deslauriers-Tyson Jost-Brandon Duhaime

Jacob Middleton-Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin-Matt Dumba

Jon Merrill-Alex Goligoski

Marc-Andre Fleury will start in goal; Cam Talbot will be the backup. 

Healthy scratches include Nick Bjugstad, Connor Dewar, Dmitry Kulikov and Jordie Benn. The Wild report no injuries.

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