Monday, May 2, 2022

(5-2-22) Blues-Wild Game 1 Gameday Lineup

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Blues were hoping for a full deck for Game 1 against the Minnesota Wild tonight but that's not going to be the case.

Defenseman Marco Scandella, who has practiced each day since sustaining a lower-body injury last Tuesday at the Colorado Avalanche, will not play today (8:30 p.m.; BSMW, ESPN, ESPN 101.1-FM). Instead, it will be Niko Mikkola in Scandella's place in the lineup.

"Yeah, he’s out," Blues coach Craig Berube confirmed regarding Scandella, a former Wild. 
So the Blues will reconfigure their d-pairs and Mikkola will pair up with Robert Bortuzzo to offer a physical presence.

"Yeah, it’s the best part of his game, and his aggressiveness, closing out plays on people, you know, big guy," Berube said. "Yeah his aggressiveness and his size."

Mikkola, who did have 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in 54 regular-season games this season, played in all four playoff games against the Avalanche last season and had an assist, so this won't be his first rodeo in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

"He’s got experience from last year," Berube said. "He’s a big guy and we’re going to need some size back there with 'Scandy' out. They’re a hard forechecking team, physical team, so ..."

It will also pair Nick Leddy with Colton Parayko and move Torey Krug back with Justin Faulk.

When they have to change, the transition typically seems seamless.

"I think everyone knows each other’s roles and what’s expected of the guy next to you," Faulk said. "I think as a 'D,' we’ve done that well enough to be consistent in a sense to know what to expect of the guy that’s going to come in the lineup, or who you're going to play next to that night. And I think that makes it a lot easier on us to be able to do that and interchange a little bit. Throughout a series and throughout playoffs, those times definitely come where maybe you need to change something up. With the amount that we’ve done, in a sense, I think we’re ready for that."

It's not an issue for the coaching staff to change things up when necessary.

“Yeah, well Leddy and Parayko played quite a bit when (Leddy) first got here," Berube said. "Leddy has got a ton of playoff experience. Colton does, too, he’s got a lot of experience. I think you’ve got two guys that are pretty good puck-movers and pretty composed back there. Like I said, Leddy’s experience with playoffs, he’s won a Cup. He’s a good defender that way and he’s got good composure out there, which will be needed. Krug and Faulk have been a great pair all year. I mean, Kruger went down with an injury and we changed the pairs a bit, but they’ve been pretty steady all year for us. From an offensive standpoint, they’ve got great plus-minuses, both of them, so they’ve done a great job defensively, too."

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It's been held under the vest, but it looks like Ville Husso will get the start for the Blues in his first playoff game tonight.

Husso, who was 25-7-6 with a 2.56 goals-against average and .919 save percentage in the regular season, is 5-0-0 with a 2.71 GAA and .915 save percentage in five career games against the Wild.

"He’s played in some real big games for us this year and he’s done a great job," Berube said of Husso. "Like I said, he’s gotten better and better as the year went along. He’s been consistent all year, and he’s just got to go and do what he’s done. Nothing really changes. I know it’s the playoffs, but he just has to go play his game and do what he’s done."

Berube cited Husso's play throughout the season as the reason he's starting.

"Just calm. A calm guy," Faulk said, describing Husso. "That’s probably the trait that I can give. Nothing seems to phase him too much. On and off the ice, it’s the same demeanor. I wouldn’t expect anything different from him tonight."

But the Blues know they have someone that can step in should have to in Jordan Binnington, one that's a Stanley Cup champ from 2019.

"We don’t really look in the past on that," Berube said. "That’s in the past. I think you go on what you’re feeling now more than anything. Yeah, we look back and Binner was an inexperienced goalie back then, too, and came in and did a great job for us. But again, it’s about the team. It’s not about one player. We need a real team effort here, obviously, to be successful and that’s what we’re going off of. It’s about the team."

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It should be a raucous crowd here in St. Paul tonight, but the Blues don't seem to get too fazed by intimidating atmospheres.

Veteran experience will do that.

Regardless ... 

"There's a feeling that we all know that it's going to be heavy and physical out there," Blues captain Ryan O'Reilly said. "The three games we played these guys throughout the year, it was hard-hitting, it was intense. You can expect that on steroids pretty much for tonight. It's going to be a challenging series. They're a very good team, they've been playing amazing hockey lately. We know it's going to be a good challenge, but it's playoff time. It's exciting hockey and we're excited to get started tonight.

"I think we are a very different team than that year (2019), in good ways and bad ways. It's both things. For myself, you do rely on experience a bit. I think it helps stay more poised and through the playoffs, there's so many highs and lows again, and I think after having success before, you kind of realize how even keel you need to be and to reset. I think that's something tnat not just me, veteran guys will rely on. Guys that haven't been in this situation before will look to us to lead that way. It is something you do look at."

- - -

The Blues will not be facing Cam Talbot, at least to begin this series. They'll instead see veteran Marc-Andre Fleury to start.

The Blues never faced Fleury after the Wild acquired him from the Chicago Blackhawks at the trade deadline; those games in St. Louis in April both belonged to Talbot, who was 0-1-2 and allowed 16 goals against the Blues this season. But the Blues did beat Fleury three times this season when he was with the Blackhawks; he is 9-12-2 with a 2.76 GAA and .912 save percentage in 23 games against St. Louis.

"Well, I don’t have a crystal ball. I can’t tell you how we’re going to fair against him," Berube said. "We’ve went against Fleury a lot over different teams, Vegas and things like that. He’s a great goalie, he’s been around a long time, he’s won, he’s a competitor. You’re going to have to be highly competitive out there to get goals past him. We’re going to have to go to the paint. It’s important this time of year. To score goals, you’ve got to go to the hard areas, you’ve got to go to the paint. It’s like any other goalie. There’s obviously different things that you look at in the scout that maybe we can take advantage of. But what it boils down to is going to the hard areas."

Minnesota may have felt it was a strategic advantage to not using Fleury against the Blues, but the fact they have seen him this season has been a big help.

"A little bit in a sense," O'Reilly said. "Him being in the West and Vegas, Chicago too, we've seen a lot of him, a phenomenal goalie. It's going to be a tough challenge for us. The focus is making it tough on him, getting a lot of pucks to the net, don't give him easy saves. If we do that, it's tough for any goalie. That'll be the focus against him."

The Wild are in a similar position the Blues were in back in 2015 when they brought in Ryan Miller to supplant starter Brian Elliott for the playoffs.

But the Wild will be putting on the bench a goalie who was 16-0-3 in his last 19 decisions.

"Well, we talked before: It’s not a tough decision, right," Wild coach Dean Evason said. "It’s an easy decision because we feel both are more than capable of starting for us here. We’re excited about the opportunity to have both guys available if we need it, and we probably will."

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The Blues' projected lineup:

Brandon Saad-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Pavel Buchnevich-Robert Thomas-Vladimir Tarasenko

Ivan Barbashev-Brayden Schenn-Jordan Kyrou

Alexei Toropchenko-Tyler Bozak-Nathan Walker

Nick Leddy-Colton Parayko

Torey Krug-Justin Faulk

Niko Mikkola-Robert Bortuzzo

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

Healthy scratches include Logan Brown, Calle Rosen and Dakota Joshua. Marco Scandella (lower body), Mackenzie MacEachern (upper body) and Scott Perunovich (wrist) are out.

- - -

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-Dmitry Kulikov

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

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

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