Saturday, May 21, 2022

(5-21-22) Avalanche-Blues Game 3 Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Much like Game 2 when they needed to adjust and elevate their game against the Colorado Avalanche following a loss, the Blues are expecting the same tonight from the visitors.

With the series between and the Blues and Avalanche shifting back to St. Louis starting with Game 3 today (7 p.m.; TNT, ESPN 101.1-FM), the Blues are expecting a much better and more spirited effort from the Avalanche following the Blues' 4-1 win in Game 2.

"We're going to get a real good game, we know that," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "They wouldn't be happy with Game 2 and they're going to throw everything at us. We've got to be ready for it."

"I think it's probably going to be their best game of the series," center Robert Thomas said. "I don't think you're going to take last game lightly and they're going to come up with some adjustments and come out and start hard. So we're going to be expecting their best game and we’ve got to match that."

What the Blues must avoid is their over-emotional reaction to playing the first home game of a series, much like the overreaction to the first round against the Minnesota Wild when they came out in the first period over-emotional and tried to hit their way into the game and fell behind 2-0 in the first couple minutes before eventually losing 5-1.

"Yeah, for sure, I thought so too, and we've got to make sure we don't fall into that same trap," Berube said. "You've got to have emotion, you've got to have energy and there's going to be a lot in the building for sure, but we've got to stay in control. If you get a little bit too aggressive and too emotional, you're going to end up on the wrong side of some things and that's not going to be good against this team."

The players are very much aware of that scenario having played it out like it did.

"Yeah, it’s always fun playing in your own building, right," defenseman Justin Faulk said. "Every turnover, every hit, every shot, whatever, especially the first five minutes, they’re pretty into it so they bring a lot of energy and it trickles down onto the bench. It’s no secret, I think you see teams that are playing at home and have a lot of energy and emotion. It’s something that needs to be in check, especially first game. It whittles out a little bit after that, but to be quite honest, I don’t think we did a good job the last series in our first game, but we learned from that and we know what happens, so we’ll be alright."

What they need to focus on more than anything is the style of play they changed to going into Game 2 when the Blues were more responsible with pucks and had their checking style in order.

"The forecheck was a lot better and that was because we put the puck in the right areas and we made it tough on them breaking out and the less turnovers in the neutral zone, the less they’re going to be able to to transition back on you," Thomas said. "I think you have to take care of the puck, we’re more patient in the D-zone, made more good plays coming out. I think it’s kind of a combination of all three things."

Berube made sweeping changes to the top nine forwards and all in all, was pretty pleased with the results but could see more as well.

"For the most part. I still want to see some more out of some guys, but for the most part, I thought the line combinations were pretty good," Berube said. "We'll just go from there. If I have to tweak something again, I will."

That means the Blues will, for the sixth consecutive game, implement 11 forwards and seven defensemen.

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What the Blues have done well in this series thus far is contain some of the Avalanche's top players, including defenseman Cale Makar and forwards Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Nazem Kadri, among others.

Makar doesn't have a point after putting up 10 in four games in an opening-round sweep of the Nashville Predators; MacKinnon and Rantanen each have two assists but no goals, and Kadri has one assist.

"I mean, it’s just the style of play our team wants to play as a whole," Faulk said. "Skating with and without the puck, obviously tight gaps defensively … but then with the puck, putting it in a good spot so we can kind of get in our forecheck and slow them down. They’re a good transition team so we can’t turn pucks over. If we can stop them on their forecheck or our forecheck, that slows them down too. Make them stop in the D zone and that should help.

"... We don’t want to feed their transition and that’s how they play. They play fast and obviously a lot of their guys up front can move and do things with the puck at high speeds so we’ve got to eliminate that as much as possible."

Ryan O'Reilly's line has been given the task of matching up against MacKinnon and have outplayed it thus far.

"Yeah, and the two D, (Nick) Leddy and (Colton) Parayko are out there with those guys, all five of them," Berube said. "I think you've got to have all five guys on the same page against that line. They're tough to handle, big. And they've done a real good job. It's a lot about being on the right side of things and O'Reilly's done a good job of taking MacKinnon away when he can and staying on the right side of him. It's the same as Makar, right? You've got to have good sticks and things like that, so they've done a good job. With any of their lines, it's about not giving them odd-man rushes more than anything. That's where they're dangerous. Their D are very active and they get odd-man rushes from it and it's important that we don't give them that.

"It's really important. (Makar's) a great player, we all know that, him and MacKinnon. It's important you're always getting some contact on them as much as you can and just taking him away as much as you can and staying above him and limit their puck touches and their room to skate. He's such a great skater, Maker, that if you can angle him and get the puck out of his hands quickly, that takes away a lot. We've been doing a good job of it so far."

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The Avalanche could make a tweak or two to their lineup, and one change could include the insertion of Logan O'Connor into the lineup on the fourth line.

Blues defenseman Marco Scandella took part in the morning skate but will not play due to a lower-body injury; he will miss his fifth consecutive game.

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The Blues' projected lineup:

Pavel Buchnevich-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Ivan Barbashev-Brayden Schenn-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 and Nathan Walker. Torey Krug (lower body) and Marco Scandella (lower body) are out.

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The Avalanche's projected lineup:

Valeri Nichushkin-Nathan MacKinnon-Mikko Rantanen

Gabriel Landeskog-Nazem Kadri-Artturi Lehkonen

Andre Burakovsky-J.T. Compher-Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Andrew Cogliano-Nico Sturm-Darren Helm

Devon Toews-Cale Makar

Samuel Girard-Josh Manson

Bowen Byram-Erik Johnson

Darcy Kuemper will start in goal; Pavel Francouz will be the backup. 

The healthy scratches include Jack Johnson, Alex Newhook, Ryan Murray, Logan O'Connor, Kurtis MacDermid, Hunter Miska and Justus Annunen. The Avalanche report no injuries. 

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