Monday, May 23, 2022

(5-23-22) Avalanche-Blues Game 4 Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Move on and turn the page.

That's the mindset the Blues have been faced with before, and it will be the same again here today when they play a pivotal Game 4 of the Western Conference second round against the Colorado Avalanche (8:30 p.m.; TNT, ESPN 101.1-FM).

Jordan Binnington is no longer available for the rest of this series due to a lower-body injury sustained following a collision in his crease in the first period of Game 3 with Colorado's Nazem Kadri and teammate Calle Rosen, and it will be Ville Husso's cage now with Charlie Lindgren as the new backup.

There's nothing to do but turn the page and try and win an important game that would make this an even series, after Colorado won Game 3, 5-2, and take a 2-1 series lead.

"Yeah, exactly. There's nothing else there," forward David Perron said. "I understand that you guys have questions, but there's no comment from my part on any of that stuff. You see it happening in other series and all that stuff, the league's there to take care of it if they have to and for us, I think it's just a matter of dealing with our emotions after any losses, any wins, you've got to find a way to turn the page and be better next game. We will do that tonight."

It all comes from a coaching staff that wants and expects the players to turn the page, since there's nothing that can be done as far as bringing Binnington back into the series.

"All good, same. I think our mindset has been in a good spot," coach Craig Berube said. "We know we’ve got a tough battle tonight. Tweak a few things here and there, but good skate this morning ready to go."

The players have been in situations where they have to have a resilient response, and a lot of them can look to none other than Game 3 of the conference final in 2019 when the infamous hand pass that wasn't called and resulted in a Sharks 5-4 win and a 2-1 series lead.

The Blues reacted accordingly and won the next three games. Let's see how they react in this situation.

"Absolutely, it's a great question, something that we've talked about how we dealt with that at the time, we just moved on right after the game," Perron said. "It's over with, there's nothing we can do. We have plenty of confidence in 'Huus' to do the job. He was one of our top players this year as well and obviously we're looking forward to seeing how he plays and we need him to have a great game. But definitely the experience we learned from that year, obviously that was in conference final, that was a harder pill to swallow almost and then we found a way to turn the page on that and we won all three games after that. I'm not saying we'll do that. This team is really solid over there, but we're definitely looking to move on and play a similar way.

"I think it comes from our coaching staff too, just kind of seeing them the next day. We work either in video or obviously we don't skate too much in playoffs, but any time they have with us, they work with us to try and find little areas that we can expose a little bit better and just their attitude the way they are, I think from our leadership group, everyone's been around for many years. Obviously winning helps with that. You have to stay level-headed even more and you move on."

Berube said since a lot of these veterans have been through these things before, it makes it easier on them to keep the players even-keeled.

"Well, a lot of them have been through this a number of times and they understand how playoffs work, the ups and downs, or bounces that you get or don’t get, injuries and all that stuff that plays into it," he said. "So, you’ve got to just stay with it. Things happen. You can’t get rattled and you can’t get too high or too low, you’ve just got to keep battling and staying with it. People in your organization, it’s good to have depth. They’ve got to step in and do a good job for you when injuries happen."

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Now that the job is Husso's, it's time for the Blues to rally around their netminder who started the playoffs for them, the same one who debuted against the Wild and made 37 saves in a 4-0 win.

The same goalie who from Jan. 7-Feb. 25 was 10-1-1 with a 1.78 goals-against average, which was second in the league only to New York Rangers' Igor Shesterkin, and Husso had a .940 save percentage over that period, third in the league to Shesterkin and Ottawa's Matt Murray.

"It started with even last year," Perron said of Husso, who was 25-7-6 during the regular season. "Obviously it was his first year in the NHL, he had a lot of things to learn, just dealing with the schedule, the mental grind, how good the players are in this league at shooting the puck and all that stuff, went home over the summer, you can tell he worked hard and the attitude and his composure was better, his practices were very sharp early in the year and he got more chances to play this year and he did a good job. Every single time, he's build his game, he's build confidence with the organization obviously to the point where he was playing most games towards the end of the year. It's exciting. He's a guy that going back to 2019, he was a black ace, he was around the guys, just a funny guy to be around. Him and I like to go at it a little bit, chirp each other off the ice for many little things. We have a lot of fun as a group and with him."

Husso lost Games 2-3 against the Wild and was replaced by Binnington, who went on a 4-1 tear with a playoff league-leading 1.72 GAA and .949 save percentage, which was second to Dallas' Jake Oettinger.

"Well I think his confidence is high," Berube said of Husso. "In game, we’ve got to keep checking like we are … I think we’re doing a good job checking right now, protecting the middle of the ice and we’ve got to continue to do that. That’s a very good team over there that can really score some goals and create offense. But we’ve been doing a pretty good job of protecting the middle of the ice and doing a good job checking and we’ve got to continue doing that and make sure we’re hard at our net, giving our goalies a chance to see pucks and not allowing second and third opportunities around the net.

"... I’ve had him since he was a kid here, and I had him in the minors. He came in there and did a real good job there, probably not expecting to make the team or play that year, but he did. Then we went into the playoffs pretty deep and he played. So, he’s got a calm demeanor about him, he’s a quiet guy, but he’s a highly competitive guy inside. Like I said, he’s a real good goalie, he’s played really well this year. If you’re not competitive, you’re not going to play well, so he is a highly competitive guy."

When Husso came on for Binnington at thr 6:45 mark of the first period Saturday in Game 3, he would go on to face 23 shots and allow four goals, although the fourth one was as he was trying to get off the ice for a sixth attacker and got caught trying to get back in when the Blues lost possession of the puck.

"It’s a tougher deal for sure (coming in cold)," Berube said. "Yeah, it’s not easy, especially in a playoff game for sure when the intensity is high. But I thought he settled in alright, you know. Other than the (third) goal in the second period, he probably wants that one back, but I thought he played pretty well."

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Defenseman Torey Krug, out since sustaining a lower-body injury in Game 3 of the first-round series against Minnesota, took the ice with teammates for the first time in the morning skate, although he did skate on his own Sunday.

Krug, who has three assists in three postseason games, did not take part in line rushes or any special teams work and obviously won't play tonight, but the encouraging steps of getting closer are being taken.

"Well, it’s good he’s out there, so he’s doing a lot better," Berube said. "I wasn’t sure if he was going to skate today or not. It was good to see him skate and we’ll keep going. Same as (Marco) Scandella (lower-body injury). He’s closer."

"It's good," Perron said of Krug. "I have great chemistry with him on the power play and he's obviously a guy we miss a lot, I miss him a lot; he gives me a lot of good looks all over the ice. He's been a great power play guy his whole career and it's great to see him on the ice."

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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

Ville Husso will start in goal; Charlie Lindgren will be the backup. 

Healthy scratches include Logan Brown and Nathan Walker. Jordan Binnington (lower body), 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

Logan O'Conmor-Darren Helm-Andrew Cogliano

Devon Toews-Cale Makar

Jack Johnson-Josh Manson

Bowen Byram-Erik Johnson

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

The healthy scratches include Alex Newhook, Ryan Murray, Nico Sturm, Kurtis MacDermid and Hunter Miska. Samuel Girard (broken sternum) is out for the season.

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