Friday, May 27, 2022

(5-27-22) Avalanche-Blues Game 6 Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Another do-or-die scenario for the Blues, as they avoided one knockout punch, and they'll be looking for another one when they host the Colorado Avalanche today (7 p.m.; TNT, ESPN 101.1-FM) in Game 6 of the Western Conference second round.

After avoiding being eliminated Wednesday with a 5-4 overtime win, coming back from behind on Tyler Bozak's OT goal after coming back from 3-0 and 4-3 deficits, the Blues feel there's some momentum going into a home game now but they can't take it for granted.

The Blues have lost Games 3-4 in this series at Enterprise Center ice but are 2-1 at Ball Arena.

"I really don't know what to make of the home and road stuff that's going on," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "That's hockey. I thought that Game 3 at home we started off extremely well. And I liked our start in the game and some things happen, changes. Game 4, not as good for sure. We were on our heels in the first period, but we weathered the storm. We just got to go and play. We're not going to worry about that kind of stuff. We got to have a good start to the game here tonight. They've started extremely well the last two games. They've been the better team in the first period. So we got to turn that tide here tonight. I think it's important that we come out we have a real good first."

That would be the kind of start that would set a precedent to getting this series to a winner-take-all Game 7.

"I think you kind of saw it late in the second (period of Game 5) and the third period," defenseman Nick Leddy said. "I thought we were skating well. I thought we got pucks in deep. We did a lot of things we’ve done since I’ve been here throughout the back part of the year. You know, we created a lot, we had a lot of chances and I think the determination was really there throughout that full back half of the game."

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Alexei Toropchenko's persistent and vibrant energy continues to rub off in a positive way, and Berube will, at least at the start, use the big Russian on the third line with Brayden Schenn and Jordan Kyrou, sliding Ivan Barbashev down with Bozak and Nathan Walker.

"I thought he had a heck of a game; he was involved in two of the goals we scored with his play in the offensive zone and his forechecking abilities," Berube said. "I'm going to start him with Schenn's line tonight and go from there."

Toropchenko's play was at a high, even when the Blues were trailing in Game 5 and he was continuing to create positive energy on the ice. He finished with one assist in the game on Kyrou's goal that tied the score 3-3 but was also on the ice for Vladimir Tarasenko's goal in the second period that made it 3-1 when Berube had Toropchenko, Schenn and Tarasenko out on the ice at the time.

"Yeah, I mean, it’s awesome," forward David Perron said. "Usually like you said, the younger guys bring a lot of energy, they bring a lot of physicality to a match, to a game where sometimes you’re going to need that kind of spark. He certainly did that last game and it was awesome to see for him to step up and play the way he did. Looks like he’s getting another chance with those guys, and we want them to contribute again."

"He's a great person, very likable, happy guy, 24/7, that rubs off on people and that good energy he provides really rubs off on people and on the ice," Berube said. "Every shift is energy, every shift is skating and hard play and forecheck. So it's important and very important to playoff hockey."

Barbashev has two assists in the postseason thus far but did pick up a helper on Bozak's OT winner in Game 5, and flipping the two wingers has nothing to do with struggling play by Barbashev.

"Not really, no," Berube said. "That line got us the game-winning goal. They were out there together. 

"Barby’s a versatile guy, we use Barby in a lot of different scenarios, power play, penalty kill, he gets his minutes and again, there's a lot of mixing and matching that goes on in the game. Moving him around."

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Nathan MacKinnon's highlight reel goal that put the Avalanche up 4-3 with 2:46 to play in the game is still the talk of the series.

Leddy was defending on the play and was the last line of defense as MacKinnon, who had a hat trick in Game 5, went coast-to-coast to score.

It's been a heck of a challenge for Leddy and the Blues D to contain the Avs center, and aside from Game 5, they've done a pretty good job of limiting his offensive prowess.

This, after Leddy and the Blues had the task of defending Minnesota's Kirill Kaprizov in the first round.

"Well, I think he’s definitely a little bit different than Kaprizov in a few ways, but I think at the end of the day, (with) those guys, you need a team defense," Leddy said. "It’s not just one or two guys, it’s the whole team. Just being hard on them when you can, taking away time and space. Those players are going to get chances. They’re amazing players, but you’ve just got to try and limit them."

Berube said the Blues need to get back to limiting MacKinnon's time and space to have success.

"We let him get too much separation (Wednesday) night," Berube said. "The third goal he scores, there’s too much separation. The first goal, Leddy gets his stick on it, it's a good play, it just goes in off a stick. Not all the goals so much, he just had too much room. Got to be tighter to try to get the puck out of his hands and give it to somebody else. We just got to get over top of him better.

"Take time and space away from him because once he gets going, like the third goal, you're just putting Leddy in a tough spot. Very good player coming at you 100 miles an hour."

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Berube will stick with Colton Parayko on the second power play unit because of one aspect.

"Right now I like the way Colton is shooting the puck," Berube said. "That's probably the difference."

There's been consideration of using Leddy there, but Parayko's ability to get his heavy shot off can be a difference maker.

"We want our D to shoot, get it off quick and get it to the net," Berube said. "He's always used his shot pretty well in my opinion and he's produced for us. He’s produced on the power play for us in the past years where we've used them more on the power play than this year. He's just on his toes right now in my opinion, he's playing some real good hockey and again, he's getting a lot of shots off 5-on-5. And so I think on the power play when he has an opportunity to shoot one tonight, and he did last game. We didn't have a good enough net front on it, but it was a great shot. We've got to get guys in front of the goalies eyes and he's going to use his shot."

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The Blues' projected lineup:

Brandon Saad-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Pavel Bucnnevich-Robert Thomas-Vladimir Tarasenko

Alexei Toropchenko-Brayden Schenn-Jordan Kyrou

Ivan Barbashev-Tyler Bozak-Nathan Walker

Nick Leddy-Colton Parayko

Niko Mikkola-Justin Faulk

Marco Scandella-Robert Bortuzzo

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

Healthy scratches include Logan Brown, Calle Rosen and Scott Perunovich. Torey Krug (lower body) is out.

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The Avalanche's projected lineup:

Gabriel Landeskog-Nathan MacKinnon-Artturi Lehkonen

Valeri Nichushkin-Nazem Kadri-Mikko Rantanen

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

Logan O'Connor-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. 

Healthy scratches include Nico Sturm, Alex Newhook, Ryan Murray, Kurtis MacDermid and Trent Miner. Samuel Girard (sternum) is out.

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