Wednesday, May 4, 2022

(5-4-22) Blues-Wild Game 2 Gameday Lineup

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Defenseman Nick Leddy will be a game-time decision for the Blues when they take on the Minnesota Wild today at 8:30 p.m. (BSMW, ESPN, ESPN 101.1-FM).

Leddy was not on the ice for the morning skate with the Blues, who won Game 1 4-0, making preparations to try and take two games on the road back to St. Louis.

Leddy, who played 22:22 in Game 1 paired with Colton Parayko, was part of a unit that did a terrific job against Minnesota's top line of Kirill Kaprizov, Ryan Hartman and Mats Zuccarello.

"We just kept him off, he'll be a game-time decision," Blues coach Craig Berube said of Leddy. "He was really good for us. He's been really good for us since we got him. We'll see how it goes."

Leddy took a hard check in the game early in the first period from Matt Boldy. As he was skating off the ice, Leddy voiced his displeasure to the officials for what he had to believe was a hit to the head. He finished the game.

"He handles the rush really well," Berube said. "Handles speed, and closes plays out. He’s really good at it. The one thing he does is when he gets the puck out of the D-zone, he’s very composed with it and makes good plays."

If Leddy can't go, Parayko will get a familiar face back in Niko Mikkola, who was solid himself in Game 1 paired with Robert Bortuzzo in 11:52 of ice time.

"He played there for I don't know how many games it was," Berube said of Mikkola. "Kind of like early on in the season, I guess, towards the middle of the season and did a good job, so we've got a lot of confidence in that pair."

If Mikkola has to move up, Calle Rosen would jump in and pair with Bortuzzo and play in his first NHL postseason game. Rosen's played in 38 NHL games with the Blues and Toronto Maple Leafs, including 18 this season; he has two goals and five assists this season.

"He's played some real good games for us when he's on his toes and using his feet," Berube said. "He's a great puck mover, he's got to defend hard, he's got to be physical and he's got to have a good stick, use his feet, can skate pucks out of our zone. I really like him when we get to the offensive zone. He's got a good shot, sees the ice well, makes plays."

It will certainly test the Blues' depth on defense if Leddy is unavailable to play with Marco Scandella (lower-body injury) still unavailable to play, which would make this his third straight game missed.

"Rosey, I played with a little bit in Toronto back in the day, so I knew the type of player he was," center Tyler Bozak said. "Just a super smart hockey player that always makes the right play. Just makes that first pass that kind of is an underrated play for a defenseman, but it’s always to the right guy on the tape, and helps with the clean exit. So I think him and 'Mikks' have done a great job whenever they’ve been in.

"Like I’ve always said, I think depth is one of the most important things you can have on a winning hockey team. There’s going to be injuries at certain times and guys need to step in, and I think we’re pretty deep in those areas, which helps."

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Robert Thomas, Vladimir Tarasenko and Pavel Buchnevich drew Minnesota's top shutdown line of Joel Eriksson Ek, Marcus Foligno and Jordan Greenway throughout much of Game 1 and will likely do so again tonight. That's the trio that the Wild will focus their attentions on, which will leave opportunities for the hot Ryan O'Reilly, Brandon Saad and David Perron line.

That trio was hot down the stretch in the regular season and really picked up their scoring, and even though two of them were on the power play and one right at the end of another, that line accounted for all four Blues goals in the opener, including three by Perron.

What's made it click?

"I think just being predictable for each other," Saad said. "Early on, we might’ve tried to do too much or things like that. But playing simple, working on the forecheck, getting around each other, supporting each other and taking pucks and bodies to the net is how we’re having success. I think we’ve done a good job of checking all year, but being able to pitch in offensively helps out a lot."

"I don't want to say too much. I think we've been a little more direct with shooting the puck and getting to the net," O'Reilly said. "I think we've been playing very well and doing a lot of good things, but the last few games, we've gotten a few bounces and the puck's done in, and that's going to happen. It just happens. It's nice. I think we're confident going into the playoffs. We know we have a big role and a big challenge and we have to help do our part in order to have success here."

Don't discredit the line of Brayden Schenn, Ivan Barbashev and Jordan Kyrou, which accounted for 77 goals during the regular season. Schenn returned Monday after missing four games with an upper-body injury.

"He brings gamesmanship first and foremost," Berube said of Schenn. "He's a physical player, knows how to play in the playoffs and plays hard, obviously has the ability to produce for us on the power play and 5-on-5. He's been a good producer for us now for a few years. Barbashev's had a breakout year offensively and he's done a great job on the power play too. He's played in the playoffs with us and he's been a physical, hard player to play against, and Kyrou is a dynamic forward. He's got unreal ability in skating and passing and shooting. They have the ability to do a number of different things out there for us."

Buchnevich-Thomas-Tarasenko didn't produce a point in Game 1.

"They didn't have a ton of time," Berube said. "I think 5-on-5 and power play, they were just OK. They've got to do a better job on the PP. They're a dangerous line, they can make plays, but Robby drives it all with his ability to transport the puck up the ice and use his speed and his ability to get away from people and create Buchy and Vladi to get open and that's what he does. We (need to) see more of that from him where he can elude people and get cutbacks and get away and create some separation and things like that.

"You can make some adjustments and things like that, but really it's about you've got to fight through it. This is playoff time. You're going to have to fight through tight checking. You're going to have to get to the hard areas I talked before about getting to the hard areas, and that's what they need to do. They're all good enough players, Vladi and Buchy especially. They've got great size and they need to get on the inside and get to the hard areas. You're going to have to get some dirty goals with a point shot, a rebound, things like that. That's how you're going to have to score a lot of goals in the playoffs."

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The Wild will make one change in their lineup on defense and bring in Alex Goligoski for Dmitry Kulikov.

After going 0-for-6 on the power play in Game 1, Goligoski can bring some veteran gamesmanship to the lineup and provide a power-play option should the Wild need one.

"You look at things and you think what they're going to try to do differently," Berube said. "It's hard to know, but I really focus on our team, what we need to do, what we can do better, things that we have to improve upon and things that we have to keep doing that we did in the first game."

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Special teams played a big part in the game Monday, with each team being on the power play six times. The Blues scored on two of theirs, the Wild didn't, so just in case there's more 5-on-5 play tonight, the Blues hope to improve in certain areas despite outscoring Minnesota 2-0 -- really, 1-0 -- Monday.

"There wasn't a ton of time, but I thought when we did play 5 on 5, we defended pretty well," Berube said. "I thought that we protected our slot area really well and didn't give up odd-man rushes and then from the offensive standpoint, we need to get in there and possess more pucks, wear them down, create some more opportunities in the slot area. That's the thing we've got to do offensively."

"I think you can constantly improve in every area," Bozak said. "I think there’s little things every game that you can get better at and improve on and you have to do throughout the playoffs and moving forward to have that opportunity to win. So we’re going to keep improving, keep trying to get better.

"We know every night’s going to be a really tough battle against this team. It’s going to be a long series. So we’re excited for the challenge again tonight."

As for trying to bring this series to St. Louis up 2-0?

"It’s going to be another really tough game tonight," Bozak said. "Obviously they’re a great team. We’re going to have to do a lot of the little things we did, take away their time and space. Try and win the special teams game. I expect a lot more 5-on-5 tonight, so we’re going to have to be pretty dialed in in that area of the game as well."

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The NHL announced its 32 nominees for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy given to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.

For the Blues, it's O'Reilly. It also includes former Blues goalie Jake Allen (Montreal) and forward Jaden Schwartz (Seattle) and Chesterfield native Luke Kunin (Nashville).

"I think it's natural for him, to be honest with you," Berube said of O'Reilly. "If you look at how he works and prepares day in and day out, the effort he gives every game, that's leadership by example, but I think he really does a good job with what the team needs in game, outside the game, the community. He never says no to anything. He's always doing things for the community doing things for charity, doing things for the team. It's just natural to him. He has very good character qualities and a caring person. He cares about a lot of things, not only hockey and his teammates but outside the game too. he's a special guy."

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The Blues' projected lineup (will update with Leddy's status pregame):

Brandon Saad-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Pavel Buchnevich-Robert Thomas-Vladimir Tarasenko

Ivan Barbashev-Brayden Schenn-Jordan Kyrou

Alexei Toropchenko-Nathan Walker

Niko Mikkola-Colton Parayko

Torey Krug-Justin Faulk

Calle Rosen-Robert Bortuzzo

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

Healthy scratches include Logan Brown and Dakota Joshua. Nick Leddy (upper body) is a game-time decision. Marco Scandella (lower body), Mackenzie MacEachern (upper body) and Scott Perunovich (wrist) 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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