Saturday, October 15, 2022

(10-15-22) Blue Jackets-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Time to drop the puck -- finally.

For the Blues, it's been too long, long enough for them to be the last of the 32 teams in the league to play their season opener.

That will all change today at 7 p.m. (BSMW, ESPN 101.1-FM) when the Blues open the 2022-23 season at Enterprise Center against the Columbus Blue Jackets (0-2-0).

"Everybody's ready," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "It seems like we're the only team that hasn't played, but guys are excited and ready to roll.

"... You're off in the summer for a while, that gets boring. Not boring but you want to get back to doing what you do for a living as a player or a coach, or anything, management. We're always excited for the season. The start of the season, it's a great opportunity to see what your team can do and how they look. You're shooting for a goal."

The Blues made minimal changes, most notably the missing include David Perron and Ville Husso, each which has moved on to Detroit now, but the lineup remains relatively the same with a few exceptions.

Many of those that remain the same include veteran skaters that still get excited about opening night.

"Oh yeah, it's an honor and a pleasure to play in the NHL," center Brayden Schenn said. "Time goes by fast and you look forward to the start of every year. You work hard all summer in order to get ready and feel as good as possible and feel better than in the previous year. You're looking to find ways to make yourself better in the summer time. Opening night and the start of the season is when you have to try and show it."

Ready or not -- and they better be ready -- the Blues feel like they're prepared.

"I think we're ready," center Robert Thomas said. "I think we did a lot in the preseason to kind of ramp it up. I think in our team bonding trip (to Charleston, South Carolina earlier in the week) went really well. Everyone's pretty close and just ready to play for each other.
"We're out there getting that itch a little bit, but it's still been fun watching other games. It's been a while since the last game. Games are the most fun. Everyone's excited to not practice as much and play more games."

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Forward Alexey Toropchenko has been confirmed to open the season in the lineup. 

That had been the going trend after Friday's practice session when the 23-year-old declared himself good to go, but Berube wanted to get through the day first before making any confirmation himself.

"He's good to go," Berube said. "We're excited, he's excited. He's a good player for us. I thought he brought a lot last year to our team and in the playoffs. We're really excited that he's early, going to play. 

"I think he's a smart player, which he's got really good hockey sense, which goes a long way. We all know his skating ability and his size, and when you put the hockey sense in there, he's a good player."

Toropchenko, who had shoulder surgery June 13, is two months ahead of the projected timeline of mid-December when the Blues felt like he could return, a remarkable turn of events.

"I've been here since July 10th, but since I had surgery June 13th and pretty much like two weeks of a little vacation and pretty much that's it," Toropchenko said. "Been here all summer working with (strength and conditioning coach) Ryan Podell and doctors."

Toropchenko will skate with Noel Acciari and Nathan Walker, a line Berube said has the capabilities of being tenacious, hard-nosed and checking.

"I think so," Walker said. "That's pretty much down to a tee of how we want to play and how we need to play in order for the team to be successful on that line. I think those three things are definitely part of our identity as that line.

"(Toropchenko's) done great. I always say he was built in a lab, but he's done really good. He's worked hard through his rehab. It's great to see him back again."

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Forward Logan Brown, who has an upper-body injury, was not on the ice again Saturday. He has been dealing with the injury since Oct. 1, a 5-2 preseason loss against the Dallas Stars in Independence, Mo. after putting together a solid training camp.

"He had a great start to camp and it's an unfortunate injury," Berube said. "But he'll be back. He's just got to heal up. We'll get him on the ice as soon as we can and get him working again and get him back up to speed."

Asked if time is all Brown needs, Berube said, "Yes, that's all it is. It's nothing more than that."

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The Blues' projected lineup:

Brandon Saad-Ryan O'Reilly-Jordan Kyrou

Pavel Bucnnevich-Robert Thomas-Vladimir Tarasenko

Jake Neighbours-Brayden Schenn-Ivan Barbashev 

Alexey Toropchenko-Noel Acciari-Nathan Walker 

Nick Leddy-Colton Parayko

Torey Krug-Justin Faulk

Niko Mikkola-Robert Bortuzzo

Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Thomas Greiss will be the backup. 

Healthy scratches include Calle Rosen and Josh Leivo. Marco Scandella (hip) is on injured-reserve, Scott Perunovich (shoulder) is on long-term injured-reserve and Logan Brown (upper body) is out.

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The Blue Jackets' projected lineup:

Johnny Gaudreau-Boone Jenner-Justin Danforth

Yegor Chinakhov-Jack Roslovic-Jakub Voracek

Gustav Nyquist-Cole Sillinger-Kent Johnson

Eric Robinson-Sean Kuraly-Mathieu Olivier

Zach Werenski-Adam Boqvist

Vladislav Gavrikov-Andrew Peeke

Jake Bean-Erik Gudbranson

Elvis Merzlikins could start in goal; Daniil Tarasov would be the backup.

Healthy scratches could include Liam Foudy and Nick Blankenburg. Patrik Laine (elbow) is out 3-4 weeks and Joonas Korpisalo (hip) is out.

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