Blues Gameday Preview: Washington Capitals – 1/7/2022

The St. Louis Blues open a five-game homestand tonight against the Washington Capitals. The game marks the Capitals’ first appearance in St. Louis since Oct. 2, 2019 – when the Blues raised the Stanley Cup banner.

Here’s a look at the storylines and projections ahead of tonight’s matchup:

2 Storylines: Blues (19-10-5)

COVID Strikes Blues Again

It may have been too good to be true, but the Blues went into Wednesday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins with a healthy group of forwards for the first time since late November. Their health was short-lived: the team announced on Thursday that forward Vladimir Tarasenko and defensemen Jake Walman and Scott Perunovich have all been added to the COVID-19 protocol list.

Vladimir Tarasenko St. Louis Blues
Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Tarasenko leads the team with 14 goals and 34 points in 34 games this season and is one of three players to appear in every game, along with defensemen Colton Parayko and Marco Scandella. Despite the offseason trade rumors, the 30-year-old looks rejuvenated and no longer seems to be bothered by his past shoulder injuries. 

Along with Tarasenko, the 23-year-old Perunovich has played well since he was recalled from the Springfield Thunderbirds, appearing in 18 games with six assists. Typically assigned to the third pairing and second power-play unit, the young defenseman is getting his feet wet before being thrown into the deep end. Before his call-up, Perunovich played 12 games in the AHL, scoring two goals and 18 assists.

Blues Defense Chipping In

While the club continues to navigate unexpected injuries and COVID absences, their blueliners have stepped up in a big way. In the last six games, defensemen Torey Krug, Colton Parayko, and Justin Faulk have combined for 11 points, six from Krug alone.

Related: 5 Players That May Not Return to the Blues for the 2022-23 Season

After a disappointing first season with the organization, Krug has looked noticeably better in his second go-around. Known for his offensive abilities, the 5-foot-9 defenseman has been seeing consistent time on the second-pairing unit and quarterbacking the teams’ first power-play unit. This season, Krug has five goals and 18 points in 29 games and he’s trending upward. Krug has not produced more than 50 points in a season since 2018-19 when he scored six goals and 53 points in 64 games with the Boston Bruins.

2 Storylines: Capitals (20-6-8)

Age Is Just a Number for Ovechkin

Alexander Ovechkin continues to prove he has gas left in the tank with no signs of slowing down. At 36 years old, he is second in the NHL with 24 goals and third in points with 50 through 34 games, 42 of which have come in his last 30 games. He has only played the Blues 20 times in his NHL career but has made the most of it, scoring 18 goals and 31 points. 

This season, Ovechkin keeps breaking NHL scoring records, including most recently surpassing Dave Andreychuk for most career power-play goals, at 275. He celebrated New Year’s Eve with his own fireworks, claiming the record against the Detroit Red Wings. After signing a five-year contract extension in July, Ovechkin entered his 17th NHL season bent on capturing Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goal record of 894 goals. 

Washington Lineup a Revolving Door of Players

The Capitals’ lineup has been a revolving door with only seven players consistently in the lineup in the last 11 games, stretching back to the beginning of December. The team has not played since Sunday afternoon against the New Jersey Devils. During that time, head coach Peter Laviolette used the time as a mini-training camp. However, in that time, veteran forwards T.J. Oshie and Nickas Backstrom suffered non-COVID-related illnesses and missed Tuesday and Wednesday’s practice. They were back on Thursday but are unavailable for tonight’s game in St. Louis. 

In addition to the absences of Backstrom and Oshie, defenseman Dmitry Orlov suffered an upper-body injury during Tuesday’s practice will be held out of the lineup as well. Ovechkin, John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov, and Carl Hagelin are the only Capitals players to suit up for all 34 games this season.

Players to Watch

St. Louis: Ivan Barbashev – In a career year, the Russian forward is projected to take the top left-wing spot alongside Ryan O’Reilly and Pavel Buchnevich. Barbashev has 13 points in his last 11 games.

Capitals: Lars Eller – The former Blue has four goals and seven points in his last 12 games.

Projected Line Combinations

St. Louis Blues

Left WingCenterRight Wing
Ivan BarbashevRyan O’ReillyPavel Buchnevich
Brayden SchennRobert ThomasJordan Kyrou
Brandon SaadOskar SundqvistDavid Perron
Logan BrownTyler BozakKlim Kostin
Left DefenseRight Defense
Niko MikkolaColton Parayko
Torey KrugJustin Faulk
Marco ScandellaScott Perunovich
Starting Goalie
Ville Husso

Pittsburgh Penguins

Left WingCenterRight Wing
Alex OvechkinEvgeny KuznetsovGarnet Hathaway
Conor ShearyLars EllerTom Wilson
Carl HagelinNic DowdBrett Leason
Daniel SprongConnor McMichaelAliaksei Protas
Left DefenseRight Defense
Martin FehervaryJohn Carlson
Trevor van RiemsdykNick Jensen
Matt IrwinJustin Schultz
Starting Goalie
Ilya Samsonov

Blues’ Next Game: Sunday, Jan. 9, versus Dallas Stars (1 PM CST)

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