The St. Louis Blues look to extend their six-game point streak tonight and give head coach Craig Berube the gift of victory for his 56th birthday as the club plays game two of a home-and-home set against the Dallas Stars. The two clubs clashed Tuesday evening in Dallas as the Blues scored four unanswered goals, three of which came in the third period during a 4-1 victory. The NHL’s number two overall power-play unit scored twice in the third period, once each from forwards Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko. Tonight’s matchup at the Enterprise Center could see some heavy efforts early from the Stars after some choice words from head coach Rick Bowness after the 4-1 loss, but more on that later.
Here’s a look at the storylines ahead of tonight’s matchup:
2 Storylines: Blues (14-8-4)
Binnington is Back
Blues starting goaltender Jordan Binnington has been officially activated from the COVID-19 protocol and is back with his teammates. At one time, the clubs’ netminder was one of 12 individuals that were held out of the lineup either due to injury or the COVID protocol. When asked about his return Binnington stated, “I feel good. I’d say (practice) went pretty well. It was fun to be back out there with the guys for sure and just having that pace. But I feel good and I’m excited to be back.” (from ‘Binnington back, but Berube may go with Lindgren,’ St. Louis Post Dispatch, 12/16/2021). If Binnington struggles in his return or feels like he needs some additional rest over the upcoming games, head coach Craig Berube has a viable option in the 4-0-0 Charlie Lindgren.
Binnington was placed on the COVID-19 list on Dec. 2 and missed seven games in that timeframe. To make things interesting, the organization was forced to call upon three other goaltenders in Lindgren, Ville Husso, and Jon Gillies, who combined for a 4-1-2 record in that time. To make room for Binnington on the active roster, the Blues opted to trade Gillies to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for future considerations.
The Kids Are Alright
Injuries to key players can often lead to a disaster for any club or organization regardless of the sport you are playing. This has not been the case for the Blues this season as the club has been forced to pull players from their AHL affiliate squad, the Springfield Thunderbirds. A common theme of players rising to the occasion and playing tough minutes has been felt this year as players, like Nathan Walker, Logan Brown, Dakota Joshua, and Matthew Peca, have all been called upon this year to suit up for the Blues.
This season, the four AHL players have combined for 15 points in their collective 30 games played. Leading the charge has been none other than Australian forward, Nathan Walker who scored a hat trick in his first appearance this season. Regardless of the minutes assigned to them each game or the roles they have been asked to play, these individuals have stepped up in the absence of key individuals, such as Robert Thomas, Brayden Schenn, Jordan Kyrou, and David Perron.
2 Storylines: Stars (13-11-2)
Key Players Effort Called into Question
Stars head coach, Rick Bowness was not pleased with the effort of his club and specifically some of his key players after a 4-1 loss to the Blues on Tuesday.
“We had some guys that we’ll have to check the video tomorrow to see if they even played,” Bowness said. “I couldn’t find them out on the ice. Unless you’re going to want to show up and get your nose dirty and get involved in a game like that, then you’re a complete non-factor. We had a few of those guys that were complete no-shows. We have no chance if we have guys that don’t want to show up and play in those games.” (from ‘Stars head coach Rick Bowness says ‘no-shows’ on his roster ‘can’t hide’ after loss to Blues,’ Dallas Morning News, 12/14/2021)
If Bowness was alluding to the team’s highest-paid player, Tyler Seguin, he certainly didn’t try to cover it up. The loss now brings the club’s skid to four games after a prior seven-game winning streak. Currently, in his first season back from undergoing hip arthroscopy and labral repair in Nov. 2020 as well as a knee scope a month later, Seguin is still trying to return to form. The former second-overall draft pick of 2010 currently has seven goals and 11 points in 26 games this season. Should his 34-point pace stay the course this year, it will mark his worst season since his 2010-11 rookie season with the Boston Bruins.
Heiskanen Out of the Lineup
One of the Dallas Stars’ top defensemen, Miro Heiskanen is out of the lineup for tonight’s matchup with a non-COVID-related illness. The 22-year-old defenseman has appeared in all 26 games for the club this season and currently leads all Stars defensemen in points with three goals and 13 assists.
In addition to Heiskanen’s day-to-day absence, forward Joel Kiviranta has been added to the team’s IR due to an upper-body injury. Tuesday night, the Stars were without Roope Hintz, Alexander Radulov, and Kiviranta, opening the door for Riley Damiani to make his NHL debut and ultimately score his first NHL goal.
Players to Watch
St. Louis: Pavel Buchnevich has scored three goals and eight points over eight games this month. The all-Russian line featuring Tarasenko, Barbashev, and Buchnevich has been on fire combining for 22 points in the month of December.
Dallas: Stars captain Jamie Benn took six shots on net during the Tuesday night’s matchup and is always dangerous against the Blues. With four points in his last five games, and a total of 44 points in 46 career games against St. Louis, he is one to keep an eye on.
Projected Line Combinations
St. Louis Blues
|Left Wing||Center||Right Wing|
|Brandon Saad||Ryan O’Reilly||Logan Brown|
|Pavel Buchnevich||Ivan Barbashev||Vladimir Tarasenko|
|Nathan Walker||Tyler Bozak||Oskar Sundqvist|
|Alexi Toropchenko||Dakota Joshua||Matthew Peca|
|Left Defense||Right Defense|
|Niko Mikkola||Colton Parayko|
|Torey Krug||Justin Faulk|
|Marco Scandella||Robert Bortuzzo|
|Left Wing||Center||Right Wing|
|Jason Robertson||Jamie Benn||Joe Pavelski|
|Tanner Kero||Tyler Seguin||Denis Gurianov|
|Michael Raffl||Radek Faksa||Ty Dellandrea|
|Jacob Peterson||Riley Damiani||Luke Glendening|
|Left Defense||Right Defense|
|Esa Lindell||John Klingberg|
|Ryan Suter||Miro Heiskanen|
|Andrej Sekera||Jani Hakanpaa|
Blues’ Next Game: Sunday, Dec. 19, at Winnipeg Jets (2 PM CST)
Mike is a lifelong fan and enthusiast of the St. Louis Blues. The love of the game was passed down to him by his father and he has never looked back. Since the creation of his personal hockey blog in 2016, Mike has enjoyed spinning his own personal take and love of the game for anyone who wants to read or talk about it. He has enjoyed over a decade of fantasy sports championship wins and the not so fun losing and rebuilding seasons in dynasty leagues. Mike is a longtime fan and follower of not only the Blues, but of the Central or “Norris” division as a whole.