Blues Gameday Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins – 1/5/2022

The St. Louis Blues took it outside on New Year’s Day and proved that the cold doesn’t bother them. The “Beach Boys” won their game against the Minnesota Wild by a score of 6-4, with an impressive four-point performance by Jordan Kyrou. That night, the forward set a Winter Classic record as he scored all four points in the second period alone. The team looks to take ride the momentum into Pittsburgh and force the Penguins to slip on their own ice. 

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Since Dec. 5, 2021, the Penguins are 7-1-1 in nine games played averaging four goals per game and have outscored their opponents 36-21. Over the last five games, the team has a 29.4% power-play conversion rate and a 91.7% penalty kill rate.

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

2 Storylines: Blues (19-9-5)

Blues Activate Brayden Schenn

The Blues have activated veteran forward, Brayden Schenn from the injured reserved list ahead of tonight’s game against the Penguins. With his activation and re-addition to the lineup, the team is now the healthiest they have been since late November. The club has done a miraculous job remaining in contention and surprisingly sits at the top of the Central Division. Schenn rejoins the team after a multitude of upper-body injuries kept him out of the lineup since Dec. 12. This season, he has scored a total of four goals and tallied 10 points in 19 games. 

Brayden Schenn St. Louis Blues
Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

To activate Schenn, the Blues waived veteran James Neal and elected to keep forward Logan Brown on the team rather than sending him back to the American Hockey League. After going unclaimed, Neal is now listed as a part of the Blues taxi squad and available for play should the team require his services. 

Blues Call Upon Bannister to Help Coach

For tonight’s game, the Blues have called up Springfield Thunderbirds head coach, Drew Bannister to help coach. Current assistant head coach Mike Van Ryn is out due to COVID-19 protocols, while fellow assistant Steve Ott is experiencing back issues but will still be on the bench. The Thunderbirds head coach will be assisting the coaching staff from the press box in tonight’s game.

Related: Blues’ Must-Watch Games In January

This season, Bannister has helped lead the Blues’ minor league affiliate to a 17-8-2-1 record and is currently in the number one spot in the Atlantic Division. The former 26th-overall draft pick was selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992. Over six years, Bannister played in 164 games, scoring five goals and tallying 30 points in that timeframe. He suited up for four different clubs in his career: the Lightning, Anaheim Mighty Ducks, New York Rangers, and Edmonton Oilers.

2 Storylines: Penguins (18-8-5)

Guentzel Leading the Way for Pittsburgh

Penguins forward Jake Guentzel is having his way with teams this season, piling up 16 goals and 29 points over 25 games. The last time that Guentzel failed to score a point was Nov. 11, 2021, against the Florida Panthers. In that timeframe, he has played in 14 games, scoring 13 goals and 21 points. His 1.16 goals per game rate are tied for 22nd in the NHL with Rangers forward Artemi Panarin

Jake Guentzel Pittsburgh Penguins
Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Guentzel was drafted 77th overall by the Penguins in 2013 and has scored 286 points in 324 career games. As current leaders Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin continue to age, the torch may be passed on to Guentzel as one of the next leaders before a new generation makes their way to Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Looking to Win 5 in a Row at Home

This season, the Penguins are 9-5-2 at home and look to extend their home winning streak to five games. In addition to their home winning streak, the team has strung together an eight-game winning streak, the longest active winning streak of the season. They will look to extend both records tonight when they take on the Blues for the first time since Dec. 4, 2019, in a 3-0 shutout victory for Tristan Jarry and the Penguins. Should the organization win tonight, their nine-game winning streak would tie the Carolina Hurricanes for the longest winning streak this season.

Players to Watch

St. Louis: Brandon Saad – The forward must enjoy coming home as it shows on the scoresheet. Six goals and 16 points in 16 career games against Pittsburgh make Saad a player to keep an eye on tonight.

Pittsburgh: Evan Rodrigues – Since the start of December, Rodrigues has scored the second-most points on the team (11), sandwiched between Crosby(13) and Guentzel (10).

Projected Line Combinations

St. Louis Blues

Left WingCenterRight Wing
Brandon SaadRyan O’ReillyDavid Perron
Jordan KyrouRobert ThomasVladimir Tarasenko
Pavel BuchnevichIvan BarbashevBrayden Schenn
Logan BrownTyler BozakOskar Sundqvist
Left DefenseRight Defense
Niko MikkolaColton Parayko
Torey KrugJustin Faulk
Marco ScandellaScott Perunovich
Starting Goalie
Jordan Binnington

Pittsburgh Penguins

Left WingCenterRight Wing
Jake GuentzelSidney CrosbyBryan Rust
Danton HeinenEvan RodriguesKasperi Kapanen
Zach Aston-ReeseTeddy BluegerBrock McGinn
Dominik SimonBrian BoyleTBD
Left DefenseRight Defense
Brian DumoulinKris Letang
Marcus PetterssonJohn Marino
Michael MathesonChad Ruhwedel
Starting Goalie
Casey DeSmith

Blues’ Next Game: Friday, January 7 versus Washington Capitals (7 PM CST)