The St. Louis Blues are officially back for the first time since Dec 19th. Here, after a 10-day break, fans will once again get to see their beloved team hit the ice and continue their push for the postseason. Let’s take a quick look back 10 days ago and where the team left off. The team went into their extended break with a 6-2-2 record in their last 10 games, averaging 3.4 goals for and allowing an average of 2.4 goals against in that timespan.
After the NHL implemented an extended Christmas vacation, the organization was forced to postpone matchups against the Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Coming out of the break, the league issued additional postponements that included a game scheduled for Monday, Dec. 27 against the New Jersey Devils. The team now gets one game to reset before hitting the big stage in the 2022 Winter Classic against the Minnesota Wild.
Here’s a look at the storylines ahead of tonight’s matchup:
2 Storylines: Blues (17-9-5)
Thomas, Perron, and Kyrou are Back
Not only are the Blues back in action, but they’ll be hitting the ice with a few key pieces to their forward lines in Jordan Kyrou, Robert Thomas, and David Perron. All three forwards currently rank amongst the top seven scorers on the team and were at nearly a point per game pace prior to their exit.
The organization was kept afloat during the players’ absence as the club’s depth proved their worth by providing timely scoring and offensive depth, including a hat trick from Nathan Walker during his debut game as a Blue. Prior to their absence, it was Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou that were amongst the key storylines early this season as the two kept pace with one another on the scoresheet. This season, the 23-year-old Kyrou has scored nine goals and 25 points in 27 games; Thomas with 2 goals and 22 points in 24 games. The two cannot hog all of the spotlight as long-time Blues veteran, David Perron was on a massive scoring tear himself prior to an upper-body injury that caused him to exit the game against the Chicago Blackhawks early on Nov. 26, and be held out of the lineup ever since. Perron was a key offensive contributor with seven goals and 18 points in 20 games and will look to pick back up on his scoring ways now that he has returned.
COVID-19 Claims Four Blues Players
Just when the team was starting to look whole once more, COVID-19 causes four additional players to be held out of the lineup. Robert Bortuzzo, James Neal, and Dakota Joshua have all been placed on the COVID-19 list after testing positive on Dec. 26, as well as forward Ivan Barbashev as of Dec. 23.
Losing any player to injury or illness is never taken kindly by a team. However, Bortuzzo and Joshua’s depth role luckily have additional players ready to fill-in in the meantime. Bortuzzo has appeared in 27 games this season averaging 14 minutes per game on the team’s defensive third-pairing. The team will substitute in rookie Scott Perunovich in his place. James Neal and Dakota Joshua have each played 17 games for the club this season and each provided four points this season.
Among this group, Ivan Barbashev is the biggest loss offensively to the club. The Russian forward has seen an increase in time on ice as well as responsibility and is rewarding the club as a result. With 25 points in 31 games, Barbashev is one of the clubs three Russians leading the club in points this season. If allowed by local authorities, he could be cleared to play as soon as possible now that the NHL has implemented a five-game isolation with a negative test.
2 Storylines: Oilers (18-11-0)
Oilers 1, Blues 0
The two clubs have met only one other time this season, resulting in a 5-4 victory for the Oilers. The team managed to score a last-second goal against the Blues in both the first and third periods to propel them to a victory in St. Louis. Leon Draisaitl contributed to three of the team’s five goals collecting one goal and two assists. The Blues will once again have a tough challenge containing both him and Connor McDavid.
Hyman and Smith Ready to Roll
Both forward Zack Hyman and goaltender Mike Smith have been declared ready to play and an option for tonight’s matchup in St. Louis. Smith, 39, has been sidelined with a lower-body injury since Oct. 19 after sustaining an injury against the Anaheim Ducks. Hyman, who is projected to play on the Oilers’ top line, stated he is ready to go after his extended break and missing the last three games for the club. The activation of Smith could leave Oilers goaltender, Mikko Koskinen subject to trade rumors and even a likely trade candidate at the upcoming trade deadline.
“There were maybe four minutes left in the game and I got pinched off there,” Hyman said, recounting the play. “It was a really weird play and my shoulder just got jammed in the boards. It wasn’t a bad hit or anything; it’s a hit I take all the time. But my shoulder just went in awkwardly and obviously, I felt a pinch there. I didn’t know what it was, so I wanted to be careful with it because I had no idea what it was and I was in pain. I went off, checked it out, and luckily it was a best-case scenario.”
Players to Watch
St. Louis: Jordan Kyrou – only slated to play on the third line tonight, the forward could a transition to the second or the third line if the Blues fall behind on the scoresheet. The youngster has 25 points in 27 games and scored a goal and added four shots during their last game.
Edmonton: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – relegated to a depth role, the former first overall pick in the 2011 draft has three goals and 25 points in 28 games this season.
Projected Line Combinations
St. Louis Blues
|Left Wing||Center||Right Wing|
|Brandon Saad||Ryan O’Reilly||David Perron|
|Pavel Buchnevich||Robert Thomas||Vladimir Tarasenko|
|Logan Brown||Tyler Bozak||Jordan Kyrou|
|Klim Kostin||Oskar Sundqvist||Nathan Walker|
|Left Defense||Right Defense|
|Niko Mikkola||Colton Parayko|
|Torey Krug||Justin Faulk|
|Marco Scandella||Scott Perunovich|
|Left Wing||Center||Right Wing|
|Warren Foegele||Connor McDavid||Zach Hyman|
|Ryan Nugent-Hopkins||Leon Draisaitl||Kailer Yamamoto|
|Brendan Perlini||Ryan McLeod||Kyle Turris|
|Devin Shore||Derek Ryan||Colton Sceviour|
|Left Defense||Right Defense|
|Philip Broberg||Cody Ceci|
|Slater Koekkoek||Evan Bouchard|
|Dmitri Samorukov||Tyson Barrie|
Blues’ Next Game: Saturday, Jan. 1, at Minnesota Wild (6 PM CST)
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Mike is a writer for The Hockey Writers and covers the St. Louis Blues since November of 2021. He has a keen love for statistical analysis, prospects, signings, and trades. Follow Mike on Twitter for further Blues or Central division hockey discussions, interview requests, or to provide content info.