The St. Louis Blues practiced on Sunday, Dec. 26 as they get set to hopefully return to the ice on Dec. 29 against the Edmonton Oilers. The NHL’s COVID situation remains fluid, but the league must get back to games before it becomes a season-ending situation.
The Blues look to continue their steady pace, and hopefully with a healthier team when they return to the ice. They remain second in their division with a 17-9-5 record and 39 total points.
Game with Devils Postponed
The Blues were originally set to come back on Dec. 27 against the Devils, but that won’t happen as the NHL decided to postpone another day of games and return on Dec. 28 instead. This game and the other postponed games for the Blues are likely to be rescheduled in the Olympic break with no NHL players going to Beijing.
So as I mentioned earlier, the earliest the Blues will return is Dec. 29 with the Oilers. If it happens, it will be their final tune-up before the Winter Classic showdown with the Minnesota Wild from Target Field.
Four Players Added to COVID Protocol List
Oskar Sundqvist was already on the COVID protocol list, and four more players were added to it, totaling five players to this point. The four added today were forwards Ivan Barbashev, James Neal, Dakota Joshua, and a defenseman in Robert Bortuzzo. Barbashev tested positive on Dec. 23, while the other three had positive tests on Dec. 26.
As for Sundqvist, he has been on the list since Dec. 18, and there is a chance that he could return if the Blues play the Oilers in their potential return. Despite not having any symptoms, players still need to adhere to the 10-day quarantine requirements, meaning they will miss a minimum of 10 days. The NHL has to take a long look at these protocols and make adjustments if they want to keep this season going.
Neal hasn’t played in a while after an injury that sidelined him, but this is brutal for Barbashev, Joshua, and Bortuzzo who have been mainstays in the Blues lineup. This comes in the middle of a breakout season for Barbashev, he has 25 points in 31 games, and hopefully this doesn’t uproot his season. The good news is that COVID roster relief is finally coming to the NHL, which is better late than never for the Blues, so they can now replace these COVID list players in a far easier fashion.
Winter Classic Updates
As of right now, the Winter Classic is still on in Minnesota, it will the first one for the Blues since the hometown 2017 showdown with the Chicago Blackhawks. For the Wild, they don’t have any players on the COVID list, which is a good sign that this game has a great chance to happen. They already pushed it back a year, as it was supposed to happen at the beginning of 2021, I don’t see them doing it again.
While there are no COVID list players for the Wild, they’ll be without two of their best players in the Winter Classic, forward Joel Eriksson Ek and defenseman Jared Spurgeon. For the Blues, they are expected to be healthier coming out of this mini-pause. Players like Jordan Kyrou, Robert Thomas, and David Perron were close to returning prior to the holidays, it’s a safe bet that at least one of them returns for the big game.
This event is a big revenue source for all parties, so it’ll more than likely happen. It’s unfortunate that some of the main players on both rosters won’t play, but it will remain as one of the greatest spectacles in sports.
Possible Trade Target in Arizona
There is buzz around the league that the Arizona Coyotes are listening to offers on young defenseman Jakob Chychrun. The Blues could use another big-time player on the blueline, that is their biggest need. They should absolutely make a call, but it is much more complicated than that, as most trades are.
Chychrun is only 23 years old and has already logged over 300 games in the league. The Coyotes are going nowhere fast and they are likely looking to make this deal and get a premium price. It’s hard to sell that at that premium price with the way he has played this season, but his track record speaks for itself.
He is a great young defenseman who is stuck on a bad team, he is the classic case of being better with a change of scenery. He had 41 points in 56 games last season and finished 10th in Norris Trophy voting, and the Coyotes weren’t good last season either.
As for the Blues in this situation, I would be comfortable with them moving two or three prospects and a first-round pick, but I don’t think they would be. Maybe general manager Doug Armstrong can work with his old pal and Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong on this deal. Before you look it up, I can confirm that although they worked together for years in St. Louis, they aren’t related. The most likely scenario is that a desperate team overpays in a deal to get Chychrun, and it won’t be the Blues.
The Week Ahead
- Wednesday: vs. Edmonton Oilers, 7:30 PM
- Saturday: at Minnesota Wild, 6 PM (Winter Classic)
The Blues will play two games at the most this week, and it may only be one. Even though the Winter Classic isn’t a standalone game this time around, it will be an under-the-lights matchup on TNT, a new partner for the league in the U.S. Let’s hope the Blues don’t come out flat and continue to play well through adversity. Happy New Year, everybody.
I have been covering sports for nearly a decade. I started with FanSided as a Baseball Contributor. Now I am writing about the NHL and the St. Louis Blues for The Hockey Writers. I grew up in Central Illinois as a huge fan of every sport. Finally, I do various podcasting across all major platforms.