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Game day: Injury-depleted Blues face tough task against talented … – St. Louis Post-Dispatch

NHL: St. Louis Blues host Toronto Maple Leafs

St. Louis Blues forward Jordan Kyrou (25) and Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman TJ Brodie (78) battle for the puck during a game Dec. 27, 2022, at Enterprise Center in St. Louis. The Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the St. Louis Blues 5-4. Photo by Christine Tannous, ctannous@post-dispatch.com

TORONTO – The Blues haven’t lost to the Maple Leafs in Toronto in seven years – a 4-1 loss on Jan. 16, 2016 to be exact. And they’re 14-1-1 here in their last 16 visits

But with a depleted lineup that will be missing Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko, among others, they will be hard-pressed to keep that streak alive in Tuesday’s 6 p.m. (Central) contest at Scotiabank Arena.

Toronto, which defeated the Blues 5-4 in overtime last week in St. Louis, has a 23-8-6 record. The Maple Leafs’ 52 points is tied for the fourth-best total in the NHL. To put that in perspective, the Leafs have lost eight games all season. The Blues lost eight games (in a row) over 16 days from Oct. 24 through Nov. 8.

“We gotta go out and check tonight and be solid defensively for sure,” coach Craig Berube said. “We’re gonna have to outwork ‘em, or match their work ethic for sure and be solid there. That gives us a good chance. And second, it’s just play a simple game. Manage the puck, manage the game.

“Again, I’ll talk about (Auston) Matthews, (Mitchell) Marner, (John) Tavares, (William) Nylander – they got a bunch of guys. If you want to give ‘em odd-man rushes and give ‘em free up-ice plays, they’re gonna be dangerous. We gotta do a good job of being above things and check.”

Marner, Matthews and Nylander share Toronto’s team scoring lead with 42 points apiece. Nylander, who scored the game-winner in the Dec. 27 OT win over the Blues, has a team-high 21 goals.

“They’re a good team,” Berube said. “They’re a good team offensively that has played well defensively this year.”

Despite all that high-end talent on offense, the Maple Leafs have been even better defensively, tied for second in the league with an average of just 2.54 goals allowed per game.

Ilya Samsonov, who allowed four goals against the Blues last week, is in goal again Tuesday for Toronto. He is 9-0-0 at home this season, with a 1.50 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage. If he beats the Blues tonight he will set a franchise record for consecutive wins to start a season.

Rosen on fire

Defenseman Calle Rosen is just the 12th defensemen in Blues history to a score a goal in three consecutive games. The most recent had been Justin Faulk, who scored in three straight games April 6-9 last season.

With a goal tonight, Rosen will join Alex Pietrangelo (in the 2013-14 season), Brian Benning (1986-87 season) and Larry Sacharuk (1974-75 season) as the only Blues’ D-men to score goals in four consecutive games.

“I can’t say too much about that,” Rosen said. “Obviously it’s nice to score goals, but it’s nothing I really think about. We have to go out there and play a really good team game out there today and do what we can to get the points.”

Rosen began his career with the Maple Leafs, he was signed as an undrafted player in 2017, but played only 12 game for Toronto over three seasons. But he still knows a lot of the current Maple Leafs and had dinner with some of them on Monday.

“We had a little Swedish dinner last night,” Rosen said. “It was fun to see ‘em.”

Parayko on the flank

Berube’s power play options at forward are limited, what with O’Reilly, Tarasenko and Logan Brown all out with injuries. So maybe it shouldn’t have been surprising to see defenseman Colton Parayko playing on the left flank – or wing – on the second power play unit during Tuesday’s morning skate.

Berube had the most basic of advice for Parayko in his new duties.

“Shoot it,” Berube said. “He’s played there before with us. He’s got a good shot and he’s gotta use it. Over the years I’ve been here I’ve used him on and off there.”

Apparently Parayko has gotten the message. When asked if he knew what to do on the flank, Parayko replied: “I think just shoot the puck. Try to find some guys open. So I’m gonna try to get pucks toward the net, try to make it tough on the defenders, it’ll be good.”

With Parayko on the flank, that means that Nick Leddy will be running the point on the second unit. With Torey Krug out injured, Justin Faulk has moved up to the first unit.

Next up could be Rosen, who played on the power play for the Springfield Thunderbirds last year in the AHL.

“You never know,” Rosen said. “I’m just focusing on playing good hockey right now, and if that’s 5-on-5 or penalty kill or power play, it doesn’t really matter.”

31 years ago

On Jan. 2, 1992, Toronto forward Craig Berube was traded to the Calgary Flames, part of a massive 11-player deal that brought Doug Gilmour to the Maple Leafs.

“I know I left the rink here, we practiced,” Berube recalled. “I was out somewhere in Toronto. I think the guy that told me was (teammate) Mike Bullard, ‘cause ‘Bully’ and I were kind of hanging out quite a bit together – riding together and stuff like that. He ended up finding me and told me I got traded. I thought he was full of it.”

He wasn’t.

Blues’ projected lineup

Forwards

Buchnevich-Thomas-Kyrou

Saad-Schenn-Barbashev

Neighbours-Acciari-Leivo

Toropchenko-Alexandrov-Pitlick

Defensemen

Mikkola-Parayko

Leddy-Faulk

Rosen-Bortuzzo

Goalie

Binnington

Blues’ projected power play

PP1: Faulk-Thomas-Kyrou-Buchnevich-Schenn

PP2: Leddy-Parayko –Barbashev-Leivo-Saad

Blue notes

• Called up from Springfield, Mass., Nikita Alexandrov joined the team in Toronto on Monday night and is going right into the lineup. He will center the fourth line against the Maple Leafs.

• Pavel Buchnevich is one shy of 300 career points; Robert Thomas is three shy of 200 career points.

• Jordan Binnington’s next victory will be the 104th of his NHL career, tying him with Brian Elliott for fifth on the Blues’ career list.

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