By Patrick Kelly
It’s a new year, but for the St. Louis Blues still are experiencing the same problems from last year. Injuries continue to be a problem as the defensive side was affected a bit last week with Colton Parayko missing Saturday’s matinee in Vegas.
The Blues were off to a great start on Saturday, jumping ahead 3-0, but the Golden Knights were not done. They got some help from former Blues Ryan Reaves and Paul Stastny to get ahead 4-3 before former Golden Knight David Perron gave a nod to his former club to send the game to overtime. However, the Blues couldn’t finish it on 3-on-3 though and came home with just one point to show for three road games.
In all three games, the Blues seemed to suffer from a problem that has stuck with them for a while: the inability at times to get the puck out of their own zone. Both the Avalanche and Knights used this to their advantage for a quick turnaround and caught the Blues; goalies off-guard with a plethora of shots.
The Blues will get some relief on the defensive end when head coach Craig Berube said Monday that “(Carl) Gunnarsson looked good” and he could find his way into the lineup soon while still being unsure on the status of Parayko as he is listed as day-to-day. Gunnarsson, who has been out since December 12 with an upper body injury, has played in 17 games this year, getting a goal and three assists while averaging just under 15 minutes of ice time. Since Parayko went down, the Blues had been calling up players from the San Antonio Rampage. On Saturday, Jake Walman made his NHL debut for the Blues only to be sent down Monday with Niko Mikkola being called up to the main squad, set to make his NHL debut Tuesday against the Sharks.
After a week of traveling and playing the best teams in the west, the Blues have a reasonable schedule heading to the All-Star Game. Coming up is a five-game home stand all against teams currently out of a playoff spot before finishing the first stretch of the year in Colorado. With the Blues still a bit banged up these are five teams the Blues can’t take lightly, but who could help revitalize some confidence with some big wins.
These next two weeks don’t come without some challenges though. On Tuesday, the Blues face a familiar foe in the San Jose Sharks who are wrapping up a five-game road trip where they have so far gone 2-2 with wins over the Penguins and Blue Jackets while falling to the Red Wings and Capitals, despite leading Washington late in the game. Thursday, the Buffalo Sabres travel to St. Louis in a matchup that has gone Buffalo’s the last two times these teams played.