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Blues Game Day: Leddy, Bortuzzo good to go for Game 5

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Blues and Wild matchup

The Blues's Robert Bortuzzo is checked into the boards by Minnesota's Nick Bjugstad in the third period of a game at Enterprise Center in downtown St. Louis on Saturday, April 16, 2022. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com

ST. PAUL, Minn. _ Blueline reinforcements have arrived for Game 5 Tuesday night against the Minnesota Wild.

Defensemen Nick Leddy and Robert Bortuzzo both took part in the morning skate, and coach Craig Berube said they are good to go tonight against the Wild.

“They got two morning skates, and they felt pretty good so they're probably good to go,” Berube said. “They've got good experience back there. They're veteran guys that have played a lot of playoff games and have been around. It's important to have. Those guys have been good players for us. We missed them when they were out.”

Leddy was superb in Game 1, but sustained an upper-body injury in that game after getting crunched into the boards by Matt Boldy _ no penalty was called – in the first period. Leddy kept playing, but missed Games 2-4 in the first-round playoff series.

While sliding to the ice, Bortuzzo took a puck off the right side of his head in front of the St. Louis net in the first period of Game 2, left the game immediately and missed Games 3-4.

Leddy was paired with Colton Parayko and Bortuzzo was paired with Niko Mikkola during Tuesday’s morning skate at Xcel Energy Center.

“It's huge (having them back),” defenseman Justin Faulk said. “I think both have been big parts of our team to get us to where we are. They are two different types of players, but both equally needed in our group. Borts, obviously, just a great guy on the penalty kill, hold it down out there. Simple as it can get it -- and I mean that as a compliment in the most sincere way I could say it.

“And Leddy, he's just so calm, too. He's been in the same situations and what-not. So it's nice to have two more guys coming back healthy and helping us out.”

Two other injured defensemen, Torey Krug and Marco Scandella, did not participate in Tuesday's morning skate. Both are expected to be sidelined for a while.

Looks like 11-7

Berube said “we’ll see” see when asked if the Blues would go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen again. But all signs point to that use of personnel in Game 5.

For one, Scott Perunovich ran the No. 1 power play unit during the morning skate. For another, Perunovich looked good running the No. 1 unit in Sunday’s 5-2 victory. Especially for someone who hadn’t played since Feb. 26 for Springfield in the AHL and since Jan. 15 for the Blues.

“He's got really good ability,” Berube said. “He just has that in him. I told you before he's played in a lot of big games. He doesn't get fazed by too much. He's got a lot of composure.”

The Blues have had a lot of success this season when skating with fewer than 12 forwards. Including regular-season games, the Blues are 9-4-3 in such circumstances.

Center Robert Thomas said he was not aware of that strong won-loss record.

“We don’t really think about it too much,” Thomas said. “It might be just a coincidence or what-not. But yeah, I think it kind of keeps the flow going.”

With all the penalties being called so far in this series, that’s even more the case.

“The way they’ve kind of gone with a lot of special teams, it kind of disrupts the flow a little bit,” Thomas said. “So, a little bit of extra time kind of keeps everyone in the flow and keeps everyone moving along.”

Help wanted

The Blues have managed to win two of the first four games in this series despite having only four players score goals. That’s unusual for a team built around depth and balance. Berube is hoping for more contributors.

“Sure,” he said. “We always want guys to be able to score goals, but that's not the way it works all the time. Again, you've just got to play and you've got to stay with it.

“You can't get frustrated that you're not producing and you're not scoring. You want to get your looks and that's on the individual to get to the areas that you have to go to get your looks. But on the other side of things, you've got to play a 200-foot game no matter what. You've got to make sure you're checking well, you've got to do all the right things.”

David Perron (five goals), Jordan Kyrou (three), Ryan O’Reilly (three) and Vladimir Tarasenko (one) are the only Blues to score in the series.

Iron Men

Parayko's 30:37 of ice time Sunday against Minnesota was his second-highest total in 572 NHL regular-season and postseason games. He played 34:35 in Game 7 against Dallas in the Western Conference semifinals in 2019 - a double-overtime game you might remember.

Faulk's 31:10 of ice time Sunday against Minnesota was his third-highest total in 790 regular-season and postseason games. He played 35:00 on April 24, 2019 in a double-overtime playoff game for Carolina vs. Washington; and 31:48 on April 25, 2013 in a regular-season OT game against the New York Rangers.

So what does the body feel like the next day after logging 30-plus minutes in a playoff setting?

“It's fine,” Faulk said. “I mean, realistically, it's not that much different. It's tough, but I would say the next day is pretty similar.”

Goalie Jordan Binnington called them both “machines” after Game 4; Faulk doesn’t think he’s been called that before.

“I don’t think it’s thrown around too much,” Faulk said. “Parayko is a machine though.”

More playoffs

The Springfield Thunderbirds, the Blues’ affiliate in the American Hockey League, open their best-of-5 playoff series Wednesday against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Jake Neighbours scored the game-winning goal in overtime Monday night giving the Edmonton Oil Kings a 5-4 victory over Red Deer Rebels in Round 2 of the Western Hockey League playoffs. The Oil Kings are up three games to none in the best-of-7 series.

Zachary Bolduc scored twice Monday in a 6-3 victory for the Quebec Remparts over Chicoutimi in the opening round of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs. Quebec swept the best-of-5 series, three games to none.

Papa O’Reilly

O’Reilly’s wife Dayna gave birth to a baby girl late Sunday night. To squeeze out a little extra time with mother and child, O’Reilly didn’t accompany the Blues on their Monday afternoon flight to Minneapolis-St. Paul. Instead, he flew commercial on a 9:45 p.m. flight Monday – on a plane full of Blues fans and media members who cover the Blues.

The fans – and the media – left him alone for the most part. He sat in the emergency exit row – extra leg room.

Projected Blues lineup

Forwards

Schenn-O’Reilly-Perron

Buchnevich-Barbashev-Tarasenko

Saad-Thomas-Kyrou

Toropchenko-Bozak

Defensemen

Leddy-Parayko

Rosen-Faulk

Mikkola-Bortuzzo

Perunovich

Goalie

Binnington

Projected Wild lineup

Forwards

Kaprizov-Hartman-Zuccarello

Fiala-Gaudreau-Boldy

Greenway-Eriksson Ek-Foligno

Deslauriers-Jost-Duhaime

Defensemen

Middleton-Spurgeon

Brodin-Dumba

Merrill-Goligoski

Goalie

Fleury

Blue notes

• Just in time for Springfield’s playoff opener, forward Mackenzie MacEachern has been assigned to the Thunderbirds on a conditioning assignment. MacEachern hasn’t played since April 8, when he suffered an upper-body injury in a regular-season game against the Wild.

• The Blues have scored at least one power play goal in all four games in this series, and are operating at a 27.8 percent efficiency rate, which is almost identical to their regular-season rate (27.0 percent).

• The Blues’ penalty kill has held up well, also, killing 88.2 percent of the Wild power players (15-for-17) compared to a regular-season success rate of 84.1 percent.

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