By custom, Craig Berube doesn’t like to change lines. But when the Blues’ coach sees things going stale, he doesn’t hesitate. So with the Blues in the midst of their fourth consecutive winless game Saturday afternoon against Montreal, he mixed things up as the game wound down.
Those changes carried over to Monday’s game with the Colorado Avalanche, with changes on three of the four forward lines. The only line that remained unchanged was the Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko line.
Perhaps most notable was the makeup of the third line, which has been the team’s least productive trio this season with only one goal and four assists among its various members entering the Colorado contest.
Against the Avalanche the third line consisted of Sammy Blais on left wing, Tyler Bozak at center and Robert Thomas on right wing.
“Obviously me and ‘Bozy’ played a lot together last year,” Thomas said. “ ‘Blaiser’ is big, fast, physical, got a lot of skill. Can make a lot of plays. He was just playing with the (Ryan) O’Reilly line, and they did well at the start.”
Thomas did his best work on the third line last year, appearing with Bozak and the now-departed Pat Maroon in 27 regular-season games. But he doesn’t have as much familiarity with Blais.
“He might be one of the guys that I haven’t played with actually,” Thomas said. “Maybe like one or two games.”
Thomas’ memory is pretty good. He centered a fourth line with Blais and Ivan Barbashev the first three games of the 2018-19 regular season. Then on Nov. 19 — Mike Yeo’s last game as Blues coach — Thomas centered a line that included Nikita Soshnikov on left wing and Blais on right.
(Soshnikov is now playing in the Kontinental Hockey League.)
But those four games were it for Thomas and Blais last season.
If the Blais-Bozak-Thomas line has any staying power, puck possession should be a strength.
“ ‘Thommer’s’ good with the puck; Bozy’s really good, too,” Blais said. “Three smart players, and I’m really excited to play with these guys.”
Blais spent the first eight games of the season on a line with O’Reilly and David Perron. But that line went pointless for two games during the four-game winless streak — O’Reilly didn’t have a point over all four games.
“I think we were still playing pretty good, but maybe it’s time for some change,” Blais said.
For Thomas, Monday marked only his fourth game of the season — he missed the first five games with an upper-body injury which Thomas said was not related to his offseason wrist surgery.
DEFENSIVE CHANGES, TOO
With Carl Gunnarsson out for the second consecutive game with a lower-body injury, Berube shook up his defensive pairings as well.
Colton Parayko was paired with captain Alex Pietrangelo for the second game in a row in an all-righthanded tandem. But Justin Faulk opened a game with Jay Bouwmeester for the first time this season. And after four consecutive games with Faulk, Vince Dunn was back with familiar third pairing teammate Robert Bortuzzo.
The NHL Network is carrying 20 live broadcasts of American Hockey League action this season — 18 regular-season games and two nights of telecasts related to the AHL All-Star game. The Blues’ AHL affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage, is on TV just once — Sunday, Dec. 8 against the Toronto Marlies in a 3 p.m. (Central) start.
• Healthy scratches Monday for the Blues were forwards Robby Fabbri and Zach Sanford. It was the first time Fabbri has been scratched this season. With Fabbri out, Mackenzie MacEachern saw action in only his second game of the season.
• The Blues close out a four-game homestand Thursday against the Los Angeles Kings, then hit the road for their first back-to-back games of the season — Saturday at Boston and Sunday at Detroit.