LAS VEGAS — Blues forward Brandon Saad will be unavailable for Saturday’s home opener against the Los Angeles Kings due to NHL COVID protocols.
The Blues have a fully-vaccinated team, according to general manager Doug Armstrong. Fully-vaccinated players who test positive and are asymptomatic must pass at least two consecutive COVID tests before they are allowed to return to action.
Saad scored his first goal of the season in Wednesday’s 3-1 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights. The team returned from Las Vegas and its season-long 11-day road trip Thursday afternoon.
Fully-vaccinated players are tested every 72 hours per league protocols.
Saad’s absence Saturday means both of the Blues’ big-ticket offseason acquisitions will be out of the lineup against the Kings.
Forward Pavel Buchnevich will serve the second game of a two-game suspension for head-butting Arizona’s Lawson Crouse in Monday’s 7-4 victory over the Coyotes.
The Blues had a lot of impressive performances in Wednesday’s 3-1 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena.
Goaltender Jordan Binnington stopped 42 of 43 shots sent his way by the Knights.
Vladimir Tarasenko was all over the ice, and scored the game-winning goal.
And there was Saad with his first goal as a Blue.
But it was hard to miss the work of veteran defenseman Marco Scandella. If Binnington was an eraser, Scandella was a neutralizer. He broke up play after play with an active stick. It seemed like every time there was a 50-50 puck in the corners and along the boards, Scandella came out with the puck or got it to a teammate.
In the past, speedier opponents have been able to occasionally beat Scandella wide. But this wasn’t one of those nights. Binnington certainly noticed.
“Scandella had a great game,” Binnington said. “Some key plays, key moments, where he came up big and shut ‘em down. Blocking shots, physical, communicating.”
In 20 minutes 51 seconds of ice time, Scandella had four hits, one takeaway, one blocked shot and was plus-2. A core player on the penalty kill, Scandella also helped the Blues kill both Vegas power plays.
“He was aggressive,” coach Craig Berube said. “Scandy had a great stick all night. Was physical. He’s a real good player when he plays like that. The more physical he can play and use his reach, and his skating ability, he’s tough to play against.
“He’s a big guy that can break a lot of plays up and I thought he did a really good job of that.”
Judging by the results at Colorado, Arizona and Vegas, the 4 ½-day bonding trip to Vail, Colo., has to rate as a success.
“Team was together, just having a good time,” Tarasenko said. “Spend some time with the guys, some fun.
“It’s always nice to have some time off before season. We skate there a few times, but we had a hard camp, so it was nice to go there and prepare for games.”
The Blues played like a tight-knit group, supporting each other in terms of positioning, and doing the same when there was a scrum. Brayden Schenn stood up for Justin Faulk by fighting Nazem Kadri in the opener.
Who knows if this feeling of togetherness will have staying power. But for now, it helped them win three road games to open a season for the first time in franchise history.
“I think we were fortunate to get a few days before we had our first game,” defenseman Jake Walman said. “I think it was good for the guys, especially with the new guys coming in, getting to know each other.
“We had a lot of fun on that trip, worked hard and we were all ready for that first Colorado game.”
As well as the second and third games of the trip.
In a throwback to the COVID-condensed schedule of last season, the Blues will play the Los Angeles Kings twice over a three-day period at Enterprise Center (Saturday and Monday). Then Colorado comes to town on Thursday, Oct. 28.
After playing Colorado, Arizona and Vegas on this trip, it’s as if the Blues were in last year’s Pacific Division, when they played the Avalanche, Coyotes, Golden Knights, Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Minnesota Wild and San Jose Sharks over and over. Eight times apiece.
The Blues won’t break out of that rut until Oct. 30, when the Chicago Blackhawks come to town to end a four-game homestand. The Blues won’t see their first Eastern Conference foe until Nov. 13, when they visit the Carolina Hurricanes.
All of which is of absolutely no interest to Berube.
“I really don’t look too far ahead,” Berube said. “I just focus on the game at hand. We started out here, we started on the road, which is fine by us. We got to get away for a bit with the team (in Vail), which is a good thing. And that’s really how I’m looking at it all.”