After a light night of work on Thursday in St. Paul, Jordan Binnington will be in goal for the Blues on the second night in a row when they face Anaheim at Enterprise Center on Friday.
Binnington faced only 11 shots on goal from the Wild, though the Blues lost 2-0.
"That's part of it," coach Craig Berube said prior to the game. "It's a big game so we're going to go with our top guy."
This will be the first time this season Binnington has played games on consecutive days. Binnington played in back-to-backs once last season, losing to Boston 3-0 and then beating Detroit 5-4 the next day.
Berube also said that Tyler Bozak, who has missed the past three games, could be back in the lineup. Colton Parayko won't, but he's getting close.
"He is making progress," Berube said. "He skated again today. He's feeling better. I'm not sure the return on him, that's up in the air still so we're going day by day with him right now."
The Blues will be at home Friday night to play Anaheim, and things will be different, including they will be playing on a new ice surface after the old one, the one they lost five straight games on, came out when the building hosted the NCAA wrestling championships.
It will be their first game at Enterprise Center since the death of Bobby Plager on Wednesday (the city's medical examiner says Plager likely had a cardiac episode while driving), which will likely turn the game into a communal gathering for the 4,000-plus fans who will be on hand as attendance for games continues to be expanded. The team will wear their light blue jerseys, all with the name Plager and the number 5 on the back for pregame warmups. The team's game uniforms now have a 5 in a heart on the right chest.
Though the Blues have won only two of their past nine games (one of them in the lottery that is the shootout), there some good signs in their 2-0 loss to Minnesota on Thursday. They controlled the puck more than they had in recent games and generated a lot of shots, though maybe not enough good ones. They ran into a hot goalie and paid the price. So the feeling was, if the Blues played like they did against Minnesota more, the breaks will, with time, go their way and they’ll start winning again.
“If we play hockey like we did tonight and get that work ethic, that commitment tonight, we’re gonna win a lot of games,” coach Craig Berube said after the game.
“The key is just taking one game at a time,” captain Ryan O’Reilly said. “Yeah, we’re upset, disappointed with our road trip, but we don’t have time to dwell on it. We have to get right back to work tomorrow and keep plugging away. It’s going to be a tough game coming off a back to back but it’s two points we need.”
Center Brayden Schenn pointed to limiting turnovers and improved defense as keys, something he felt the team did last night when it held Minnesota to just 11 shots on goal, though two turnovers in the Blues offensive zone led to Minnesota's goals.
"How do we dig out of it?" Schenn said. "It’s not going to be easy. Points are being taken in our division each night, we know that teams are on our tail, we’re in a dogfight to the end and we’re going to have a lot of good hockey left, so we expect to play a solid game tomorrow night and as a group we have to expect to win."
Scoring is an issue. The Blues have scored one goal or less in five of their past six games.
"Finishing," Berube said. "When I look at the chances last night in the game, we had plenty of shots, I still think we're a little bit on the outside at times and I know that every play is different and sometimes you can't get to the net on plays, but I think some of our shot quality, we made the goalie look good, we made him look better than he was in the game, in my opinion. We had real good opportunities to maybe shoot the puck better, we didn't. But that happens throughout the year at times and it was one of those games in my opinion. Plenty of opportunities, I thought the guys did a good job of getting attempts at the net and getting shots on goal. I liked our work ethic, I liked a lot of stuff in our game, but we do have to finish better."
Still waiting on Utica
The Blues temporary AHL affiliate in Utica had its weekend games postponed because of COVID protocols affecting the Utica team. Utica last played a game on March 10 and its next scheduled game is March 31, so at best, the team will go three weeks between games. The team has now had seven games postponed.
Making these games up won’t be a problem because they’ve all been against Syracuse or Rochester, both of which are a short drive from Utica, and there aren’t any fans anyway, so they can play these games whenever they want, but players like goalie Joel Hofer, who had been on the Blues taxi squad but was sent to Utica to get in actual games rather than just face shots in practice, hasn’t gotten in a game.