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St. Louis Blues take on Boston Bruins

Blues center Robert Thomas (right) beats Boston defenseman Torey Krug to the puck in the first period of a game on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019 at the Enterprise Center. (Colter Peterson, cpeterson@post-dispatch.com)

After missing five games with an upper-body injury, forward Robert Thomas will be back in the lineup for the Blues on Thursday night for their game with Vancouver.

Thomas will play on a line with Ivan Barbashev and Oskar Sundqvist, nominally the fourth line but in practice closer to a third line. Mackenzie MacEachern comes out.

"It's real nice to be back," said Thomas. "It obviously (stinks) sitting out. I'm really excited to get back in there tonight."

In the Blues' first game, which was Thomas' only game, he played on the third line with Tyler Bozak and Robby Fabbri. Alexander Steen played in that spot in the Islanders game on Monday.

Coach Craig Berube said there were two reasons for the move.

"I liked Bozak's line last game with Steen and Fabbri," he said. "So just kind of made that switch, wanted to leave those guys, I think Thommer, with Thommer, Sunny and Barby, it could be a good line. You've got Sunny and Barby who forecheck hard and are physical players but have the ability to put the puck in the net too. Playing with a kid like Robert Thomas who's going to get them the puck, transport it up the ice for them. That's why. For now."

Thomas was eager to get back in.

"It wasn't anything to do with last year's injury, so that was a positive," he said. "Taking it slow. It was taking it a little bit longer than we hoped, but you just have to make sure you're 100 percent before you come back. It's still early in the season."

It's a Carl Gunnarsson day on the blueline, with him paired with Alex Pietrangelo, which means Robert Bortuzzo is a healthy scratch.

Jordan Binnington will start in goal.

SCOUTING VANCOUVER

The Canucks are undefeated at home this season, winless on the road. 

"They've got two good lines there up front, a lot of skill," Berube said. "Good rush team. They do a good job off the rush with their entries and they like to have some defensemen that can get up the ice, like the (Quinn) Hughes kid. ... We've got to do a good job with our forecheck tonight and do a good job in the offensive zone of keeping the play in there and making good decisions with the puck and make them earn everything. We don't want to give them any freebies and when we don't have the puck, getting on top of people and slowing them down."

Coming off the team's long trip, Berube has been concerned about the team's energy levels going into the game.

"I think a lot of times you say that and the first period you do have energy and then it drops off," he said. "That can happen. We'll have to see in game. I felt yesterday, the energy was OK. It dropped off and then today, I feel our guys are pretty energetic today. Hopefully that carries over into the first period."

ON THE PLUS SIDE

Brayden Schenn has five goals this season, all at even strength, and is still a minus-4. Vladimir Tarasenko is minus-5 and Jaden Schwartz is minus-3.

"(Schenn's) line, they're doing some good things offensively, making plays," Berube said. "He's shooting the puck well, he's hitting the net, he's picking corners, his shot is good right now. He's scoring. On the flipside of things, they need to manage things better a little bit. I talked to them yesterday about their line in general and said you've got to be plus players, so that's what we're looking for."

LINEUPS

BLUES:

Forwards

Schwartz-Schenn-Tarasenko

Blais-O'Reilly-Perron

Fabbri-Bozak-Steen

Barbashev-Sundqvist-Thomas

Defensemen

Gunnarsson-Pietrangelo

Bouwmeester-Parayko

Dunn-Faulk

Goalie

Binnington


CANUCKS:

Forwards

J.T. Miller -- Elias Pettersson -- Brock Boeser

Tanner Pearson -- Bo Horvat -- Josh Leivo

Micheal Ferland -- Brandon Sutter -- Jake Virtanen

Tim Schaller -- Jay Beagle -- Tyler Motte

Defensemen

Alexander Edler -- Tyler Myers

Quinn Hughes -- Christopher Tanev

Jordie Benn -- Troy Stecher

Goalie

Thatcher Demko

Zane McIntyre

Scratched: Loui Eriksson, Jacob Markstrom, Adam Gaudette, Ashton Sautner, Oscar Fantenberg

Injured: Antoine Roussel (knee)