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Walman back in the lineup, but no Tarasenko or Perunovich for first Seattle meeting

St. Louis Blues V Colorado Avalanche

St. Louis Blues defenseman Jake Walman (46) and Colorado Avalanche right wing Logan O'Connor (25) chase the puck during first period action of a hockey game between the St. Louis Blues and the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, at Enterprise Center. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

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Sports columnists Jeff Gordon and Ben Frederickson recall Seattle's whiff on Tarasenko and ponder the future of the forward as the Blues need defensive help before the trade deadline

Two players who haven’t seen a lot of ice time lately, forward James Neal and defenseman Jake Walman, will be in the lineup for the Blues tonight for their first-ever meeting against the Seattle Kraken at Enterprise Center.

Vladimir Tarasenko and Scott Perunovich, two players eligible to come out of COVID restrictions, were not on the ice for the morning skate and won’t be in the lineup.

Walman, who went into the protocols at the same time as Tarasenko and Perunovich, skated Wednesday and was ready to go tonight. That means that Calle Rosen, who was called up to the taxi squad earlier this week in case, won’t be needed.

But Neal, also on the taxi squad, will be called up as an emergency exception since the Blues only have 10 healthy forwards otherwise. Nathan Walker also moves up from the taxi squad for the game.

Neal was last in a game with the Blues on Nov. 22. Walman has played just once since Dec. 7, and that was on Dec. 29 when he played just 4:34 as a forward when the Blues roster was at its most depleted. He’s played just four games since Nov. 14, and in three of those games, he has played 6:08 or less.

“He’s got to keep it simple,” Blues coach Craig Berube said of Walman. “Use his feet, that’s one of his biggest assets. Just be simple, move the puck to the open person and activate and do that things he’s good at. Defend with his feet and have a good stick out there. Eep the game simple. He hasn’t played in a while, so it’s going to be important to keep it simple.”

Much the same goes for Neal.

“This guys played a lot of games in the league,” Berube said. “He knows how to play the game, he has the ability to score goals around the net. That’s where he’s made his living. It’s not like I’ve got to go tell him what he needs to do. He’s worked hard, stayed in good shape and he’s been good at doing that and that’s important. He’s going to have a lot of energy out there. He plays with energy. Just do what he does, get in the offensive zone and control pucks and go to the net. Hopefully he can score a goal for us tonight.”

Ville Husso will start in goal. It will be just his second start since he got hurt on Dec. 7. He stopped 26 of 27 shots he faced in his other start since then, on Friday against Washington. Husso is 10th in the league among eligible goalies with a 2.28 goals-against average and sixth in save percentage at .931.

The Blues had an optional morning skate, but with no one coming back into the lineup other than Walman, the lines shown yesterday should stand:

Forwards

Barbashev-O’Reilly-Buchnevich

Saad-Thomas-Kyrou

Brown-Sundqvist-Neal

Walker-Bozak-Kostin

Defensemen

Mikkola-Faulk

Scandella-Krug

Walman-Bortuzzo

Goalie

Husso

Meet the Kraken

This will be the first meeting between the Blues and the expansion Kraken, who played last night in Dallas and lost 5-2. Seattle comes into the game 29th in the NHL in points.

"I think they play with good structure, system-wise," Berube said. "Their shots against are down in the league, they do a good job in defending. I think that's their mindset. Overall, they're a hard-working team, the way they drafted, they took hard workers and competitive people so they're going to compete and work and we have to be ready to compete and work against them for sure. They played last night, so we have to be on our toes. I think the first period is a key, trying to jump all over them and being an aggressive team here tonight."

Former Blues defenseman Vince Dunn will return to St. Louis tonight, but forward Jaden Schwartz, who signed with Seattle as a free agent, is out with an injury.

"I'm excited to be back," Dunn said. "There's a lot of mixed emotions right now. I have a good relationship with my teammates and all the staff that are still there. It will be exciting to play against them. Just looking forward to the drop of the puck and getting the game started."

Did he think he'll be booed? "I hope not," he said. "It's definitely a weird circumstance the way I left. But that's just the nature of the league right now."

Seattle's projected lineup tonight:

Forwards

Marcus Johansson -- Jared McCann -- Jordan Eberle

Calle Jarnkrok -- Yanni Gourde -- Colin Blackwell

Mason Appleton -- Alex Wennberg -- Ryan Donato

Max McCormick -- Riley Sheahan -- Joonas Donskoi

Defensemen

Mark Giordano -- Jamie Oleksiak

Vince Dunn -- Adam Larsson

Will Borgen -- Carson Soucy

Goalie

Chris Driedger

Philipp Grubauer

Scratched: Jeremy Lauzon, Haydn Fleury

Injured: Jaden Schwartz (hand), Morgan Geekie (upper body)

Coming soon

The selections for the NHL All-Star Game will be announced on ESPN during the 5 p.m. SportsCenter. Each team will send at least one.

Also coming up tonight will be the announcement of the U.S. men's Olympic hockey team at 4 p.m. on ESPN2. 

Coming further away is the 2023 U.S. sled hockey national championships, which will be held at Centene Community Ice Center in Maryland Heights from March 3 to April 2, 2023.

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