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St. Louis Blues head coach Craig Berube, top, yells instructions to his team as they play against the Detroit Red Wings in the first period of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Jose Juarez)

When he took over for Mike Yeo a year ago, Craig Berube didn’t tinker with the lineup much as coach of the Blues. And the players, who in general prefer continuity whenever possible, appreciated it.

But this year, look at what’s going on with the defense. It has been a carousel. When Vince Dunn opened with Alex Pietrangelo, and Carl Gunnarsson was paired with Justin Faulk on Tuesday against Arizona, it made 11 different pairings in 19 contests to open a game.

Last season, Berube used 11 different pairings in 63 regular-season games after taking over for Yeo.

You need a scorecard to keep track. No, check that. Not even a scorecard will help, because the Blues are changing ‘D’ pairings period to period, sometimes almost shift to shift this season.

Is this just a season where that’s the case? Or will Berube settle into a defensive lineup?

“We’ll see,” Berube said. “It’s been a lot of movement there.”

Then he added with a laugh: “I really can’t answer that question. We’re going to keep experimenting.”

The most stable pairing has been Jay Bouwmeester-Colton Parayko, which became the Blues’ shutdown duo down the stretch last season and throughout the playoffs. They’ve been together on 12 occasions to start a game this season, more often than any other pairing for the Blues. Next comes Dunn-Faulk at 10 games.

No other Blues pairing has been together for more than half of the Blues’ 19 games this season, although Gunnarsson-Pietrangelo come close at nine games.

So there’s been a lot of changing on the blueline.

“It’s more than most years right now,” Pietrangelo said. “But we’ll find what works. We’re mixing and matching (in-game) every single night, too. We’ve all played with each other, so we’ll be all right.”

The last part of that Pietrangelo remark is a reference to the year-to-year continuity of the Blues’ defensive corps. Parayko and Robert Bortuzzo are both in their fifth full season with the club. It’s six seasons for Gunnarsson, seven for Bouwmeester, and 10 full seasons for Pietrangelo.

So at one time or another, everybody has spent at least a little time on the ice with everybody.

That’s not quite as true for Dunn, who’s in his third season with the team and at age 23 — as of Oct. 29 — has 172 games of NHL regular-season experience.

“I don’t feel uncomfortable playing with anyone on this team, but I’ve never really had a solidified partner since I’ve been here,” Dunn said recently. “I just got to worry about my game and bring that every night, and whoever’s on the other side is more than capable of handling himself.”

Dunn played the most with Bortuzzo last season (32 games), although he was paired with Pietrangelo down the stretch of the regular season and early in the playoffs.

This season, besides those 10 games with Faulk, Dunn has been paired with Bortuzzo six times, Gunnarsson twice and Pietrangelo once. He’s had a few shifts with Parayko.

“It is what it is,” Dunn said. “I guess it’s just the coaches’ reads.”

It’s that and more.

“Getting guys their minutes and matchups are a big thing,” Berube said. “With those three righties, they’re good players and we need to get them out there. That’s a big part of it.”

Each member of the team’s big four on defense is averaging more than 20 minutes a game: Pietrangelo (23:58), Parayko (22:57), Bouwmeester (21:26) and Faulk (20:43). Getting them that time hasn’t always been easy, especially considering Pietrangelo, Parayko and Faulk are all righthanded players.

It has occasionally meant going with righty-righty combinations on pairings, which can be uncomfortable and/or awkward for whoever is playing on his off side. It has cost Bortuzzo, the fourth righthander among the team’s seven defensemen, some playing time. Bortuzzo has played pretty well this season, but he’s appeared in only seven games and has been a healthy scratch for the last seven games.

Even though he’s lefthanded, Dunn has also seen his ice time drop compared with his first two seasons in the league, in effect freeing up more ice time for Faulk. Dunn is averaging 15:55 per game this season, down about 1½ minutes over his first two seasons.

To help ease the adjustment to the frequently changing pairings, Berube has stressed the importance of playing the system and staying with the system no matter who’s your partner.

While some of the juggling undoubtedly is to get Faulk — a three-time all-star — his ice time, it has also made his transition to the Blues more challenging after eight seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes.

“As you play more, even if you’re not paired with those guys, you start to learn and see how guys play just by watching them and get a feel for them,” Faulk said, just before the Blues left for their recent four-game road trip.

“Obviously I’m trying to do that with 20, or 19 guys a night. So maybe it’s taking me a little longer than it is for guys to get used to just me. If you ask me, the difference from Day 1 to today, it’s much better.”

By “20, or 19 guys a night,” Faulk was also taking into account the forwards on the team as well as the goalies. As for the defensemen, Faulk has opened at least one game paired with four of the Blues’ six other D-men. That’s tied for the team “lead” with Dunn.

“If we’re winning hockey games, no one cares, right?” Faulk said. “You try and win hockey games. And however we’ve got to get to that, that end result is fine with the guys.”

And the Blues (12-3-4), with the second-best record in the NHL, are winning hockey games.

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