VANCOUVER, B.C. — Jake Allen is slowly gaining the weight back after being derailed by a virus that resulted in a loss of nearly 15 pounds. At the same time, he’s trying to get his rhythm back in his new role as the Blues’ No. 2 goalie — well, new at least at the start of a season.
“It’s definitely really a different situation for me,” Allen said following the Blues’ 4-3 overtime victory Saturday in Minnesota. “But I take the second half of last year, and obviously Binner (Jordan Binnington) played unbelievable and he’s carried that over to this year.
“It’s just trying daily to keep getting better. Finding a way to keep all the tools sharp. It’s been a couple weeks since my last start. There’s no excuses any more in this league. You gotta be ready to go. It’s not always gonna be pretty, but just finding ways to win games.”
Allen and the rest of the Blues accomplished that Saturday, finding a way to defeat the Wild after trailing 3-2 entering the third period. Playing in only his third game of the season, Allen stopped 20 of 23 shots to get victory No. 138 of his Blues career.
That moved him into sole possession of second place ahead of Curtis Joseph (137) on the Blues career wins list for goalies. Mike Liut, now a sports agent who represents Binnington among others, holds the franchise record with 151 wins.
“Guys are stepping up here,” Allen said. “We’re finding ways to win. . . . Even probably (the Columbus game) there were bits and pieces where Columbus took it to us. But we just stick with our game and find ways. Chip away at it and get some greasy goals. And if it takes overtime, it takes overtime.”
Allen missed a scheduled start Oct. 27 in Detroit because of his illness. And he lost a scheduled preseason start when the exhibition finale at Columbus was canceled because of mechanical issues with the team’s charter jet. So after appearing in only one of the Blues’ 26 playoff games last postsesason — in mopup duty after Binnington was pulled — it has been a battle to stay sharp.
“I actually felt pretty good (against Minnesota),” he said. “First and third period were pretty smooth. The second was a little bit chaotic I think for our group — the first 10 minutes there (in the second period) Minny took it to us I think pretty good.
“Obviously got those couple of goals. We calmed it down after that and played our game.”
A goal by the Wild’s Kevin Fiala just 61 seconds into the second period tied the game 2-2 and was one that Allen would like back. After a faceoff in the St. Louis zone, Fiala sent an innocent-looking shot from behind the left circle that somehow got by Allen through traffic.
“I was looking over the top of a bunch of people,” Allen said. “I think there were a few people laying on the ice in front of me and it went right underneath them.”
In Craig Berube’s mind, Allen met the only requirement needed for a successful game.
“He battled,” Berube said. “He got a win, so that’s what it’s all about. It doesn’t matter how. He got a win.”
The Blues play another set of back-to-back games this week, at Vancouver on Tuesday and at Edmonton on Wednesday, so Allen probably gets another start against the Oilers.
“You need both goalies all year,” Berube said. “We know that. Same as last year. You gotta use both guys. I’m just happy for (Allen); he got the win.”
In practice Monday afternoon at Rogers Arena, Robert Thomas and Sammy Blais switched places. (As they did for part of the third period Saturday in Minnesota.)
Thomas was on the Blues’ top line with Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn on Monday; Blais was on the third line with Alexander Steen and Tyler Bozak.
“I thought 18 (Thomas) added a little juice to that line,” Berube said. “He was on top of the puck. The Bozak line with Blaiser and Steener, they got a big goal for us.
"We’ll see how it goes tomorrow. I’m not sold on anything yet. Like I said, it could be an ongoing (thing), just finding things, moving guys around.”
Blais scored a third period goal against the Wild, tying the game 3-3, while playing on the Bozak line.
The Blues skated with 22 players in practice Monday, which comprises their full roster since Vladimir Tarasenko’s shoulder surgery. It was anticipated, maybe even expected, that there would be a player called up from San Antonio to join the Blues in Vancouver. But that was not the case in practice Monday.
When asked if there was a player en route Monday, Berube said: “Not that I know of. I don’t know. We’re just waiting to see what happens right now.”
Such a decision would ultimately be up to general manager Doug Armstrong. But with one extra forward (Robby Fabbri) and one extra defenseman (Robert Bortuzzo) on the roster, the Blues may not bring up a player for this trip.
“We got one and one, so we’re fine,” Berube said. “Extra at forward, extra ‘D’ right now. So we’ll be OK.”
Things went well for Jordan Kyrou in his long-awaited season debut for San Antonio. In his first game since kneecap surgery last spring, Kyrou had two assists in Saturday’s 8-2 Rampage victory over the Texas Stars in the American Hockey League.
“I thought he looked really good,” Rampage coach Drew Bannister told reporters afterwards. “Obviously we’ve been real patient with him, making sure he was 100 percent. It’s not only the injury — you want to make sure mentally they’re 100 percent, and that’s why we took our time with him.”
The eight goals were the most ever scored by San Antonio (6-2-3) against the rival Stars.
“You add a player like Jordan Kyrou, who can make real good plays and he adds an element of speed to our team, I think it made our team a little bit deeper,” Bannister said.
Kyrou was in training camp with the Blues this preseason, although he spent most of his time skating alone as he completed the rehab/recovery from surgery.
“Obviously it feels great to be back,” Kyrou told reporters in San Antonio. “I’ve been out for a while, so getting back out there and being with the boys and being on the ice was really fun. I just want to continue to get better. I was working my knee back into getting hit and stuff, so I just want to continue with that and continue to build.”
Last year at this time, Nikita Soshnikov was on the Blues’ roster. After being sidelined by a concussion during summer training, he made his 2018-19 debut Nov. 9 against San Jose, and was plus-1 in a 4-0 Blues victory. (If that seems like a long time ago, Chad Johnson was in goal for St. Louis that day.)
Soshnikov is playing in the Kontinental Hockey League these days, and flourishing. Playing for Salavat Yulaev, he had two goals in Sunday’s 9-1 romp over Dinamo Minsk. For the season, he leads the KHL with 14 goals in 25 games. He also has six assists and is tied for eighth in the league in points with 20.
Berube leaned heavily on his core group of forwards in Saturday’s game against Minnesota, even though it was the back end of a back-to-back.
Schwartz (22:08) and Schenn (20:27) logged season highs for ice time. Ryan O’Reilly’s 21:28 was his third-highest total of the season, and David Perron’s 19:23 tied for his third-highest total.
• Carl Gunnarsson and Mackenzie MacEachern scored their first goals of the season against Minnesota, leaving the Blues with six players who remain goal-less: forwards Ivan Barbashev, Bozak and Steen, and defensemen Bortuzzo, Justin Faulk and Colton Parayko.
• The Blues had easily their worst faceoff night of the season against the Wild, winning only 39 percent of their faceoffs (23 of 59). Even so, they remain the NHL’s fourth-best faceoff team for the season with a 52.7 percent success rate.