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Blues aim to extend home hot streak vs. slumping Kraken

Sportsnaut
Oct 20, 2021; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; St. Louis Blues left wing James Neal (81) before the start of a game against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 20, 2021; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; St. Louis Blues left wing James Neal (81) before the start of a game against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The short-handed St. Louis Blues will put their 12-game home point streak on the line against the visiting Seattle Kraken on Thursday.

The Blues, who are 11-0-1 during their streak at Enterprise Center, expect to play without forwards Vladimir Tarasenko, David Perron and Brayden Schenn as well as defensemen Colton Parayko and Scott Perunovich. All five players are sidelined in COVID-19 protocol.

Tarasenko (34 points in 34 games) and Perron (20 points in 25 games) are among the Blues’ top offensive weapons while Parayko leads the team in average playing time.

“It’s tough,” St. Louis coach Craig Berube said. “Some real good players are obviously out right now. The next guy has to step in and do the job and we’ve just got to rely on our depth that we have in the organization and that’s what we have to do.”

Among the players stepping in will be veteran winger James Neal, who last played on Nov. 22. He spent time on long-term injured reserve and in COVID protocol before clearing waivers and landing on the taxi squad.

Forward Nathan Walker and defenseman Calle Rosen are back from the American Hockey League to fill in.

“It’s just one of those things we have to deal with,” Blues forward Tyler Bozak said. “Every team is dealing with it. Seems like it kind of comes in waves. It’s inevitable that once you get one (COVID infection), there’s going to be some others that follow with just how much time we spend together and the close proximity we’re in.

“We have done a good job dealing with it so far, and we’ve got some big shoes to fill here.”

The Kraken will face the Blues after taking a 5-2 road loss to the Dallas Stars on Wednesday night, their seventh straight defeat (0-6-1) and their 10th setback in the past 11 games (1-8-2).

The Kraken have not won a game since Dec. 14. They have allowed two goals or fewer just eight times in 35 games this season.

“Enough is enough here,” Kraken center Jared McCann said. “We have to play a full 60 minutes. Everybody is pretty frustrated.”

Since Dec. 18, the Kraken have played just five games and had seven postponed due to the pandemic. Such inactivity has made it difficult for an expansion team to build its game.

“There’s no consolation prize in playing well or having little pieces of your game feel good,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said. “It’s about winning hockey games. We haven’t played a lot of hockey in the last 10 days.”

However, Hakstol added, “That really doesn’t matter.”

McCann has been a bright spot for the Kraken, scoring three goals and adding three assists in his past four games. He logged a goal and an assist at Dallas.

After playing Philipp Grubauer in goal Wednesday, the Kraken are likely to start Chris Driedger (3-4-0, 3.49 goal-against average) at St. Louis.

Forward Morgan Geekie is questionable for the game after sitting out against the Stars with an upper-body injury. Max McCormick moved up from the taxi squad to take his place in the lineup.

–Field Level Media