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Penguins face Blues in search of better reward

Mar 6, 2022; Newark, New Jersey, USA; St. Louis Blues left wing David Perron (57) controls the puck against New Jersey Devils during the first period at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Tom Horak-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Tom Horak-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Penguins would not mind a repeat of their previous effort. However it’s a better end result they desire on Thursday when they visit the St. Louis Blues.

The Penguins lost 4-1 at Nashville on Tuesday night despite outshooting the Predators 36-25.

“I really liked our energy,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “I loved our effort. I thought we played the game hard tonight. We didn’t end up on the right side of the score, but I think if we bring that effort, if we bring that commitment, we’re going to win a lot of games.”

Pittsburgh dictated much of the action against the Predators but struggled to solve Nashville goaltender Juuse Saros.

“I thought we played a pretty good game, pretty full 60 minutes,” Penguins forward Evan Rodrigues said. “This one stings a little bit because I thought we controlled a majority of the play. You’ve kind of got to move past it quickly and take the good from it and move on to the next one.”

The Penguins are 5-2-1 since Feb. 26 as they head to St. Louis. Casey DeSmith started in net at Nashville, so Sullivan is likely to go back to No. 1 goalie Tristan Jarry, who is 29-12-6 with a 2.32 goals-against average.

The Blues are 2-3-2 in their last seven games and are coming off a 4-3 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets at home Sunday.

Their schedule afforded some rest in advance of the Penguins’ visit. Forward Robert Thomas (non-COVID illness) and Pavel Buchnevich (concussion protocol) are back at practice and could be available Thursday, but forward Tyler Bozak (lower-body) went on injured reserve and will be sidelined for at least four weeks.

One thing that doesn’t need fixing is winger David Perron, who reunited with center Ryan O’Reilly to score eight goals in his last seven games. He scored just three goals in 33 games from Oct. 28-Feb. 25 while also missing time with COVID-19 and a concussion.

“I’m getting those opportunities,” Perron said. “I think I had my part to do as well. I was working harder. Getting more on the forecheck. But I don’t think (O’Reilly) and I ever doubted that we would produce. It’s good to see it going again.”

Said Blues coach Craig Berube: “(Perron) is more competitive in my opinion. Like with the puck, hanging onto the pucks in the offensive zone, competing with it. But it seems like he’s shooting the puck better, elevating it. The power-play goal (against Nashville) was an example of that. When he’s shooting the puck like that on a PP, he’s got a good chance to score.”

Thursday’s contest begins a stretch of five straight games for the Blues against Eastern Conference teams. The Blues are 11-9-3 against the other side of the league.

Back on Jan. 5 the Penguins defeated the Blues 5-3 at home. Bryan Rust (two goals, one assists), captain Sidney Crosby (goal, assist), Rodrigues (goal, assist), Jake Guentzel (two assists) and Kris Letang (two assists) starred for Pittsburgh.

Brayden Schenn, Jordan Kyrou and Colton Parayko scored for the Blues, while Jordan Binnington allowed the five goals on 41 shots.

–Field Level Media