The St. Louis Blues will have to adjust to life without captain Ryan O’Reilly when they host the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night.
O’Reilly will be sidelined for at least 10 days under the COVID-19 protocol. He was instrumental in the team’s best 5-0-0 start.
He usually centers the first row, anchors power play unit # 1, kills penalties, and takes large face-offs. His absence will be noticed when the Blues face the Avalanche at Enterprise Center.
“It’s a challenge,” said Blues coach Craig Berube. “We’ve got good depth here. Everyone’s going to have to step up and the next guy come up. That kind of attitude and go from there.”
In Wednesday’s practice, Bérubé kept his efficient line from Robert Thomas by centering Ivan Barbashev and Vladimir Tarasenko together. Brayden Schenn took O’Reilly’s place on the front row between David Perron and Klim Kostin, while Tyler Bozak moved up from the fourth row to crosses Jordan Kyrou and Pavel Buchnevich.
Dakota Joshua, just back from the AHL, replaced Bozak in the fourth line.
“There are a lot of minutes to gain there,” said defender Robert Bortuzzo. “I think the guys are going to be pushing hard to fill in some of those areas, whether it’s starting out in PK or completing the power play, taking on the challenge of playing the other team’s top line. I’m sure there are a lot of the guys in this room who are disappointed he’s out but excited for the challenge. “
Meanwhile, the Colorado Avalanche is trying to get back on track after recovering star center Nathan MacKinnon from protocol. The Avalanche fell to 2-4-0 with their 3-1 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday night.
“We’re kind of tripping and tripping right now, so there’s a certain level of worry,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said after that game. “It’s not like, ‘Well, we just didn’t play well tonight and (we) move on.’
“Part of what we talked about today was that if we win tonight and get to .500, we can now start (move) above .500 if we do our job. If you lose, you lose two games back, and now we’ll see how long it takes us to come back. It could be seven days, it could be 10 days, it could be a month. “
Playing without MacKinnon, the Avalanche lost 5-3 to the Blues on Oct. 16 in Denver.
He’s back on the front row with Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, but the Avalanche missed several injuries: Samuel Girard (upper body), Devon Toews (upper body), forwards Valeri Nichushkin (upper body) and Stefan Matteau (lower body) and goalkeeper Pavel Francouz (lower body).
Besides O’Reilly, the Blues are missing forwards Oskar Sundqvist (knee surgery) and Brandon Saad (COVID-19 protocol).
“You can’t think about it too much. It is what it is and the best way to deal with it is to go ahead and wait until these guys are healthy and come back,” Berube said. . “But in the meantime, go play hockey.”
–Field level media
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