That's the question we'll have to wait and see. It sounds like Bozak will center the third line tonight, so the question is whether Berube wants Sundqvist on a third-line wing or as fourth-line center. Joshua has been more a wing than a center prior to the past two weeks, so putting him on the right side on the fourth line wouldn't be a stretch. These are the things we don't know for sure since the practices in Los Angeles aren't open. Though it's an annoyance for us, it must be terrible for the Kings writers, since they go through this on a daily basis.
I don't see them making a player-for-player move this season for cap and quarantine reasons. The best thing to do is get Parayko back, who does well as a two-way defenseman, and the Blues can shelter Dunn more on the third pairing. The Blues like having offensive defensemen. They really like having two-way defensemen.
That's going to be one of the big questions this season and we won't know for sure until we see him on the ice again. His play before he came out of the lineup was definitely below par. He's got some runway to work with before the playoffs if he's back in the next week or so, and if his back is feeling better, than he should be able to be at full speed by then. Parayko hasn't had surgery, so the Blues are counting on rest and therapy (and maybe a shot) having dealt with the issue. The other question would be if there's kind of a window of opportunity here. It's always possible that a month and a half of hockey starts making his back feel worse again. But there's no way to know until he gets back on the ice.
Hoffman's ice time has been all over the board -- 11:47 in the first Vegas game, 17:58 in the second -- so that's certainly been a limiting factor, and he's averaging 15:38 per game right now, which is on track to be his lowest since his first full NHL season. He's also been on the second power play unit a lot, which maybe puts him on the ice for 30 seconds out of two minutes. He loses a lot of ice late in the game if the Blues are ahead, when Berube shortens his bench and goes with more defensive minded players. But that's part of the reason for less ice time; Berube doesn't seem fully sold on him on defense. More ice time could certainly help his offensive game, though you can't say he hasn't at times. Just not an every game basis.
There certainly could be some of that, and it's the risk of bringing in someone for one season: By the time he gets settled, he's gone. And this season has got to be worse than most. Torey Krug has talked of his troubles acclimating to a new team and a new city when you can't get together with anyone, and it's got to be even worse for Hoffman, who joined the team late and likely won't be around next season. And, like Faulk, he hasn't had a home on ice, though it would have been a bit simpler to do that in his case than it was in Faulk's. There have been some times when it looked like Hoffman was starting to fit in, like during the Arizona extravaganza, but not as much lately.
We're at the halfway point, so welcome to any new arrivals who have logged in since the start. We've got another 90 minutes to go, as long as the questions hold out.
Subtract Bouwmeester and subtract Pietrangelo, and those are two big holes to fill. That was a formidable pairing back in the day. The replacements for them have in effect been Faulk and Krug, who are more offensive-minded defensemen, and the absence of Parayko, and Parayko not at his best before coming out, was another problem. I remember being in Columbus a few years back and talking with Pang about who on the Blues might be a Hockey Hall of Famer and the answer was the best candidate might be Bouwmeester. He's a lot to replace. Mikkola might get towards that at some point, but obviously not yet. But health issues aside, the Blues were going to have to replace Bouwmeester sometime. Even if he hadn't had his heart episode last season, there was no guarantee about this season. And next season would be even more doubtful for him to be playing.
The Blues have yet to win since Tarasenko came back to the lineup, though that's certainly not Tarasenko's fault. I think he gave the team a morale boost when he came back, just as they'll get a boost tonight from Bozak and potentially Friday from Schwartz. That alone is worth something to the team, which has been going through a long slog of one bit of bad news after another. I also thought his play would be somewhat like you see when a player is called up from the minors: a big jolt of adrenaline in his game at the start, and then things die down after a few games. If that's going to happen, this is about the time for it. His minutes have been high, and he had five shots on goal last game, so he's not afraid to shoot. I've never expected him to be 100 percent this season, so if you're looking for classic Vladi Tarasenko, I'd wait for next season (or late in a long playoff run). So far, though, he's been good considering all the circumstances that have been going on. The next few weeks will be telling because it's when that adrenaline will be wearing off and the drag of getting his body pounded for the first time in a year and a half starts to settle in.
Faulk and Krug both have no-trade clauses for the first several years of their contracts. Scandella has a limited clause. Everyone else is fair game. I don't think trading Faulk or Krug is on the horizon. Your most likely scenario going forward is the Blues lose Dunn in the expansion draft, or trade him to alleviate cap concerns, and the Blues replace him. With who? They may not have a lot to spend on someone, so the pickings may be thin and with Parayko about to get a big deal, they can't afford to go heavy in the market for another D. Perunovich is waiting in the wings. Mikkola is learning the game. Walman is on hand. That's your D going forward.
The rules essentially are stay to yourself. Players can get together on the road in designated lounge areas, but not in their own rooms. The league came down heavily on Washington when they were caught having done that. Players can't go to other players' homes to visit. Krug said a week ago that the first thing he'd like to do when things get back to normal is have a big barbecue at his house, not just for teammates, but for assorted family members who have had kids lately that he hasn't been able to meet. Armstrong talked about this a while ago too, but how tough it must be for people like Krug's family; at least Krug gets to go to the rink every day and see teammates. His wife is at home with their kid and isn't even supposed to go out grocery shopping. The league's rules may be overly severe, but the league really doesn't want teams being unable to play games because of a COVID outbreak.
Some people in Buffalo still think trading O'Reilly had to be done. Weird.
Krug has seemed out of sorts at times. It seems like he should have many more turnovers than the stat crews give him credit for. The power play is getting better and he's part of it, but on the defensive side, it's been an issue. Still, he played a season-high 27:51 in the second Vegas game, though that was helped by 4:51 of power play time and I think a very long stretch when the Blues pulled Husso with about four minutes to go. He's not quite Faulk last season, but Krug hasn't been at the top of his game. The good news, I suppose, is that Faulk shows what the second season can look like.
I hope by personal insight, you mean what I feel than how Hoffman feels because in one of the offshoots of this season, I've yet to meet him in person and, if he doesn't re-sign, I may never meet him in person. It's a combination of things I've said before: He's been relegated to the third line, which isn't ideal of his chances, but he's yet to provide a compelling case why he should be on a higher line and get more ice time. That seven-game stretch where he averaged a shot on goal per game -- and only slightly more than a shot attempt per game -- was telling. He just wasn't much of a threat. Again, it's tough to fit in when you don't have all that much contact with your teammates. And if there was a guy I think could break out in the second half of the season, it would be Hoffman, because he is the guy who has the capability to do it. As for re-signing him, my thought on matters like this is he hasn't forgotten how to score goals. I said this about Faulk last season; he's done it before, he'll do it again unless something has happened we don't know about. But for the dollars he'll cost, I don't know that re-signing will be possible. There fast becomes a limit on guys you can be paying more than $5 million a year and the Blues are probably right at it.
Los Angeles' 1-3-1 system has given the Blues fits all season. The trap wasn't prohibited specifically, but the league legislated against it by tightening up on interference calls and allowing two line passes. The Blues have only two more games against the Kings, which will no doubt please them.
He hasn't played it all season, but he has played it a lot. I count 13 games so far where he was on left wing at the start of the game.
We're entering the homestretch, so if you've got questions, the time is drawing nigh.
Thanks. One thing I'll say about the Blues and the Sabres is that if Buffalo is still looking for a head coach in the offseason, I could see them taking a look at Steve Ott, who is considered a head coaching prospect and has ties to Buffalo. Not sure if the team would be looking for a first-time head coach right now, and they went out of the box with the Krueger hire so maybe will be looking for a more established coach, but the interest in Ott will only keep growing.
I wouldn't say I got chills then; at the moment, it was neat to be there at a very significant point in a franchise's history, and while I've covered the Cardinals winning the World Series on two occasions, I wasn't one of THE guys on that beat, not like I was with the Blues. So it was exciting professionally to have followed a team from start to finish on a very dramatic season.
Can't argue that Fleury still is at the top, or near to it, of his game. It's possible that moving to Las Vegas revitalized his careers in ways that being in Pittsburgh wouldn't. Las Vegas was certainly a factor in David Perron's game. Though how many people are still in Pittsburgh from when Fleury was there? May not be many people in the Penguins organization to regret the move. Now, the city may feel otherwise.
We'll be recording a new Net Front Presence podcast on Thursday morning, so look for that sometime tomorrow online. Then it's off to San Jose for Jim, then to Las Vegas and then to St. Paul. Still no word on when that Kings game will be made up, and in looking at both team's schedules, it won't be easy. Looks like the league will have to move some other games around to make it happen, or force both teams into a really busy stretch.
Tampa Bay right now is in a stretch of playing five games in seven days, so the league is willing to go that far to fit in games. That may be what the Blues have to do. After this trip, they have one more journey west, to play Arizona on April 17, and putting the game somewhere around there may make sense so the Blues don't have to make two trips out there for just one game.
OK, it looks like there are no new questions, so thanks for your participation and we'll back next week at the same bat time, same bat channel, to answer your Blues questions. Thanks for your participation and your enthusiasm and for the people who include compliments. Until next time, take care.