Colton Parayko and Carl Gunnarsson each practiced with an upper-body injury but neither will play Tuesday when the St. Louis Blues host the San Jose Sharks to begin a five-game homestand (7 p.m., FSMW, 101 ESPN).
"I don't think it's anything too serious, but he can't go tonight," Blues Head Coach Craig Berube said of Parayko's injury. "It's possible Gunnarsson (could), but he's only practiced once with us. I just feel like he needs more practice time. I'd rather keep him out and get some more practice."
Parayko and Gunnarsson's absence will pave the way for Niko Mikkola to make his NHL debut.
"It's what I've been waiting for for so long, and doing a lot of work for this opportunity," Mikkola said. "I'm excited."
Mikkola, 23, was drafted by the Blues in the fifth round (No. 127 overall) in the 2015 NHL Draft. In the last two seasons, the 6-foot-4 defenseman has played in 100 games with the San Antonio Rampage of the American Hockey League, posting four goals and 16 assists (20 points). Last season, he represented Finland at the World Championships and helped his club capture their third gold medal in the tournament.
"I think he's done a good job in the American Hockey League defensively," Berube said of Mikkola. "He closes on people quick, he's big, he's got a good stick, he plays an aggressive game. I feel like if there's anytime he's going to be ready, it's now. He played in the World Championships last year, he keeps improving, we like his size and his skating, his aggressive play."
Mikkola is expected to play on the third defense pairing with Robert Bortuzzo.
Video: Niko Mikkola set to make NHL debut vs. Sharks
In addition, Jordan Kyrou will return to the lineup after sitting out the last two games. Jordan Binnington is expected to start in goal.
"It's an important part of the season for us, coming off the road trip," Berube said. "We played pretty good hockey all year but we've got to keep building and getting better. This is an opportunity to get better at home here. We've got to get after it."
Sanford - O'Reilly - Perron
Schwartz - Schenn - Kyrou
Steen - Thomas - Bozak
MacEachern - Barbashev - Sundqvist
Dunn - Pietrangelo
Bouwmeester - Faulk
Mikkola - Bortuzzo