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Stanley Cup Final

Dunn ready to build off first game of Cup Final for Blues

Enters Game 5 after assist in series-tying win against Bruins

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

BOSTON -- Vince Dunn saw the puck ride up Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara's stick and crash into his face, blood spilling onto the ice at Enterprise Center not far from where his blood spilled less than three weeks earlier.

The St. Louis Blues defenseman knew immediately what the big Bruins captain was feeling.

"I've felt the same thing," Dunn said. "At first, you don't really know what's happened, it's just a shock to your face. You look down and you see blood in your hands. You feel kind of helpless."


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Chara's availability for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final at Boston on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS) is unclear because of the facial injury he sustained in the second period of Game 4 on Monday.

Dunn, though, will be in the Blues lineup for the second straight game even though he can barely crack a smile and can't eat hard foods. It's an interesting plot twist in a Cup Final that has had plenty already.

"I'm just happy to be back in the lineup," Dunn said. "It's not easy watching so just happy to be a part of this team and happy to get that first game in."

Dunn sustained his facial injury in the first period of Game 3 of the Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks on May 15, when he was hit in the jaw by a shot from Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon.

He didn't play again until Monday, when he had an assist and a team-high nine shot attempts in 12:57 of ice time to help the Blues even the best-of-7 series with a 4-2 win.

Dunn said he will need a lot of dental work soon, but for now, his mouth is filled with metal wires that make it feel like he's wearing a mouthguard all the time.

"I can smile a little bit, it's just uncomfortable, there's a lot of things in there," Dunn said. "Eating is tough, too. Everything is really tough."

The good news is being the smooth-skating, puck-moving defenseman the Blues need him to be isn't tough for Dunn right now.

He was both of those things in Game 4 and he made a difference despite playing 20 shifts, second fewest among Blues defensemen to Joel Edmundson (13), who likely will be scratched in favor of Robert Bortuzzo in Game 5.

Video: Dave Reid discusses the impact of Vince Dunn

"Any time you get a guy like that back in your lineup, it's huge," Blues forward Jaden Schwartz said. "He's good defensively, works hard defensively, but he's very quick as far as in the D zone skating away from their checks and just making the right plays at the right time. He walks that blue line, gets his shots through really good. He's an important piece for us."

He's important because the Blues don't have another defenseman with Dunn's skill set.

They're big on the back end and they're mobile, but as coach Craig Berube said, Dunn has the ability to "make something out of nothing a lot of times," especially on the breakout against a team that aggressively forechecks with its legs and speed the way the Bruins do.

"He's elusive," Berube said. "Coming out of our end you feel like there's times where the puck is going to get stopped up, but he'll do something, make a move and a quick play with the puck that breaks the guys out and we're going up the ice. Having that skating ability from the offensive side of things is very helpful."

Dunn, though, said his legs were shaking before Game 4 because he was so anxious to play in his first Cup Final game.

"There's no real way to prepare yourself for a game like that," he said.

However, he got into the flow quick with an assist on his first shift.

Dunn got the puck at the left point on a pass from defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and quickly shot toward the net. Forward Zach Sanford redirected the shot on Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, and center Ryan O'Reilly got the rebound and scored on a wraparound 43 seconds into the game.

Video: BOS@STL, Gm4: O'Reilly pots early wraparound goal

"He is dynamic," Pietrangelo said. "I'm sure for him there were some nerves but to get that first shift, get an assist, a nice simple play got things going for him."

Dunn thanked Blues assistant Mike Van Ryn for making his first shift be an offensive zone start. It was the first of 10 shifts that started with an offensive zone face-off, a strategy that allowed him to feel in his element in his first game back.

He took two shifts totaling 29 seconds after O'Reilly's second goal gave the Blues a 3-2 lead with 9:22 remaining in the third period, but that was as much by design as how often Dunn started in the offensive zone.

Dunn's job is to help St. Louis get the puck, beat the forecheck, get it into the offensive zone and be dangerous there. His job is to help the Blues get a lead, which until Game 4 they hadn't done since they held a 2-0 lead 22 minutes into Game 1 before blowing it and losing 4-2.

He'll be back again trying to do his job in Game 5, and it might even be easier for Dunn if Chara is out of the lineup for the same reason that cost him six games and a smile.

"Man, it's scary," Dunn said. "There's never a good situation when a puck is in someone's face."


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