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Stanley Cup Final

Barbashev to return for Blues in Game 7 of Stanley Cup Final

Will be in lineup against Bruins after serving one-game suspension for illegal check to head

by Louie Korac / NHL.com Correspondent

BERKELEY, Mo. -- Ivan Barbashev will return for the St. Louis Blues in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).

The 23-year-old forward was unavailable for a 5-1 loss in Game 6 on Sunday; he served a one-game suspension following an illegal check to the head of Bruins forward Marcus Johansson in Game 5 last Thursday.

The loss prevented the Blues from winning the Cup in St. Louis and tied the best-of-7 series.

 

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"I think the way he's physical too is being able to take guys off the puck, especially on the forecheck, making it difficult, certainly something that he brings that we're looking forward to having back [Wednesday]," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said.

Barbashev is expected to again play alongside center Oskar Sundqvist and right wing Alexander Steen, which comprises the Blues' top checking line and one coach Craig Berube utilizes often against the Bruins' top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.

The Blues allowed a 5-on-3 goal to Marchand 8:40 into the first period Sunday, which gave Boston a 1-0 lead. Barbashev's return is expected to bolster the penalty kill.

Video: Discussing the Blues fourth line ahead of Game 7

"That line, when they're all together, they have great chemistry for sure," Berube said. "That line will be more effective, I would assume, with Barbashev back. He's probably our most physical player up front.

"I think we can be more physical than we were last game. That will help in penalty killing. Just being the player he is, that line, we can use them against anybody and they can do the job."

Barbashev has six points (three goals, three assists) and has averaged 12:16 of ice time per game in 24 games during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He had 14 goals and 12 assists in 80 regular-season games.

"He's an important piece for our team," Blues defenseman Colton Parayko said. "Obviously, he brings a lot to the table. He gets in there hard, he uses the body well. He obviously can put the puck in the net. He has a lot of different aspects that can make his game really good. It's tough when you're missing someone like that, but we're looking forward to having him back."

Robert Thomas returned for Game 6 to replace Barbashev after missing four games with an undisclosed injury. If Thomas is able to play Game 7, there will need to be another lineup change with Barbashev's return.

The likely candidate would be Sammy Blais, who skated on the fourth line in Game 6 and has played 14 straight games dating to Game 6 of the Western Conference Second Round against the Dallas Stars. But Berube wouldn't disclose what other changes, if any, would be forthcoming.

"It was tough for him, first game back," Berube said of Thomas, who played 9:21 and was minus-2. "That's a big game. Obviously they didn't get a whole lot of time up there, so it's hard to evaluate it that much."

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