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Blues training camp preview

Tarasenko return, Binnington impact among keys to watch

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

With training camps set to begin on July 13 as part of Phase 3 of the NHL Return to Play Plan, NHL.com is taking a closer look at each of the 24 teams in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.

Today, the St. Louis Blues.

The St. Louis Blues were 42-19-10 (.662 points percentage) and will play in the round-robin portion of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers in the Western Conference against the Colorado Avalanche (42-20-8, .657), Vegas Golden Knights (39-24-8, .606) and Dallas Stars (37-24-8, .594) to determine seeding for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The defending Stanley Cup champions had the best record in the Western Conference and second best in the NHL (Boston Bruins, 44-14-12, .714) when the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

"I just thought our team has played really consistent hockey all season long," coach Craig Berube said. "There's ups and downs in your season, but for the most part I think our veterans have done a great job of making sure we're prepared all the time, young guys are prepared to play and compete at a high level. Our team competed at a high level this year. 

"And we're in first place. We've got a tough division, lot of good teams in the West and we're in first place. We've played really good hockey this year."

 

Player to watch

Vladimir Tarasenko was about a week away from returning to the lineup for the first time since surgery to repair a dislocated left shoulder Oct. 29 when the season was paused; he scored 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 10 games before getting injured. The forward said he used the extended time off to get even better. "Extra time practicing and making it more strong," he said. "Everything is good." Tarasenko, a five-time 30-goal scorer, led St. Louis with 33 goals last season.

Video: STL@NYI: Tarasenko nets PPG for first of season

 

Biggest question

Can Robert Thomas keep improving during the Qualifiers and beyond? The center emerged as a key contributor In his second NHL season, playing on a middle-six line and on the power play (15 man-advantage points; nine goals, six assists in 66 games). The 20-year-old was sixth on the Blues with 42 points (10 goals, 32 assists) but led them with 2.45 points per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play, averaging 12:38 of 5-on-5 ice time, fifth among St. Louis forwards to play at least 20 games. Thomas is an upgrade from Tyler Bozak, the third-line center on last season's championship team, and would give the Blues impressive depth behind Brayden Schenn and Ryan O'Reilly.

 

Injury updates

Vladimir Tarasenko, F -- Healthy after recovering from surgery to repair a dislocated left shoulder sustained against the Los Angeles Kings on Oct. 24.

Jay Bouwmeester, D -- Will not play again this season after having a cardiac episode during a game against the Anaheim Ducks on Feb. 11.

 

Fresh face

Klim Kostin is 21 years old, but the forward already has three seasons of pro experience with San Antonio of the American Hockey League. This season was his best, with 13 goals in 48 AHL games, and he made his NHL debut in November, scoring one goal in four games. Kostin (6-foot-3, 212 pounds) is a strong skater who could push for a spot on a bottom-six line and be a net-front presence on the power play.

 

Telling stat

Goalie Jordan Binnington was 16-10 during the playoffs last season to help the Blues win the Stanley Cup for the first time. The 16 postseason wins are tied with Curtis Joseph for third in St. Louis history, one behind Greg Millen (17 wins in 35 games) and Mike Liut (17 wins in 39 games).

Video: FLA@STL: Binnington robs Weegar on breakaway

 

They said it

"They're hungry. They want to get back. We've got good motivation, I believe, coming back and playing and trying to repeat. Our guys are in a pretty good spot now." -- coach Craig Berube

 

Projected lineup

Jaden Schwartz -- Brayden Schenn -- Vladimir Tarasenko

Zach Sanford -- Ryan O'Reilly -- David Perron

Sammy Blais -- Robert Thomas -- Tyler Bozak

Alexander Steen -- Oskar Sundqvist -- Ivan Barbashev

Carl Gunnarsson -- Alex Pietrangelo

Marco Scandella -- Colton Parayko

Vince Dunn -- Justin Faulk

Jordan Binnington

Jake Allen

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