Tue, 18 Jan 2022

Depleted Blues look to rebound at home vs. streaking Panthers

Field Level Media
07 Dec 2021, 06:40 GMT+10

The streaking Florida Panthers will head back to the road Tuesday for the second half of their home-and-home set with the St. Louis Blues.

The Atlantic Division-leading Panthers earned a 4-3 shootout victory over the Blues on Saturday in Sunrise, Fla., for their 14th victory in 15 home games."They stayed with the game plan," Florida coach Andrew Brunette said. "We played a strong game, regardless of the result. We had the puck all game, it felt like. We've been so strong on pucks. When we don't have it, we get it back as soon as possible. That's been a good trait of our team here so far this year."

Florida rolls into the road contest with seven victories in its last nine games overall. Meanwhile, the Blues have earned points in four of their last five games (2-1-2).

"They're a tough team to play against," Panthers forward Sam Reinhart said. "They don't give up much."

Florida overcame three one-goal deficits Saturday to earn its third straight comeback victory.

"I liked our determination," Reinhart said. "We were able to get rewarded and win. We felt comfortable. We felt it was our best 60 (minutes) in a while. You've got to give credit to them too. It's not really a shocker it went down to the wire."

With No. 1 goaltender Jordan Binnington sidelined in COVID-19 protocols, Ville Husso (3-2-1, 2.33 goals-against average) has held up well as the starter. He made 48 saves Saturday to help the Blues salvage a point.

"I need to step up and play at a good level every night," Husso said. "It's nice to get some back-to-back games. I haven't played those for a while. I think it's easier for me to get dialed in right away for games when you play back-to-back games."

With top Florida center Aleksander Barkov out with a knee injury, Jonathan Huberdeau has been driving his team's offense. He has a goal and eight assists in his last three games.

"I'm extremely lucky to have a group like this," Brunette said. "They're fun to be around and fun to watch night in, night out. We're blessed with depth. Every guy every night is stepping up. That's fun to be a part of."

Blues defenseman Justin Faulk and forward Tyler Bozak are in COVID-19 protocol along with Binnington. With forwards David Perron, James Neal and Klim Kostin on the injured list, the depleted Blues have been forced to play with 11 forwards and seven defensemen in their last five games.

They may get down to 10 forwards and seven defensemen -- one below the roster limit -- against the Panthers if forward Robert Thomas has to miss with a nagging lower-body injury. Thomas missed practice Monday.

"We need to guys to step (because of) COVID and injuries," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "Certain guys (did), but again we've got to get more out of some guys. We need more from them."

Those players include winger Vladimir Tarasenko, who has zero goals and five assists in his last 10 games. He has no points and just three shots on goal in his last three games.

"He's not generating any offense right now," Berube said. "He's got to get on the inside more, get to the net more, things like that. We'll talk to him about it."

--Field Level Media

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