New-look Blues hope to mesh better against Blackhawks
Of course, that process will have to happen on the fly as there is no delaying the season. To wit, the Blues host the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night in the second game for both teams.
Six of the Blues’ 12 forwards are either newcomers or rookies. That includes the acquisition of centers Ryan O’Reilly and Tyler Bozak and left winger Pat Maroon.
“Every day you have to keep getting closer,” O’Reilly said. “I feel that team over there (the Jets) has been together a bit longer and you kind of see just a little cleaner at times. The guys know and can anticipate what the other players are doing a bit more, and that’s what we want to get to. We want to have confidence in each other.”
But O’Reilly doesn’t think the Blues are far away.
“I definitely think it’s next game,” he said. “I think we get a few and guys start feeling confident in each other and it starts rolling from there.”
Blues coach Mike Yeo called the season-opening effort disappointing, but said the team wasn’t going overboard with the result.
“I think there’s a lot to learn from the game about our group and playing against a good team like that,” Yeo said. “I think we had some opportunities, but didn’t capitalize. We’re not going to accept saying that at the end of a bunch of games this year. There were a number of points during the course of the game we could have done things differently, better, and with a better mindset than we did that would have served us well.”
On Friday, the Blues sent defenseman Niko Mikkola down to the AHL and recalled veteran forward Chris Thorburn.
Thorburn gives the Blues, who began the season with just 12 forwards, an extra body up front. The non-conventional roster formation was necessary in part due to defenseman Robert Bortuzzo sitting out the season opener while serving the final game of a suspension from the preseason. With Bortuzzo back for the Chicago game, an extra defender was unnecessary.
The Blues take on a Blackhawks team that’s riding high after a season-opening, 4-3 overtime win at Ottawa. Right winger Patrick Kane roofed a backhander 38 seconds into overtime for the game-winner after the Blackhawks tied it in the third period.
“We just kind of stayed with it,” Kane told NHL.com. “It’s kind of a good feeling to be down like that and have a comeback win, especially for the first game of the season. Gives us a little confidence. I think, overall, everybody was pretty pumped up after the game and happy to get the two points the first game of the season.”
The Blues took three of four games against the Blackhawks last season, but Chicago comes into this meeting with confidence.
“It’s huge, I think, especially coming back like that and getting the first one out of the way is very important,” Blackhawks right winger Alex DeBrincat told NHL.com. “It really helps us gain confidence and just helps us move along.”