The St. Louis Blues will stage their home opener against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday without their two key offseason acquisitions.
Winger Pavel Buchnevich will conclude his two-game NHL suspension for a head-butting incident, and winger Brandon Saad landed on the COVID-19 shelf after a positive test.
“It’s tough,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “They’re good players for us. We all know that, and it’s unfortunate what happened to Saad.”
Meanwhile, the Kings will play without cornerstone defenseman Drew Doughty, who sustained a lower-body injury in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars on Friday night.
Doughty had to be helped off the ice after taking a leg-to-leg hit from Stars defenseman Jani Hakanpaa. Kings coach Todd McLellan said Doughty would be evaluated again Saturday.
“There’s a game that needs to be played, but obviously you don’t want to see him go down,” Kings captain Anze Kopitar said. “It doesn’t matter who it is, it’s a teammate, and if somebody goes down, it’s not a good feeling. Hopefully it’s nothing too serious.”
Buchnevich, who had a goal and an assist in the Blues’ first two games, arrived in an offseason trade with the New York Rangers. Saad, who has a goal and an assist in three games, signed as a free agent.
Berube will try rookie Klim Kostin in Saad’s spot on the line with Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron.
“He’s creating opportunities offensively and I think he’s been doing a good job defensively, being in the right spots and getting back and tracking back and things like that so, we’ll see,” Berube said of Kostin.
St. Louis winger Kyle Clifford will make his season debut on Saturday after sitting out the first three games as a healthy scratch.
The Blues swept their three-game road trip to open the season, defeating the Colorado Avalanche, Arizona Coyotes and Vegas Golden Knights by the combined score of 15-8.
Jordan Binnington (3-0-0, 2.67 goals-against average) has settled in as the lead goaltender again, and Jordan Kyrou (two goals, five assists) has paced the offense.
The Kings won their opener before dropping the next three games. Their top line of Kopitar (six goals, including one Friday) centering Dustin Brown (four points) and Viktor Arvidsson (three points) has excelled.
However, McLellan is looking for more offensive balance from his front lines.
“From a defensive perspective thus far, OK. From an offensive perspective, we have about half the team that’s clicking and half that’s finding their way,” he said Friday. “Usually, that’s not enough offensively.”
Goaltender Jonathan Quick started Friday, so the Kings are likely to come back with Calvin Peterson (1-1-0, 2.04 GAA) against the Blues.
The two teams will play again Monday in St. Louis.
–Field Level Media