MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. — If fans needed assurances, even in uncertain times, that the Blues are all-in on trying to repeat as Stanley Cup champions, look no further than what father-to-be Ivan Barbashev said on Tuesday.
Barbashev, whose wife Ksenia is pregnant with the couple's first child due mid-August, could be without a doubt excused and it be understood if the 24-year-old chose to opt out of the NHL's Return to Play Plan.
Especially with child on the horizon.
It wasn't even a doubt.
"We didn't even talk about it, (whether) to opt out or not," Barbashev said, referring to his wife. "It was actually really simple because I'm still 24 and I got a full career ahead of me and after winning last year, I want to do it all over again. It's just that feeling that stuck in me for a long time, and you just get even more hungry for winning.
"We kind of talked about it for a little bit and said, 'Listen, I'm not doing this.' I know it's hard and it's really hard for her to see me going away when the baby's due, but I promised her I'll be back."
It's likely Barbashev will have to leave the bubble in Edmonton when the baby is due, but that's OK. In the meantime, he's all-in, along with the rest of his teammates.
When he returns, Barbashev will have to be quarantined and will have to pass a series of COVID-19 tests.
"We'll have to talk about it," he said. "I'm not sure what the plan is, but I guess I will have to go back to St. Louis. Not sure what the plan is right now."
And if that's not enough, how about veteran Ryan O'Reilly, whose wife Dayna recently delivered the couple's second child, another son. A family man who is close to his firstborn, O'Reilly also is all-in on finishing the 2019-20 season, especially if it means the Blues can win it all again, even though it won't be easy.
"It is a tough thing," O'Reilly said. "This stretch coming up, I think it's going to be really tough from going to spending so much time with my oldest, who's two-and-a-half and spending so much time with him every day and then getting back into it and just leaving, it's going to be kind of heartbreaking to go this long of a stretch without seeing him. But I think it is something that is important, it's important for the game of hockey. I'm very lucky that my family is healthy and no underlying health issues, so I feel comfortable being able to go away and do this. I've thought about it and yeah, it is tough. It's nice that we have Facetime and such, and Zoom to see them, but it will be hard for sure."
The Blues were back on the ice for Day 2 of training camp 2.0, or Phase 3 of the NHL's Return to Play Plan, with 12 more days until they depart for Edmonton (Aug. 26) to live inside a bubble of playoff hockey that will include an exhibition game against the Chicago Blackhawks on July 29 at 5:30 p.m. at Rogers Place, and then get set for the Western Conference Round-Robin games against the Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars beginning with the Avalanche on Aug. 2 at 5:30 p.m.
"It is a little strange (to be practicing in July), but it just feels good to be back out there," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "We're all gearing up for this. We've been dealing with all the uncertainty for quite a while now so it's just nice getting back out there knowing that we're going forward here with what we're trying to do. It's actually a lot of fun to be back out there with the guys and the guys seem to be in a good spot right now."
But Berube and the coaching staff has been preparing for this camp differently than if they were conducting one in September and the marathon of the regular season. Once the Blues get going after this two-week camp, the stakes are for real.
"Usually in training camp starting in September, we have 2-3 days of practice and then we're right to a lot of games, heavy exhibition games, but this is different and we're doing it a little bit different with smaller groups, a little bit more of getting guys going again," Berube said. "I think when guys know when training camp starts and the season starts, they're already skating and getting themselves prepared for that. This is different. I don't believe that guys were all skating and preparing themselves. There was a lot of uncertainty of whether they were going to play or not, so as a coaching staff and organization, we want to approach this as we've got to build this up a little bit and get to a certain level in the next two weeks where we're ready to go competitively and physically and mentally."
Lines and d-pairings were relatively the same, but defenseman Colton Parayko, who was not at practice Monday, returned to the ice for Tuesday's workouts. Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo was, however, missing for a second straight day.
"We'll get (Bortuzzo) back here soon and then we'll have everybody back, which is good," Berube said. "We're a little bit short on 'D' with these groups right now. But it's good to see Colton back out there today."
Kyrou-de la Rose-Brouwer