The Blues haven't played a game since March 11, and following two-plus weeks of training camp skating against one another, it's time to drop the puck against someone else.
That someone else will be the rivals from the North, the Chicago Blackhawks, in the lone exhibition game for both teams on Wednesday (5:30 p.m.; FS-MW Plus, NBCSN, ESPN 101.1-FM).
Even though it's an exhibition game, tensions should be high when the Blues
and Blackhawks play on Wednesday at Rogers Place in Edmonton.
And in a game where both sides will want to get in as much as possible ahead of their respective games rolling into August (round-robin games for the Blues and a best-of-5 qualifying series against Edmonton for the Blackhawks), the Blues will utilize both Jordan Binnington and Jake Allen in goal for the game.
"The plan is to use both goalies," Blues coach Craig Berube said Tuesday afternoon from the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Edmonton via a Zoom conference call. "We'll see how it goes, but probably 'Binner' two periods and Jake one."
It's a good idea to utilize both guys considering there's a chance both will get some time -- or maybe not -- in the three-game round-robin series when the Blues will fight for seeds 1-4, beginning Sunday against the Colorado Avalanche, then the Vegas Golden Knights on Aug. 6 and Dallas Stars on Aug. 9.
"I'm not really sure what to expect, to be honest with you," Berube said regarding Wednesday's game. "What I hope to see is we play within our structure, we play the right way. I would like to see the pace up high, I would like to see intensity up.
"We've got get ready to play and it's our only game before we play meaningful games starting August 2nd."
It should help raise the intensity level knowing the NHL scheduled rivalry games for the 24 teams who are playing just the one exhibition game.
"Obviously we know the rivalry we have with Chicago and obviously they're always intense games, they're always fun, but I think just in general, where we're at here, how we have to get prepared for these round-robin games, it's going to be a game no matter who we're going to play, it's going to be important for us to just learn from it, just do whatever we can to put our best foot forward and get ready for these round-robin games," defenseman Colton Parayko said. "They're important, and it's going to go into a lot of what we worked towards to get into the playoffs. It's definitely important no matter who we're playing, but obviously with it being Chicago, it's always fun to play against them and a good rivalry."
The Blues, under a normal training camp format, would get anywhere from 6-8 preseason games to work the kinks out and as Brayden Schenn said, "ease" into the regular season. But this is anything but simplistic. You get one game, and it's hit the ground running, or skating.
"The NHL did a good job to put the rivalries and make the games as intense as they can off the bat," Schenn said. "This is one game for us to get ready for our qualifying games, and it's not a lot of time. Usually you have eight or nine games, or seven or eight games of exhibition to ease into it, but you've got to use this game to get ready for the qualifier in the playoffs."
The Blues skated a full group again Tuesday according to Berube, including defenseman Vince Dunn and center Oskar Sundqvist, but Dunn, who missed most of training camp with a presumed COVID-19 positive test, skated a second straight day with the second group and isn't likely to play against the Blackhawks.
The Blues won all four matchups with Chicago this season, the first time in their history they've swept a regular-season series against the Blackhawks.