ST. LOUIS -- When the Blues host the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday (7 p.m.; FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM), they'll face a Flyers team doing patchwork with their group of defensemen.
The Flyers (6-6-1), who played a 20-, 21- and 22-year-old on their blue line during a 3-0 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday, could have a 29-year-old (Will O'Neill) making his NHL debut after veteran Radko Gudas was injured against the Blackhawks.
While the Flyers are having their issues and trial-by-error moments with their group of D, the Blues on the other hand, have other than one game in which Carl Gunnarsson missed for the birth of his child, used their group of six defensemen for 12 of the 13 games this season.
The Blues (10-2-1), who take a 5-0-0 home mark into their game tonight and a stretch of points in seven straight (6-0-1), will use their same group of defensemen that have been stalwarts all season.
That means Alex Pietrangelo, Gunnarsson, Colton Parayko, Joel Edmundson, Robert Bortuzzo and Vince Dunn will be the six on the blue line again.
The NHL leaders with goals from their defensemen with 14, it's a nice problem for coach Mike Yeo to have, considering that Jay Bouwmeester (ankle) continues towards a return to the lineup and veteran Nate Prosser waiting in the wings. But coming from a player's perspective, it's a luxury they're enjoying.
"With the six that we have, I think we've done a pretty good job of taking everything thrown at us," Parayko said. "Obviously, we're missing 'Bouw,' but I think that the group we have, it's been fun. When 'Pross' came in when 'Gunny's wife had the baby, he stepped right in like he's been playing for the hole year.
"When you have that, you come to the rink and you feel more prepared. You start to know your partners a bit more. You start to familiarize yourself with everyone and that's a bonus. ... I think it started from previous seasons. 'Dunner' would be the guy coming in that's new, but he's played extremely well stepping in. It's like he's been here for a while, too."
Pietrangelo, off to one of the best starts of his NHL career with 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 13 games, has played with Bouwmeester most of his time in the NHL but has transitioned well playing also with Edmundson at the start of the season and most recently, Gunnarsson.
"It builds chemistry," Pietrangelo said. "When you find something that works, even our forwards lines, ever since we made some changes up front, they've been good. Knock on wood, we're winning hockey games so don't change what isn't broken.
"But we're pretty interchangeable out there in our group because we've all been together for a while and we've played together. I guess the advantage that we have right now is we have righty-lefty on every pair, which is I guess rare and we've got to use it."
It makes decisions for Yeo easier on a nightly basis, although he'd like to get the veteran Prosser in more than just the one game, but with the way the group of six are playing, that won't be an easy decision to make when the time comes for Bouwmeester returns.
"We've got a guy like 'Pross,' who did a nice job coming in for the game, and it's not easy," Yeo said. "Normally you'd want to get a guy like that in the lineup and he's a great teammate, he's kept a great attitude and had a great work ethic, but we haven't been able to. The other guys have been doing such a good job and we like that consistency. We don't feel like there's any drop in any of their focus or intensity coming to the rink night after night. And because of that, I think there's the recognition on their part that they've got a guy like 'Pross' who's eager to get in and they don't want to put themselves in that position and I think they also look at the possibility of guy like 'Bouw' coming back and they want to make sure they're not in the conversation to come out when he does.
"It's better than the alternative when you've got not a lot of good hockey players. We've got a bunch of guys that are proving it will be a difficult decision, but that's OK."
With their play, it's also enabled the Blues to buy time and allow Bouwmeester to properly heal.
"We're certainly not going to rush him," Yeo said. "We never really want to be in a position where we're going to rush somebody and put them out where they could risk injury or they're going to hurt the team. He's been out a while, we're going to need to make sure when he's cleared and ready to start practicing that we give him a good opportunity to get his game, to get his conditioning and to get feeling good before he comes in the lineup. I think we're in a position where we can allow him the chance to feel really good about himself before he comes into the lineup. That aid, he's a darn good hockey player and we look forward to having him back too."
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Goalie Ville Husso will serve as the backup once again for Jake Allen tonight, just as Husso did on Saturday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Husso, recalled from the San Antonio Rampage on Saturday, gets the nod again to back up Allen with Carter Hutton absent for the birth of his first child.
Husso has gotten in a week's worth of practice and valuable time being around an NHL club, which is beneficial, but playing is what's most important.
"I have to be ready all the time," Husso said. "It's maybe not the best thing that I'm a third goalie. I do everything that they want and little bit extra. It's nice to be here and see how it goes here."
Husso was 2-1-0 with a 2.69 goals-against average and .927 save percentage in three games with the Rampage and likes the competition of having to battle for minutes.
"We have a good team there," Husso said. "We need to battle for the game time. We split with Colorado, so it's good for us. You have to focus every practice and every game. It's good.
"It was nice to get the call-up and see how it goes here."
Last season, Husso split time with the Chicago Wolves and Missouri Mavericks of the ECHL. San Antonio is different living for the Finnish-born native.
"It's warm," Husso said of Texas. "Nice city. We have a good practice rink there, ice arena. It's a good place. Only thing is we don't have (a) sauna there. That's the only minus.
"Sometimes, (get to eat) a couple tacos, but not too much. They have those healthy salad places, too. That's for me."
Yeo said the benefits of being here for Husso despite not playing are favorable.
"We would want young players to play games, but if you're here, there's certainly things to take from it," Yeo said. "You can't replicate that, being in games, playing games, and the development that a goalie will get because of it. That said, the NHL level is a different level and players shoot the puck much better up here so for a goalie like him to come up and face NHL shots, even if it's just in practice, that's not a bad thing."
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It was another day on the ice for veteran center Patrik Berglund, who continues to rehab from off-season surgery to repair a dislocated left shoulder.
Berglund, who is targeted for a return sometime in either mid-to-late December or early January, said he's been skating and working with the stick and some pucks now for the past three weeks to a month.
"I'm feeling better and better," Berglund said. "It's a long process, but it's nice to be back on the ice with the guys. I've been skating for a while now with the boys. It's nice to be a part of some real practices for sure."
Berglund injured his shoulder pulling a training sled in his native Sweden.
"You start shooting a week ago basically," Berglund said. "Now during the morning skates and a few optional skates, they will let me be a part of it as much as I can. No contact obviously yet, but it's nice. It's coming along.
"It's still a ways to go. I am where I should be right now, so it's good."
Berglund said there's no restrictions on what he can do aside from taking contact. He's been a bystander watching his teammates get off to a terrific start and wonders if he will have a job when given a clean bill of health.
"As of right now, I might be out of a job," Berglund said laughing. "I might stay right here and don't be a part of anything anymore, I guess. It's been great to watch them play. They've been playing unreal. Obviously when you win a lot of games, there's a good spirit in here. Just hopefully they can keep going. There's going to be some ups and downs along the road, but right now it's looking great.
"... I've been anxious since camp started. It's been a long summer and long process to go through this again. I can't wait to get out there and play some real games."
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Blues left wing Jaden Schwartz, third in the NHL in points with 17 (eight goals, nine assists), was named the NHL Third Star of the Month for October on Wednesday.
Schwartz leads the Blues in goals, assists and points and is on pace for 107 for the season (50 goals, 57 assists).
"He deserves it, no question, very pleased for him," Yeo said. "Obviously the individual awards are always ... it's a nice tip of the hat to that player but it's also a compliment to the guys he's playing with and the group. I've said it right from the start, the way he's been going, he deserves the recognition. It started for me last year at the end of the year, he was a dominant force night in and night out and I think he's carried that on into this season too."
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The Blues' projected lineup:
Vladimir Sobotka-Paul Stastny-Alexander Steen
Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko
Magnus Paajarvi-Oskar Sundqvist-Beau Bennett
Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Dmitrij Jaskin
Carl Gunnarsson-Alex Pietrangelo
Joel Edmundson-Colton Parayko
Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo
Jake Allen will start in goal; Ville Husso will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Nate Prosser, Chris Thorburn and Carter Hutton. Jay Bouwmeester (ankle), Patrik Berglund (shoulder) and Zach Sanford (shoulder) are out.
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The Flyers' projected lineup:
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Travis Konecny-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Jordan Weal-Jori Lehtera-Dale Weise
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Travis Sanheim-Mark Alt
Brandon Manning-Will O'Neill
Michal Neuvirth is expected to start; former Blue Brian Elliott would be the backup.
The healthy scratch is expected to be Matt Read. Andrew MacDonald (lower body), Nolan Patrick (upper body) and Shayne Gostisbehere (upper body) are out. Radko Gudas (upper body) is a gametime decision.