The St. Louis Blues will try to regain their focus on Saturday afternoon when they host the Nashville Predators in the opener of a home-and-home series.
The Blues lost 6-5 in overtime in Las Vegas against the Golden Knights on Thursday night in their first game since defenseman Jay Bouwmeester suffered a life-threatening cardiac event.
Medical personnel revived Bouwmeester after he collapsed on the bench Tuesday night during a game against the Anaheim Ducks. The team announced Friday that he had a medical procedure to normalize his heart rhythm and would return to St. Louis when doctors in Southern California give him the OK to travel.
“Obviously, it’s tough. We all went through a lot,” Blues center Ryan O’Reilly said. “You could tell we missed him. For myself, every game I’ve played here in the last year he’s been here. It’s weird not having him in the room.”
The Blues, who are just 2-5-3 in their past 10 games, were struggling defensively prior to Bouwmeester’s medical episode. So they were doubly vulnerable against the Golden Knights while allowing 52 shots on goal.
“I could tell by our play … we made a lot of mental mistakes tonight,” Blues coach Craig Berube said Thursday. “Mentally we weren’t very sharp in the game, which I kind of thought would happen. It’s tough, but we played hard. Physically, we worked and we competed. We got a point out of it.”
Now the Blues face the Predators, who have won five of their past eight games while climbing to within three points of the final wild card spot in the Western Conference.
They are coming off a crisp 5-0 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday. Juuse Saros made 31 saves to earn the shutout.
That was a nice rebound from Nashville’s 6-2 loss at Vancouver on Monday.
“The message to our team was that we’ve got to compete 60 minutes together,” Predators coach John Hynes said. “We feel like we played some good hockey, even though we didn’t win the (last) game, and sometimes in this league, you’re going to play well and lose.
“But the important thing is to really take the end result and not be emotional about it, really assess what the game was and that’s what we did. I think the players responded well; they’ve done a great job.”
The Predators swept a home-and-home series with the Blues previously this season. They posted a 4-2 victory at Enterprise Center on Nov. 23 before returning home to prevail 3-2 in a shootout two days later.
Saros was in net for both of the Predators’ victories. He is 3-3-1 with a 2.87 goals-against average in seven career appearances against the Blues.
Jordan Binnington and Jake Allen split the starts against Nashville in November and are likely to do so again. Allen is 8-6-1 with a 2.72 goals-against average in 16 career appearances against Nashville.
Binnington has been struggling since December. He followed up a 3.61 goals-against average in January with a 1-2-2 record and 3.57 GAA this month.
With Bouwmeester on injured reserve — and facing an uncertain hockey future after a undergoing the procedure to implant a cardioverter defibrillator — fellow defenseman Robert Bortuzzo moved back into the lineup and Niko Mikkola returned from San Antonio of the American Hockey League.
The Central Division rivals play the second half of this home-and-home series on Sunday in Nashville, Tenn.
–Field Level Media