NHL Holiday Break Comes At A Great Time for Blues

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Yesterday, the NHL and NHLPA announced that all games would be postponed from Wednesday, December 22nd until Monday, December 27th. While there is typically a small break from games on and around the Christmas holiday, the league is also dealing with a concerning increase in positive COVID-19 tests amongst pretty much all of the teams and is doing its part to curtail that development.

The break comes at an interesting time for the St. Louis Blues. It has been well documented that the team has had its fair share of struggles icing a complete team, with players going in and out of COVID protocol on seemingly a daily basis. As things currently stand, only forward Oskar Sundqvist is in the protocol, however, the break gives the team a chance to get healthy otherwise. The team entered the break with seven players either on injured reserve or long-term injured reserve, with that number already lowering to six as the team announced on Monday that winger Klim Kostin has been activated from long-term injured reserve and the team sent forwards Matthew Peca and Alexei Toropchenko back to the Springfield Thunderbirds of the American Hockey League. The fact that the team sent down two forwards while only activating one could be a good sign that at least one other player could be set to return when the team takes the ice again.

Who’s out? Who’s available?

As we enter the COVID/holiday break, the team has one player in COVID protocol (Sundqvist), four players on injured reserve (centers Brayden Schenn and Robert Thomas, defenseman Jake Walman, and goaltender Ville Husso), two players on long-term injured reserve (wingers David Perron and James Neal), as well as Jordan Kyrou, who is still on the active roster but has been a scratch the past several games with an upper-body injury. With the return of Jordan Binnington and the strong play of Charlie Lindgren, the team should be okay in goal for the immediate future. The defense is intact apart from the injured Walman, who figures to be a rotation player anyways, so the team is not hurting too bad in that department. It’s upfront that the team desperately needs help. Schenn and Thomas are the Blues’ second and third-line centers and their absences have hamstrung the team down the middle. Meanwhile, Perron and Kyrou are both depended upon to be among the team lead in goals and points. If not for the impressive play from the Russian line, it’s hard to see where the goals would come from with those players out of the lineup. With the team playing shorthanded for the last month or so, it’ll be good for them to have several days without games in order to try and get at least somewhat healthy.

When will postponed games be made up?

On Tuesday, the NHL and NHLPA made the announcement that the entire world saw coming for the last couple of weeks. The league office will not be sending its players to China for the 2022 Winter Olympics due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. With the staggering rise in positive cases both here in North America and around the world, NHL participation in the Olympics just became too much of a risk for all involved. The NHL originally scheduled a league-wide break in February to accommodate those players that were set to head to Beijing and it is now expected that that time will be used to make up for all of the games that have been postponed this month.

Obviously, the situation is fluid as there is no way of knowing that the rise in positive tests around the league is going to stop anytime soon. As things stand, the league is taking things day by day and is trying to play as many games as possible with the future being as uncertain as it is. While the league expects to return to play on December 27th, there is no guarantee that the situation will be any better by then. Hopefully, this is just a blip on the radar and the Blues will be taking the ice again as soon as possible.

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