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Avalanche at Blues game preview: How to compensate for missing Saad, O’Reilly?

It looks like the circumstances have flipped for the Blues and Avalanche.

Colorado Avalanche v St Louis Blues - Game Four Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

On the opening night of this NHL season, the Blues defeated a very depleted Colorado Avalanche team 5-3. It was not an easy win; Colorado pushed back as the game progressed and were able to come within a goal until captain Ryan O’Reilly potted an empty netter to give the team some breathing room. Nathan MacKinnon was out due to Covid-19, and captain Gabriel Landeskog was out due to suspension.

Tonight, the Blues are the depleted team. They’re missing both Brandon Saad and Ryan O’Reilly due to them being placed on the Covid-19 protocol list, and the coaching staff are going to need to compensate for that. Being short Saad and Pavel Buchnevich was less than ideal on Saturday night, but the team handled it well. Being short Ryan O’Reilly, who is the Blues’ faceoff specialist, is a whole ‘nother can of worms.

O’Reilly has won 66.4% of his faceoffs. Robert Thomas has won half. Brayden Schenn, who will probably be centering the top line tonight in O’Reilly’s place, has won 47.2%. Tyler Bozak, who could be on the second line in Schenn’s place, has won 36.4%. Without O’Reilly, the Blues’ best FO guy is centering the third line, and won’t be moved because of that trio’s chemistry. You can see the issue here. Losing faceoffs to the Avalanche is not a recipe for success.

Tonight may be the Blues’ first full test of the season. St. Louis and the Florida Panthers are the last two teams in the NHL who are undefeated, the Blues having won their first five and the Panthers having won their first seven. O’Reilly’s out through at least November 7th’s game against the Anaheim Ducks. Perhaps fans need not get too comfortable with that win streak and the rise in power rankings. Or, considering the resilience of this team and the excellent forward depth, maybe fans should be comfortable.

Colorado has lost four of their last five games, stumbling out of the gate and surprising most pundits. Banking points early in the season is important, especially with the specter of players being put on the Covid-19 protocol list on top of the usual problematic injuries. Thankfully, the Blues have been to the bank and back.