The Blues will get back two key players — one from injury and the other from suspension — for Monday’s crucial Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Bruins.
Defenseman Vince Dunn, sidelined since taking a puck to the face in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final against the Sharks, returns to the Blues’ third defensive pairing with Carl Gunnarsson, replacing Robert Bortuzzo.
Center Oskar Sundqvist, suspended one game for a boarding infraction on Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk in Game 2, rejoins St. Louis’ fourth line with Ivan Barbashev and Alex Steen.
“I just wanted to feel myself getting used to the speed of things. The more I practiced, the faster I was catching up to things,” the smooth-skating Dunn, 22, said Monday. “So I gotta feel like myself out there, I want to be able to be effective and I want to be the player that I was (before the injury).”
Getting Dunn along with Sundqvist back couldn’t come at a better time.
The Blues are coming off a 7-2 home loss Saturday in which the Bruins’ power play was 4-for-4 and needed only 2:06 of power-play time and four shots to score the four goals. Ouch. More important, Boston took a 2-1 series lead and reclaimed the home-ice advantage in the best-of-seven series.
“It was tough obviously. You want to be out there with them and it felt like it was a night that took forever. So, I’m happy to be back,” Sundqvist said (via NHL.com) of watching Saturday’s shellacking and knowing he’s one of the Blues’ better penalty-killing forwards.
While Sundqvist, the forward, offers defensive help, Dunn, the defenseman, offers an offensive skill set that coach Craig Berube pointed to Monday.
“He moves the puck as good as anybody on our team from our own end out transition-wise, and Dunn has the ability of doing high-end things in the offensive zone sometimes,” Berube said. “Not all the time, but there’s just times where he can do things that wow you a little bit and make a great play, or score a goal from nothing. He can make something from nothing a lot of time in those areas.”
Berube also made some other lineup moves, shuffling three of his lines, most notably putting Zach Sanford, who was on the fourth line in Game 3, on the second line with center Ryan O’Reilly and winger David Perron for Game 4.
One change Berube didn’t make: Goalie Jordan Binnington, pulled in the second period of Game 3 after the Bruins’ fifth goal, will be back in net to start Monday. Berube’s decision to stick with the rookie could be influenced by the fact that he’s 6-2 after losses in his first NHL playoffs.
“In his bounce-back games,” the Blues coach said, “it’s just his calmness and his mannerisms more than anything. I think he goes back in there and he feels real confident about himself.”
As if to reinforce what Berube noted, Binnington, when asked Monday about his confidence after being pulled for the first time in his NHL career, said of Game 4: “It’s another game. You prepare the same way.”
Game time in St. Louis is 8 p.m. ET.
With reporting by Sporting News’ Jackie Spiegel in St. Louis.