ST. LOUIS — In their surprising run to their first Stanley Cup Final in 49 years, the St. Louis Blues often have leaned on the fourth line of Oskar Sundqvist, Alexander Steen and Ivan Barbashev.
But as they return home for Game 3 with the Boston Bruins on Saturday night, the Blues will have to play without Sundqvist. Tied for the team lead in plus-minus during the playoffs, Sundqvist has been suspended for a game after the NHL sanctioned his hit on Matt Grzelcyk.
With Sundqvist on the shelf until Monday, St. Louis could turn to former Pinkerton Academy star Zach Sanford as his replacement. Sanford hasn’t played since Game 3 of the team’s first-round series with Winnipeg on April 14. He has no points in the playoffs, but he played 60 regular-season games and had eight goals and 12 assists.
Another possibility could be the return of Robert Thomas, who missed Wednesday night’s game after absorbing a ferocious open-ice hit by Torey Krug in Game 1.
On Friday, Blues interim coach Craig Berube said he would decide Saturday who plays. But Sanford told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he was looking forward to the game.
“Obviously, this is every kid’s dream growing up and it’s been a crazy road so far through the playoffs and it’s awesome to be here. I’m really excited for (Saturday).”
Sundqvist was assessed a minor for boarding on the play, in which Grzelcyk appeared to lose an edge along the boards when Sundqvist belted him with a shoulder.
Grzelcyk’s head struck the glass and he crumpled to the ice.
During the postseason, Sundqvist has four goals and five assists while playing a key role on the penalty-killing unit. It was already a breakthrough season for the Swede, who had career highs of 14 goals and 17 helpers in 74 games.
Berube did confirm on Friday that two-time NHL All-Star Vladimir Tarasenko will be in the lineup. The 27-year-old, who led the Blues with 33 goals this season, missed part of the second period in the team’s overtime win in Game 2 at Boston.
Berube told media members that an equipment issue was the cause of Tarasenko’s missed shifts in the victory.
Regardless, the Blues did their job in Boston. By countering a 4-2 loss Monday night with a 3-2 overtime win in Game 2, they are in position to win the series as long as they carry their home games.
“I don’t think I’ll be able to describe what it’s going to be like,” St. Louis center Ryan O’Reilly said of the anticipated atmosphere in Enterprise Center. “We’re excited to get back home and show what this town’s about.”
The Bruins haven’t exactly been cowed by a roaring crowd pulling against them, though. They are 6-2 on the road in the playoffs, including a Game 6 win in the first round at Toronto when a loss would have sent them to the first tee the next day.
Boston has also won its last four playoff games on the road since a 2-1 defeat in Game 3 of its Eastern Conference semifinal at Columbus.
“I don’t anticipate they’ll be overwhelmed,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “I suspect St. Louis will be up, should be. We got a veteran crew. They’ve been there before.”
One guy who won’t be there is Grzelcyk, who didn’t travel with the team.
Cassidy said Grzelcyk is “day-to-day,” but it seems unlikely that Grzelcyk would be ready to play until the series returns to Boston on Thursday night.
It’s different now
When the moments captured in the images that now hang on the Boston Bruins dressing room wall happened live, they were painful for Danton Heinen to watch.
Less than a month shy of his 16th birthday, Heinen was at Rogers Arena wearing his blue Vancouver Canucks jersey for Game 7. Like most fans in the building, he had dreams of seeing his team win the Stanley Cup.
Instead he watched, behind another dominant performance by goalie Tim Thomas, the Bruins defeat the Canucks 4-0 to win the 2011 Stanley Cup. While he watched Zdeno Chara lift the cup, photographers snapped photo after photo.
One of them landed on the Bruins dressing room wall this week as Boston faces the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup Final.
“I was rooting for the Canucks. There was a rivalry there in the final, bad blood,” said Heinen, who grew up in Landley, B.C. “We stayed to watch them lift the Cup.”
Circumstances have retrofitted that moment into a pseudo happy memory for Heinen now.
The framed picture is 20-feet from Heinen’s TD Garden locker. Now 23, Heinen is trying to help Chara, now his teammate, get to lift the Cup again and to get his own name on it.
“It’s interesting how it went full circle,” Heinen said.
With reports from MassLive.com
Three years after breaking his heart, the Bruins drafted Heinen in the fourth round (116 overall), 10 picks before the Canucks were due to pick again. It wasn’t hard to switch allegiances.
“When I got drafted there was just excitement. I was happy to be part of the organization,” he said. “Once you get drafted it’s pretty easy to shift your focus. You’re grateful for the opportunity.”
He said he’s converted some of his childhood friends to Bruins fans.
“I don’t think they ever thought they’d be Bruins fans,” he said. “But there’s definitely a few.”
He cracked the lineup last year and has played 77 games each of the last two seasons. He has 27 goals in two seasons moving between the first and third lines. He filled in with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand when David Pastrnak was out and he’s currently playing with Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson on the third line which has given the Bruins a big offensive lift. He’s got two goals and five assists in 18 playoff games.
The photos of the 2011 team are a now an inspiration.
“Now you look at them and they just motivate you to do what they did.
Follow MassLive sports columnist Matt Vautour on Twitter at @MattVautour424.
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