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Apr 9, 2024 6:58 pm

Blues turning to youngsters as time runs out, face Blackhawks next

blues bolduc

The St. Louis Blues earned just three of a possible six points out of their recent three-game road trip, which pushed them to the brink of elimination from a playoff berth.

Given his team’s math problem, Blues coach Drew Bannister has been giving younger players more responsibility during the closing games of the season. That process will continue when the Blues (41-32-5, 87 points) host the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday.

Rookie winger Zack Bolduc scored his third goal of the season just 11 seconds into Sunday’s game at Anaheim. He played with top center Robert Thomas during the team’s 6-5 shootout victory over the Ducks.

“I thought he played awesome (Sunday),” Thomas said. “Obviously, sets the tone early with a big goal. The way he was on the puck, the way he moved the puck, moved his feet, he had a good stick all night long and created a lot of space for me and (Brayden Schenn). I thought he did an excellent job.”

Bolduc, the 17th overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, scored 110 points in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season. The Blues hope the 21-year-old can develop into a top-six forward to expedite the team’s retooling.

“He was on his toes,” Bannister said of Bolduc. “We want our young guys to bring energy. We’re giving them an opportunity to be in the lineup; we want them to bring energy and I thought he did.”

The Blues will face the Blackhawks without defenseman Justin Faulk, who is sidelined for the rest of the year with an upper-body injury. Forward Jake Neighbours (upper-body injury) won’t play against Chicago, but he could return before the end of the season.

The Blackhawks (23-49-5, 51 points) are coming off a 4-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Sunday. They defeated the Dallas Stars 3-2 the night before, but came out flat in the following game.

“For whatever reason, I guess a little bit of fatigue,” Blackhawks coach Luke Richardson said. “But (the Wild) played and traveled, too, and they just had a little bit more in their tank than we did tonight. We just couldn’t really muster too much together on offense, and then we couldn’t kill anything defensively. So, just way too much time in the (defensive zone). Their good players, when they had the puck, were really good.”

Had the Blackhawks not received a strong game in goal from Arvid Soderblom (33 saves), the loss could have been much worse.

“He played really well for us the last however many games here now,” Blackhawks forward Colin Blackwell said of Soderblom. “And I feel like we’re not giving him the run support or anything along those lines. But he made some huge saves for us, and that could have been a heck of a lot worse. So, kudos to him. I thought he stood on his head for a lot of the saves that he made and kept it manageable for a little while there.

“But ultimately, you can’t have that effort, especially on a back-to-back.”

The Blues won two of three games from the Blackhawks earlier this season, prevailing 4-2 in Chicago on Nov. 26 and 7-5 at home on Dec. 23. The Blackhawks defeated the Blues at home 3-1 on Dec. 9.

–Field Level Media

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