Where is Josh Leivo? Blues coach Craig Berube says his play had slipped
TAMPA, Fla. — Forward Josh Leivo was called up by the Blues on Nov. 9 from Springfield of the American Hockey League, and the Blues went on a seven-game winning streak.
The streak ended Wednesday in Buffalo, but don’t blame Leivo. He was a healthy scratch in the 6-2 loss to the Sabres, with Vladimir Tarasenko returning to the lineup after missing two games with an illness.
Tarasenko took Leivo’s place on the right side of Ryan O’Reilly’s line. Nathan Walker came off the bench and into the lineup, replacing the ailing Brandon Saad on the left wing of the O’Reilly line.
After recording four points in his first five games since being called up, Leivo’s game had flattened out over the next two games. Overall, O’Reilly’s line looked a little stale with no points in the two wins against Anaheim.
“I thought his game dropped in the last couple,” coach Craig Berube said of Leivo. “He’s got to play a certain way. That’s it. That’s really what it comes down to.”
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Tarasenko had a game-high five shots on goal, with eight shot attempts overall, and had several good chances against the Sabres. But O’Reilly’s line was rendered meaningless for the third straight game.
After being reassigned to the AHL in a move announced Wednesday, defenseman Tyler Tucker returned to Springfield in time to play in that night’s game against the Hersey Bears. The Thunderbirds lost 2-1, but Tucker clearly marked Berube during his time with the big club.
“He brings playmaking ability to the game,” Berube said. “Play physical. Close plays. You know what you’re going to get. Aggressive.
“I thought he read the plays well. His gaps were good. I thought his puck movement was fine. He showed us many things. I thought he did really well.”
Tucker played in four games for the Blues, games 4-7 of the seven-game hitting streak. He averaged 13:01 of ice time in those contests, had a career-high four hits against Washington and was involved in his first NHL fight on Nov. 19 against Anaheim’s Sam Carrick.
The Blues’ organizational depth isn’t great on the blue line, but Berube knows he has at least one defenseman who can help Tucker.
“Sure,” Berube said. “He’s always been a guy that we thought would become what he is as a player. He’s showing that he can come in here and give us games, and probably become a player at some point.”
In praise of Tage
Tage Thompson, the Blues’ former first-round pick, didn’t have a point in Buffalo’s win on Wednesday, but he nearly scored a pair of goals and his presence was continually felt in the Sabres’ offense. In short, he’s become a beast at 6-6, 220.
“A great player. Great hands, shot. He can skate,” Brayden Schenn said. “He’s come a long way. He was always a boy in St. Louis who was polite, respectful. At that point, he wanted to get better and obviously he’s having success here and he’s a good player for Buffalo.”
Thompson was a rookie for the Blues in 2017-18, Schenn’s first season in St. Louis after being acquired in a trade with Philadelphia.
• With an assist on Pavel Buchnevich’s goal against Buffalo, Jordan Kyrou extended his point streak to six games, the longest of any Blues player of the season. Kyrou has two goals and seven assists in that stretch.
• Even in the loss, Buchnevich and Robert Thomas also remained productive. Since the start of the team’s seven-game winning streak, Buchnevich has four goals and seven assists in eight games. With an assist on Buchnevich’s goal, Thomas has two goals and eight assists in those eight games.
• For the first time since Oct. 31 against the Los Angeles Kings, and just the third time all season, a Blues defenseman was held scoreless against the Sabres. The Blues rank 11th in the NHL in defenseman goals this season with 10.
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