Standout rookie Robert Thomas last suited up for the St. Louis Blues in Game One of the Stanley Cup Final, as an injury has forced him to watch from the sidelines as his team bounced back from a loss to start the series to go up 3-2 heading back home for Game Six. Now, it seems Thomas will finally get to return to action tonight as the team tries to take home the franchises’s first Cup title. Thomas told the media, including Fox Sports’ Andy Strickland, after the team’s morning skate that he will play for the Blues in Game Six against the Boston Bruins. Head coach Craig Berube then confirmed his return tonight.
Strickland had noted that Thomas was a full participant on the ice this morning, albeit in a limited session, which was a positive step toward a potential return. But Thomas stated that it was actually at practice yesterday that he passed the final hurdles needed to be cleared for a return to the lineup. Although Thomas was the recipient of a highly publicized heavy hit from the Bruins’ Torey Krug in Game One, this injury was unrelated and is speculated to have originated in the Western Conference Final. For what it’s worth, Thomas told the media that he had no issue with Krug’s hit and is not focused on it in his return.
Thomas, 19, played in 70 games for the Blues in the regular season and finished ninth on the team in scoring with 33 points. The 2017 first-round pick will certainly provide an offensive boost for St. Louis tonight. The one concern though is that he will actually be filling the roster spot of suspended fourth-liner Ivan Barbashev, whose physicality Thomas won’t be able to replicate. The Stanley Cup Final has been more of a war of attrition than a shootout and the Blues have succeeded based on their physicality rather than their offense, so it will be interesting to see if they can get the win playing with more skill and less grit in Game Six. For their part, the Bruins are also looking to boost speed rather than physicality, returning to the standard six defenseman and adding Karson Kuhlman to the lineup up front rather than David Backes, per head coach Bruce Cassidy.