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St. Louis Blues' James Neal (81) smiles during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Chicago Blackhawks Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

The St. Louis Blues will be down several bodies when they host the expansion Seattle Kraken for the first time Thursday night.

Forwards Vladimir Tarasenko, David Perron and Brayden Schenn and defensemen Colton Parayko and Scott Perunovich remain in COVID protocols and will not play. The one player emerging from that list is defenseman Jake Walman, who will be pressed into immediate duty.

Also playing out of necessity will be forward James Neal, who will dress for the first time since Nov. 22, and Nathan Walker, who returns after a brief trip to the taxi squad and a three-game stint with the Springfield Thunderbirds of the AHL.

Coach Craig Berube isn't worried about any rust in Neal's game.

"The guy's played a lot of games in the league. He knows how to play the game," Berube said. "He has the ability to score goals around the net. That's where he's made his living. Again, he knows how to play the game. It's not like I've got to go and tell him what he needs to do. He knows what he needs to do. He's worked hard and stayed in good shape."

This will be the first-ever meeting between the Blues and Kraken. Former Blues Jaden Schwartz and Vince Dunn moved to Seattle in the offseason, although Schwartz will be out following hand surgery. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on Bally Sports Midwest.