St. Louis won all four regular season meetings against Chicago during the 2019-20 regular season. The Blackhawks dropped a pair of one-goal games at St. Louis, 6-5 on Feb. 25 and 4-3 on Dec. 14, and suffered two shutouts at home, 2-0 on March 8 and 4-0 on Dec. 2). Toewstallied four assists in the four games while Brandon Saad scored three goals in four games against the Blues.
With a handful of intrasquad scrimmages serving as the basis for their competitive action to date, Wednesday's game is a the one chance the Blackhawks have to get their game to its highest level.
"It's a great opportunity to get out there and play and get used to everything too," said Kane. "Obviously we're going into an arena that's going to be pretty different with no fans, but a lot of different other things going on and just to kind of feel that out and play a game. I think we really want to use it as a game where we can prepare ourselves and get ready for what's upcoming with the Edmonton series."
"I think it's good to have that mindset that obviously it's only one game and then we're right into mix of the play-in series," Duncan Keith said. "We want to get our speed up. I think you want to get just that good feeling of feeling as good as you can about your game. A lot of that is just playing the right way as a team, whether that's just keeping it simple, using our speed, all those little things that we talk about as a team on a day-to-day basis, you try to get those things down so it's easier."
For the Blues, the situation isn't as dire. They'll open a three-game round robin tournament against Colorado, Vegas and Dallas on Sunday with seeding on the line for the First Round, but they'll have a little more time to find their game before the threat of elimination creeps in.
Regardless, defending champtions and Western Conference leaders at the pause are expected to provide a strong litmus test for the Blackhawks.
"It'll be a good challenge for us," Kane said. "St. Louis has been a good team for a long time, one of the best teams in the league, so it'll be good to get out there and play against them."
"There's definitely some urgency to get everyone in," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I don't expect many teams to not play their lineup. The result, it's not that important. It's more so that we as a group use this game as an opportunity to remember how we're supposed to play, stop and start, and get the summer hockey out of your game, because come Saturday that's not going to get it done. That'll be a big focus for us and playing a very detailed, structured, disciplined game. I think it's a great test for us to play St. Louis ... It's going to bring out the best of us, I hope."
It remains to be seen who will get the starting nod in goal for Chicago in exhibition play, as well as how the goaltending split is handled if there's one at all.
Corey Crawford has just three practices under his belt since returning on Saturday from his bout with COVID-19. The veteran netminder was the only player to not only miss out on the voluntary practices in Phase 2, but also missed the opening two weeks of camp. Colliton has preached the wait-and-see approach when asked if Crawford can feasibly be ready by Game 1, but Wednesday could be a big test for that decision, should the 35-year-old see time.
"From our perspective (as coaches), we're just trying to get as many reps as possible for him," Colliton said, "working with (goalie coach) Jimmy (Waite) and trying to get him ready as quickly as we can. I think it's gone well so far and we'll see how it plays out in the next few days."
At least in the first few days, though, Crawford appears to be finding his rhythm.
"He looked pretty solid again. Always impressed with how fast he can adapt," Toews said. "Obviously playing in a game is a totally different thing, it's going to be an adjustment for all of us. We all hope he's going to be the usual 'Crow' but obviously we've got some time to get ready and ease into it."
The average age of the Blackhawks' postseason roster is 25.6 years old, the youngest of the 24 NHL teams participating in Phase 4 and one of just two teams to have an average age under 26 years old (New York Rangers, 25.7). Chicago also accounts for three of the 11 teenagers rostered in the NHL hub cities: Kirby Dach (19 years, 190 days), Adam Boqvist (19 years, 349 days) and Alec Regula (19 years, 358 days).
Just 10 of the 31 players on the Blackhawks roster have played in a Stanley Cup Playoff game, totaling 682 games. Multi-Cup winners Toews, Kane, Keith and Crawford, however, account for 468 of those.