BLUE JACKETS (2-4-1) VS. BLUES (5-1-0)
NATIONWIDE ARENA | COLUMBUS, OH
7 P.M. TONIGHT
TV: FOX SPORTS OHIO (HD) | RADIO: 97.1 FM & BLUEJACKETS.COM
The St. Louis Blues were a team that no one wanted to face in last year's Stanley Cup playoffs. With a combination of skill, physicality and a stingy tandem of goaltenders, the Blues looked like a sure bet to do some damage in the postseason.
Following a stellar run in the regular season that was capped off by a Central Division championship, the Blues entered the playoffs full steam ahead. Their young players drove the bus, leading the way offensively and buying into the style of hockey being pitched by coach Ken Hitchcock, who took over for Davis Payne in early November. The Blues were a well-organized group with clearly-defined roles and they rarely deviated from their structure, which made them a formidable opponent either at home or on the road.
It's a fast, heavy style of hockey that wears out the opposition, and when the Blues were on their game, there weren't many teams better in the entire NHL. Though they bowed out of the playoffs earlier than some expected, they've picked up right where they left off in 2013. St. Louis has won five of its first six games and opened the season with a 6-0 romp over the Detroit Red Wings, a victory that wasn't as much surprising as it was authoritative.
Since that opening night win, the Blues have won four of five including all of their home games. St. Louis is outscoring opponents by a 14-4 margin at Scottrade Center and has won two road contests in Nashville and Dallas.
A big part of the offensive success has been rookie Vladimir Tarasenko, who made the move from Russia to North America this year and instantly boosted the Blues' attack. He leads the club with eight points (four goals, four assists) in six games and has shown the game-breaking offensive skill that scouts have raved over. Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk is keeping pace with Tarasenko in scoring with eight points of his own, while David Perron and TJ Oshie have had strong starts to their seasons, as well.
Brian Elliot is expected to start in goal tonight for the Blues, while Jaroslav Halak should play tomorrow night in Detroit.
- The Blue Jackets recalled D Tim Erixon and LW Jonathan Audy-Marchessault from Springfield (AHL) yesterday, and Audy-Marchessault is expected to make his NHL debut tonight against the Blues. He was the AHL's third-leading scorer upon his recall (16 goals, 29 assists in 42 games).
- Both Erixon and Audy-Marchessault were named Eastern Conference starters at the AHL All-Star Classic, which took place this past weekend at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, R.I. At the time of his recall, Erixon was the leading scorer among all defensemen currently playing in the AHL (five goals, 24 assists in 40 games).
- Tonight's Blue Jackets starting goaltender has not been announced, but it would not be a surprise if Sergei Bobrovsky gets the nod against St. Louis.
- The Blues have the second-best goal differential (+11) in the Western Conference, second only to the undefeated San Jose Sharks (+16).
DEFENSE | #27
2012-13 STATS: 1-6-7, 6 GP (+4)
John Davidson will often tell the story of, when he was with the Blues, sending Pietrangelo back to junior hockey twice even though some thought he was ready for the NHL. That decision has turned out to be the right one, as Pietrangelo (at age 23) is already one of the premier defensemen in the game. In his first two NHL seasons, he scored 43 and 51 points and is poised for an even bigger year in 2013.
COLUMBUS: Cam Atkinson (lower body, IR), Matt Calvert (upper body, IR), Nikita Nikitin (lower body), Adrian Aucoin (lower body)
ST. LOUIS: none
READ: Blue Jackets recall Erixon, Audy-Marchessault from AHL
READ: Aftermath No. 7: Minnesota
READ: Post Game: Minnesota