ST. LOUIS - Jake Allen will make his first start since Dec. 27 (a 4-3 loss to Dallas) tonight when the Blues host the Edmonton Oilers at 7 p.m. at Scottrade Center (FSMW, KMOX).
Allen relieved Brian Elliott on Saturday after the Blues found themselves trailing the Hurricanes 3-1 in the first period. Allen stopped 19 of 20 shots in relief, including all three of Carolina’s shootout attempts to help the Blues come back and earn a 5-4 win.
The victory was the Blues’ fourth in a row.
“(I just) got some extra work in practice and get back to the basics and my good habits again. It really paid off,” Allen said after the morning skate today at Scottrade Center. “I felt good in there, comfortable, confident and I’m looking forward to getting another chance in there.”
Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said tonight was a scheduled start for Allen. Elliott will be back between the pipes Thursday vs. Detroit and Saturday vs. Toronto.
“Jake playing two periods the last game was not scheduled,” Hitchcock said. “Jake playing against Edmonton was scheduled. We’re not changing the schedule because we pulled Brian (on Saturday). We’re staying on the schedule where Brian obviously will play the bulk of the games here lately into the break, but unfortunately he only played one period in that last game. That probably didn’t sit well with Brian, but we’re not going to lose track of the the fact that (tonight’s) game was Jake’s game anyway. We want to stay on that task.”
Despite not appearing in six consecutive games, Allen leads all NHL rookies with 12 wins this season. The 24-year-old goaltender has a 2.69 goals-against average, a .901 save percentage and two shutouts this season.
“I just want to be ready for my next opportunity, give the guys a chance when I get in there,” Allen said. “I felt I did that against Carolina.”
“It’s not easy for a backup goalie coming in like that, but he did a great job,” said Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson. “That’s the beauty of having three really good goalies on the team right now. It doesn’t matter who is in net, we have all the trust in the guy who’s behind us. It’s a great feeling.”
LESSONS TO BE LEARNED
If there’s a lesson from Saturday’s game vs. Carolina, it’s to respect your game and your opponent.
The Hurricanes are in last place in the Eastern Conference. The Oilers, who are tonight’s opponent, are last in the West, but Friday, they earned a 5-2 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks.
“You can’t worry too much about who you’re playing, just worry about your own game,” said Gunnarsson. “You can’t relax no matter who is on the other side. Just got to keep building on what we’ve got and what we’ve got going for the last couple weeks. We’ve got four straight wins, so we’ve got to keep that going.”
Said Hitchcock, “I think everybody talks about respect for the opponent. We know where Carolina is in the standings, we know where Edmonton’s at in the standings. For me, it’s respect for our own game. I thought we were a little bit disrespectful for the way we’ve been playing, and it showed up. We needed rescuing again. We punched through that hole, so we don’t want to come out and go backwards. That’s what I talked to the players about today. Let’s respect our own game, when we play the way we can play, the way we’re built, we’re really good, but being able to stay on that is hard.”
Tonight’s game is the second meeting between the Blues and Oilers this season. The first was a 4-3 overtime victory for the Blues on Nov. 28. T.J. Oshie had three points while Vladimir Tarasenko scored the OT game-winner.
The Blues have won nine of their last 10 against Edmonton, including four straight.
TOP LINE KEEPS ROLLING
Is there a hotter line in the league than the Blues’ top line of Alexander Steen, David Backes and T.J. Oshie?
The group has combined for 38 points in the last eight games. Oshie has multiple points in three of his last four, Steen has a six-game point streak (four goals, eight assists) and Backes has 11 points (five goals, six assists) in his last six games.
“The offensive production is something we’re not going to complain about,” Backes said in an interview with NHL Live about being named the NHL’s First Star of the Week. “I don’t know if I can necessarily explain a great reason why, but guys have been finding the back of the net when they’ve had their chances, and it’s produced four wins in a row for us, which is a lot more important than how many goals we’re scoring.”
Alex Pietrangelo has scored five goals and six assists (11 points) in his last 10 games against the Oilers.
The Blues haven’t given up a power-play goal to the Oilers in nine consecutive games. Overall, the Blues haven’t allowed a power-play goal in their last four games (12-for-12), which is a season best.
A win tonight would move Hitchcock into a tie with Pat Quinn for fifth on the NHL’a all-time regular season wins list (684).
Paul Stastny is on a season-high five game point streak, registering two goals and six assists.