ST. LOUIS - The Blues will be without All-Star defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk tonight as they host the Tampa Bay Lightning (7 p.m., FSMW, KMOX), a team that leads the League in goals with 164.
Shattenkirk was injured in the first period in Sunday’s 4-3 win against the Capitals and will undergo abdominal surgery in the next 7-10 days. After surgery, Shattenkirk will be considered week-to-week.
The loss will hurt the Blues both offensively and defensively. Shattenkirk ranks second in the League in points by a defenseman (40) and is second overall in power-play points (24). He also ranks first among Blues defenseman with a plus-18 rating.
“It (stinks),” said Carl Gunnarsson of losing Shattenkirk. “To see a guy like that get an injury is tough, but what can you do? Hopefully he’ll be back pretty quick here, but until then, we’ll take it as it is. We’ve got guys that can step up. (Chris Butler) is coming in tonight. We’re going to be playing together and we’re going to have some fun with that.
“It’s time for guys to step it up.”
Butler has played in 20 games for the Blues this season and will be making his first appearance since Jan. 10 vs. Carolina.
“Those are tough minutes to fill. Shatty’s been unbelievable this year,” Butler said after the morning skate. “He’s been an All-Star, the way he's carried himself on the ice and the minutes he’s played, the chances he’s created and the way he’s played defensively, those are tough minutes we’re going to have to fill as a group.”
As far as Shattenkirk’s power-play minutes, Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said it will be a seamless transition to put Alex Pietrangelo in that spot tonight. He also said after getting a chance to practice it, he might use Ty Rattie or Joakim Lindstrom, both of whom have power-play experience on the point in other leagues.
“Obviously, Shatty on the power play is one of the best defensemen in the League,” Pietrangelo said. “I’ll try to fill his shoes there as best as I can. I’ve played the power play before with (Alexander Steen), so hopefully tonight is a first step in the right direction.”
As mentioned, the Lightning will be a handful to defend, but the Blues are no slouch in that department, either.
While the Lightning lead the League in goals, the Blues rank third with 154.
Both teams have 32 wins and 68 points in the standings. The Blues have points in 11 straight games (10-0-1), and the Lightning have won four of their last five.
Bottom line? Tonight is a must-see game.
“They are competitive offensive players. They’re willing to work for chances. They do it with depth,” Hitchcock said of Tampa Bay. “They have a third line that’s scoring that takes pressure off the top two lines. They have good balance, they have good transition. They’re quick and competitive, and they give you fits if you’re on the wrong side of the puck.”
Tampa Bay is led by Tyler Johnson in points (49). Steven Stamkos, who leads the team with 27 goals, ranks second with 46 points. Nikita Kucherov is third with 43 points.
“It’s going to be a team effort,” Jackman said of defending against the Lightning. “You go over exactly what makes their team successful, and that’s forwards coming back hard, playing a good defensive game and checking for chances offensively. No cheating. Everybody needs to take care of their responsibilities.”
400 FOR STEEN
Alexander Steen will play in his 400th game with the Blues tonight, becoming just the 20th forward in club history to reach the milestone.
Steen posted his fourth three-point game Sunday in Washington, D.C. and ranks second on the club with 43 points (17 goals, 26 assists).
In addition to being without Shattenkirk, the Blues are also still without Patrik Berglund (upper-body) and Jori Lehtera (upper-body). Both players were injured Jan. 29 vs. Nashville.
The Blues kick off their month-long Mardi Gras celebration tonight with live music, a beer garden, food stations with New Orleans-inspired menu items and more. Doors open an hour and a half prior to puck drop. Tonight’s entertainment is sponsored by the 1860’s.
Brian Elliott will start in goal tonight and is looking for his fifth consecutive win.
The Blues have won three of their last four games against the Lightning. Tampa Bay has visited Scottrade Center 15 times, with the Blues winning 12.
T.J. Oshie has three goals and five assists (eight points) in his last seven games vs. Tampa Bay.