WINNIPEG - With 11 home games in December and a 2-3 record on its recent five-game home stand, the Blues might look forward to going on the road for tonight’s contest against the Winnipeg Jets (7 p.m., FSMW, KMOX).
The Blues have an 8-4-2 record on the road this season and have collected points in three consecutive games away from Scottrade Center. In fact, the team’s last regulation loss on the road was nearly a month ago: Nov. 17 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Tonight will be the Blues’ last regular season trip to the MTS Centre in Winnipeg. The club has earned at least a point in all seven visits since the Jets returned to Manitoba (5-0-2). In fact, the last time the Blues lost in Winnipeg was Dec. 23, 1995, when Keith Tkachuk lead his Jets to a 2-1 win.
“We know it’s going to be a physical engagement, and I think they know it as well,” Blues captain David Backes said. “When the puck drops, we know that we’ve got to have 20 men together in a battle and stick together for a full 60 minutes. We’ve done that twice against them and we like the outcomes. We’re going to need another one.”
The Blues have beat Winnipeg twice this season: 4-2 on Oct. 18 in Winnipeg and 3-2 on Nov. 16 in St. Louis.
Tonight, the Blues meet a Jets club that has struggled against Central Division foes, going 3-9-0. But the Blues can’t afford to focus on that stat, because despite losing 2-0 to the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday, the Jets have won their last three games at home and five of their last six.
“Both teams have well balanced lines. We just need to play four,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “They have good goaltending, good D, good forwards. We both play a good, physical game, especially in this rink. They’re a big homer team and we know that coming in. We’ve got to be ready from the get-go.”
“I love coaching here,” Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock added. “The whole atmosphere - it’s a hockey building, a hockey crowd. The building is full when the teams are in their warmups. The way their team plays, it brings out the edge in our game, which has helped us. It made us play at a high level just to be competitive. These are great hockey games.
“It’s a great hockey atmosphere that as a purist, you love coming here and you love playing here.”
Blues forward Patrik Berglund joined the team for the morning skate today, albeit without contact.
Berglund has been recovering from shoulder surgery, which he received in late August. He was to be re-evaluated four months from surgery, so he’s right on schedule.
“It feels good,” Berglund said. “There’s not going to be any body contact until they say it’s OK, but that’s when the real test begins. So far, the surgery went well and I’ve been doing the rehab and all the things I have to do to make a full recovery.
“So far, so good.”
“He looks good. He looks really fresh,” Hitchcock said. “It’s amazing when you see a player that comes and looks fresh, compared the other guys who have gone through the campaign already. He’s not that far away. Hopefully sometime in the new year, in January, he’s going to come back and I think he’s going to give us a big boost.”
The Blues are expected to keep the same lines for the fifth consecutive game:
Magnus Paajarvi - Paul Stastny - Vladimir Tarasenko
Alexander Steen - David Backes - Troy Brouwer
Robby Fabbri - Jori Lehtera - Dmitrij Jaskin
Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester - Alex PietrangeloPetteri Lindbohm
- Kevin Shattenkirk
Carl Gunnarsson - Colton Parayko
The Blues haven’t allowed a power-play goal in eight straight games, going a perfect 19-for-19, their longest stretch of the season and longest since a 10-game streak from March 26-April 14. The penalty kill now ranks first in the League at 87.7 percent.
Backes has points in four consecutive games (three goals, two assists) against the Jets.
Vladimir Tarasenko has multiple points in three of his last four games (4 goals, 2 assists).
Tonight is Jay Bouwmeester’s 200th game as a Blue, making him the 36th defenseman in franchise history to reach that mark.