SAN JOSE - After a 5-2 win against the Anaheim Ducks way back on March 11, the Blues immediately hit the road for a five-game road trip that has now spanned 12 days.
The trip has taken the club through Dallas, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and now San Jose, where the team hopes to wrap up on a positive note before arriving home early tomorrow morning.
“This is a long time to be away from your family. You almost hope the kids don’t forget who you are,” center Kyle Brodziak said after Tuesday’s morning skate in San Jose. “We FaceTime every day just to get the chance to say hi, but it’s been a long time and I’m looking forward to getting home. They’re looking forward to having me back there, too.”
New dad Ryan Reaves is certainly missing his newborn son, Kanen, who arrived several weeks ago.
“It’s tough (being gone for so long), especially since he’s so new,” Reaves said. “I only got to be with him for a few weeks, so it’s been a little tough, but it’ll be fun to get home for a couple days and hang out with the family.”
Before the Blues can get there, though, one more big test awaits them in tonight’s 9:30 p.m. CT game against the Sharks. San Jose has won both meetings between the clubs this season (3-1 on Feb. 4 and 6-3 on Feb. 22) and can clinch a playoff spot with a win tonight against the Blues.
“This game is going to be huge for us,” Brodziak said. “We’ve played this team twice now and they beat us both times. We want to come with a strong effort tonight and see if we can get one of those (games) back. And going home after a long trip, it’s always nice to finish it on a high note and we’re looking to do that.”
“They play a smart team game, with a lot of pressure. They’re sneaky physical, they’re positionally sound, very very well-coached, don’t give you anything easy, and they take advantage of your mental and physical mistakes,” Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said of the Sharks. “I’m very impressed with the way they play. I think we’ve got to have our A-game plus, and I’m really looking forward to judging where we’re at.
“I think it’s going to be a heck of a hockey game.”
Blues forward Robby Fabbri left Monday’s practice early with soreness, presumably from being boarded by Canucks defenseman Matt Bartkowski in Saturday’s 3-0 win in Vancouver. Hitchcock said he’d take Fabbri through warm-ups today and make a decision on his status after that.
Hitchcock also said one player is sick, so Magnus Paajarvi will take warm-ups and could play.
Assuming Fabbri and the sick player are good to go, here is tonight’s projected lineup:
Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko
Robby Fabbri - Paul Stastny - Troy Brouwer
Dmitrij Jaskin - Patrik Berglund - David Backes
Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves
Joel Edmundson - Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Bouwmeester - Kevin Shattenkirk
Colton Parayko - Carl Gunnarsson
CENTRAL DIVISION UPDATE
1. Dallas Stars - 73 GP, 43-21-9, 95 PTS
2. St. Louis Blues - 73 GP, 42-22-9, 93 PTS
3. Chicago Blackhawks - 73, 42-24-7, 91 PTS
The Dallas Stars and Chicago Blackhawks will go head-to-head tonight at 7:30 p.m. The Blues can tie for first place in the Central with a win against the Sharks and a regulation win by the Blackhawks tonight.
On Feb. 22, the day the teams last met, former Blue Roman Polak was traded to the Sharks. He did not play in that game, but is expected to be in the lineup tonight. “He’s one of those defenseman where going into the corner with him isn’t always a fun time,” Reaves said. “He’s definitely known like that around the League.”
Tonight’s game is the Blues’ first and only trip to SAP Center in the regular season, where they’ve collected points in five of their last six games, including a 7-2 victory in their last visit.
The Blues and Sharks both rank among the winningest teams in March (St. Louis is second with a .750 win-percentage and San Jose is fourth with .700).
Jaden Schwartz has a five-game point streak against San Jose, scoring two goals and seven assists in that span. In his last five games overall, he has eight points (two goals and six assists).
With a 3-0 win on Saturday, Hitchcock earned his 750th career regular-season victory behind the bench. Hitchcock ranks fourth all-time in the history of the League behind Scotty Bowman, Joel Quenneville and Al Arbour.