CHICAGO - The Blues are back on the road for three games, starting with tonight’s 7 p.m. meeting with the division-rival Chicago Blackhawks at United Center (NBCSN, KMOX 1120 AM).
The road has been a friendly place for the Blues as of late. This season, the Blues are 7-3-1 away from Scottrade Center and are currently on a three-game road winning streak.
“We don’t really change our game too much. I think we’re pretty consistent both home and away,” Blues forward Alexander Steen said. “We obviously do a good job of pre-scouting other teams. On the road, we just roll our lines a little bit more. Everybody gets involved earlier in the game.
“The fact that we can roll four lines and be confident and comfortable is a big reason why we’re able to win a lot of hockey games, and not just on the road.”
Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock attributes the road wins to strong play late in games.
“We just find ways to keep going,” Hitchcock said. “We are not kicking on all cylinders yet, but we find ways to get points. We find ways to get wins, especially in the third period. We’ve got no quit in us.”
The Blackhawks have returned to Chicago after a six-game road trip in which they went 5-1-0. Injuries have mounted for the Blackhawks, though, who will be without goalie Corey Crawford for two to three weeks with a lower-body injury. Patrick Sharp has also been out of the lineup since Nov. 4. He’s skating but isn’t expected to be in the lineup tonight.
“It’s a big rivalry, obviously,” Steen said of facing the Blackhawks. “Playing at home, it’s an awesome feeling against these guys. On the road, it’s a complete different bear. Their home crowd is real noisy and loud. It’s a nice feeling when you get them quiet. In the last few years, we’ve been building and building on this rivalry. They always tend to be high-paced, irritating games.”
The Blues won the first matchup 3-2 on Oct. 25 at Scottrade Center.
Added Hitchcock, “We can’t play 40 minutes and expect to beat this team. They're playing too well. They’ve got 60-minute efforts going across the board, they’ve got four lines playing…we’re going to need the same.”
Jake Allen will be back in between the pipes tonight. The former Chicago Wolves goaltender will be making his first start against the Blackhawks.
“It’s cool to be back here, but playing on the bigger stage is the stage I want to play on,” Allen said. “I’m just looking forward just to getting on the ice and getting another game in my belt. Big test for us tonight. We’ve got a couple of good practices the last few days, so we’ll see what we’ve got.
Allen is coming off a 36-save performance Saturday that included stopping all three of Minnesota’s shootout attempts.
“He’s had some big starts already this year, but this is a significant opponent that’s on top of their game,” Hitchcock said. “He’s going to get challenged offensively at the net and in the offensive zone probably more than he’s been challenged in the last month.”
Brian Elliott remains week-to-week with a lower-body injury sustained Nov. 25 vs. Ottawa.
Jay Bouwmeester, who has missed four games with a lower-body injury, also won’t play. Hitchcock said if tonight was a playoff game, they’d consider putting him in the lineup, but for now, they’re opting to keep him out. Hitchcock said Bouwmeester will be tested again in practice tomorrow.
Vladimir Tarasenko has five points (two goals, three assists) in his last five meetings with the Blackhawks.
Martin Brodeur, who signed a one-year deal with the Blues yesterday, is expected to get a start on this road trip. Brodeur has been practicing with the Blues since Friday.