TAMPA BAY, Fla - Just over a week ago, the Blues staged a thrilling comeback win against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Scottrade Center. Down 1-0 with less than four minutes to go and with Brian Elliott keeping his team in the game, Vladimir Tarasenko scored with 3:10 left on the clock to force overtime, where Jaden Schwartz would eventually win it.
The Blues say they’ll be more ready tonight, this time at Amalie Arena, where they begin a two-game road trip with a 6:30 p.m. start against the Lightning (FSMW, KMOX 1120 AM).
“First off, we’ve got to play a lot better than we played [on Feb. 3],” Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said. “If it wasn’t for the goalie, they could have scored 10. I think the challenge for us is can we keep up with their tempo and can they keep up with our grind? That’s why we had the practice we had [Wednesday]. We tried to get our tempo way, way up.”
Brian Elliott will start in goal and has won three of his last four road games.
“They were way better than us (last time), they deserved to win last game and ‘Moose’ kind of stood on his head for us and we got timely goals,” Paul Stastny said. “We’ll be better prepared and more fresh (tonight). We’ve got to be ready for their best, because they’re one of the top teams in the East.”
Including last week’s 2-1 win, the Blues have points in five of their last six games against the Lightning, going 4-1-1. Tonight will be the Blues’ first trip to Amalie Arena since Nov. 2, 2013.
“Until you play against them, (you’re not) ready for it,” Hitchcock said. “We’ll hopefully be more ready for it tonight. They really played with tempo, not just with the puck, but without the puck. They get on you fast. They play at a pace where if you’re not mentally ready for it, you’re going to be a step behind.”
Dmitrij Jaskin is emerging as another offensive threat for St. Louis. Jaskin has seven goals through 27 games this season, and four of those goals have been game-winners, including one on Tuesday vs. Arizona.
Among rookies, only New York Islanders forward Anders Lee has more game-winning goals than Jaskin.
“I think he’s up to speed, where he’s just playing hockey now and not thinking,” Hitchcock said. “You get that feeling where things take time to register and once you get past that, it’s just read and react. I think that’s exactly where he’s at now. Everything’s automatic.
“I view him as a guy that’s getting better and better every day. He’s got weight, he’s got size…he’s coming at you with a lot of bulk. It’s good for us.”
THE CHAMINADE REUNION
Former Blues goaltender (and Chaminade alum) Ben Bishop is expected to start tonight for Tampa Bay. He’ll be facing off against his former Chaminade teammates in Stastny and Chris Butler.
“With me, (Butler) and now (Bishop) all playing on the same sheet of ice on the same night, it’s pretty special,” Stastny said. “I enjoyed it more last time because ‘Bish’ played really well and then we got him late. I think we enjoyed the opportunity because it’s something that doesn’t happen often.”
WATCH: Stastny, Butler talk about facing their former Chaminade teammate
Bishop has played against the Blues three times in his career, going 1-1-1 with a 2.34 goals-against average and a .908 save-percentage.
With Tuesday’s win vs. Arizona, Hitchcock tied Dick Irvin for fourth on the NHL’s all-time regular season wins list with win No. 692. Hitchcock trails only Joel Quenneville (739), Al Arbor (782) and Scotty Bowman (1,244) on the all-time list.
Schwartz has a four-game point streak against the Lightning (three goals, two assists), including the OT game-winning goal last week. He made his NHL debut on March 17, 2012 in Tampa Bay, where he scored the game-winning goal in that game, too.
The CBR Renegades, a youth hockey team from the Canadian province of Newfoundland, watched the Blues at the morning skate today. The Renegades are in town for a youth hockey tournament this week and got autographs from several Blues after practice.