ST. LOUIS - After denying a potent Stars offense on the power play seven times on Tuesday, the Blues’ penalty kill has taken over the top spot in the League at 87.1 percent.
The group has been especially good since the All-Star Break, giving up just one goal on 32 chances.
Perhaps even more impressive, the Blues have killed a perfect 18 of 18 penalties since losing Alex Pietrangelo to a knee injury on Feb. 6 vs. Minnesota. Pietrangelo is the Blues’ team-leader in shorthanded ice time.
“We’ve had guys pick up the slack with Pietro getting hurt,” Blues Associate Coach Brad Shaw said. “We started slotting guys up and they’ve taken the extra minutes and really executed well through it. There are lots of reasons why it’s been good. We’re getting a few bounces, too. Pucks are hitting the post and going out right now. You go through certain stretches where those bounce the wrong way as well.”
In Pietrangelo’s absence, defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Kevin Shattenkirk have picked up the slack and rank fifth and ninth in the League respectively in shorthanded minutes since Pietrangelo’s injury.
“Last game, (Shattenkirk) did a heck of a job, lots of clears, lots of talking, he’s starting to feel a little more comfortable in that bigger role of those minutes that are PK in the zone and under siege,” Blues captain David Backes said. “When you see that sort of growth, it’s only going to make us better, even when Pietro comes back. Those skills and attributes don’t just leave you. They’re built in now and we can be better and deeper.”
“I think everyone has done a good job staying on the same page,” forward Kyle Brodziak added. “Obviously (Brian Elliott) is a big factor for us back there, but when everyone is being aggressive and staying on the same page, it definitely helps out. We’re not really letting teams set up as well as they’d like to.”
Tonight at 7 p.m. (FSMW, KMOX), the Blues will bring that League-best penalty kill against the NHL’s third-best power play in Los Angeles. The Kings have been struggling offensively though, scoring just eight goals over their past four games and just one in each of their last two games.
The Kings have lost two straight but remain in first place in the Pacific Division with 69 points.
“They have a lot of power forwards who like to take pucks to the net. That’s the areas where they drive,” Shattenkirk said. “They’re just a strong physical team, they skate well, have great goaltending, great team defense. They don’t give you much.
“It’s important we do the same thing and get our chances and capitalize on them.”
ELLIOTT STARTS AGAIN
It’s been well-documented in the papers, on TV, social media and even right here on our own website, but Elliott has been an absolute rock between the pipes and will make his 16th consecutive start tonight.
Elliott is unbeaten in regulation in five consecutive games, going 4-0-1 with a 1.37 goals-against average and a .956 save-percentage. Ever better, in his last three games against the Kings, he’s 2-0-1 with a minuscule 0.32 goals-against average, a .987 save-percentage and two shutouts.
He might get a break soon, though. Jake Allen (lower-body) took part in the entire morning skate today and is inching closer to a return, which might make things… interesting.
“It’ll be great,” Backes said. “When we get Jake back, that’s another tough decision for the coaching staff, but we’ll leave that to the coaching staff. We have faith both guys can get the job done.”
Patrik Berglund - Alexander Steen - David Backes
Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko
Robby Fabbri - Paul Stastny - Troy Brouwer
Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester - Kevin Shattenkirk
Carl Gunnarsson - Colton Parayko
Joel Edmundson - Robert Bortuzzo
The Blues and Kings have split the season series so far, with each team winning on the road. In the most recent meeting, Troy Brouwer scored the game-deciding goal in a 2-1 shootout win at Staples Center on Jan. 9.
Vladimir Tarasenko has six points in his last four games vs. LA, which includes a hat trick.
The Blues will celebrate 80’s hair bands at tonight’s game. Enjoy classic 80’s music throughout the game, in-game karaoke contests and live music during intermissions from That 80’s Band.