BROOKLYN, NY - The Blues will be making their first-ever trip to Brooklyn tonight to face the New York Islanders at 6:30 p.m. CT (FSMW, KMOX).
After spending 43 years at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, the Islanders have moved to the 15,795-seat Barclays Center, which also serves as home to the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets. The $1 billion facility broke ground in 2010 and opened in 2012 for basketball.
The arena has an usual aesthetic for hockey: a Honda SUV behind one of the nets and entirely black seats, which could wreak havoc on goalies trying to locate pucks.
“It's a little strange. The layout of the rink on one end is a little different," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "It looks like an old college hockey barn. I think that's going to be a little strange to begin with but once you start playing you put that out of your mind and just play hockey. "
The Blues enter tonight’s game having won five of the last six games against the Islanders, including two straight on the road. In the last meeting between the teams, though, Mikhail Grabovski scored the game-winning goal while Thomas Greiss stopped 38 of 40 Blues' shots, lifting the Islanders to a 3-2 overtime win at Scottrade Center on Oct. 24.
Greiss is expected to get the start again tonight against the Blues.
“(It will be) a good one. They're one of those teams that's fun to watch,” Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said. “They’ve got four lines, they've got an identity and they get up the ice hard. It seems like every line has a personality.”
The Islanders are coming off a 2-1 win against the New York Rangers on Wednesday where the teams combined for 104 hits in the game - the most in any game this season.
“We're prepared for a (physical game),” said Blues forward Dmitrij Jaskin. “It's going to be a big strong battle with a lot of hits and a lot of tenacity.”
Brian Elliott will be between the pipes tonight, making his first start in 17 days.
In his limited appearances, Elliott has played very well, stopping 35 of 37 shots in Columbus on Nov. 17 and all eight Florida shots he faced in the third period Tuesday in relief of Jake Allen.
“He's played great the whole year, really,” Shattenkirk said. “We're really pulling to get a win for him. We haven't played our best in front of him lately. Even when he comes in against Florida in the third period, he stands on his head and gives us a chance to stay in the game.”
This season, Elliott is 4-2-1 with a 2.59 goals-against average and a .903 save-percentage.
“He needs to just do what he does,” Hitchcock said. “When it's your turn to play, (just) play. Whether you're playing once every week or once every 10 days, you've got to find your rhythm. It's not ideal for Brian but he's got a great attitude and he's a great goalie. We're going to play him tonight and we know he's going to play well.”
THE BATTLE OF THE 91S
After missing practice Wednesday due to the flu, Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko feels better and will be in the lineup tonight in Brooklyn.
Tarasenko has scored seven goals in his last 10 games and has compiled nine multi-point games this season. He ranks first on the club in goals (14) and points (24).
John Tavares is the other 91 in tonight’s game and has a similar stat line: 12 goals and 22 points, both of which rank first on the club.
Hitchcock said he would shuffle the lines tonight as he looks for more contributions from more players.
"We need to include more people and give them that opportunity by spreading out the wealth a little bit," Hitchcock said. "We can't rely on the same two or three players and expect to win a majority of the games... It's hard to win against good teams when you only have one group of forwards going. We need more contributions throughout the board."
"I think it's the time of the year when we've had predictability in our lineup, especially up front," Shattenkirk said. "We're just going to try to switch things up and spice it up a little bit and see what works."
Today's morning skate was optional, but here are the lines Hitchcock has been using in practice the last two days.
Lehtera - Stastny - Tarasenko
Steen - Backes - Brouwer
Fabbri - Gomez - Jaskin
Ott - Brodziak - Reaves
Bouwmeester - Pietrangelo
Shattenkirk - Parayko
Gunnarsson - Bortuzzo
With his goal Tuesday vs. Florida, David Backes passed Keith Tkachuk for seventh on the Blues’ all-time franchise points list with 428.
Shattenkirk’s eight-game point streak was snapped Tuesday against the Panthers, but the Blues defenseman has points in five straight games against the Islanders (two goals, seven assists).
Alexander Steen has averaged a point-per-game in his career against the Islanders and has a four-game point streak vs. NYI (three goals, four assists).
Congratulations is in order for Blues Assistant Athletic Trainer Chris Palmer, who completed his Masters of Science from the University of California University of Pennsylvania.