ST. LOUIS - The last time the Blues and Blackhawks met, Chicago jumped out to a 3-1 lead less than seven minutes into the game.
The Blues managed to mount a comeback, tying the game 5-5 by the end of the second period and eventually winning thanks to an overtime goal from Vladimir Tarasenko.
The Blues don’t want to get into the habit of giving teams an early lead, which they did again Thursday against the New York Rangers.
“You’re not going to spot really good teams three-goal leads and think you’re going to come back on a regular basis,” captain David Backes said after Thursday’s 6-3 loss to the New York Rangers. “We did that in Chicago and found a way, but [this] was a different story. We’ve got to be better from the first drop of the puck.”
So tonight, as the Blues get ready for another game against the rival Blackhawks (7 p.m., FSMW, KMOX), getting a better start is key.
“The alarm bell for us as coaches is our start,” Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said. “That’s something you take pride in as a player and as a coach. You want to get off to a great start. We haven’t had the greatest starts lately, and that’s something we addressed (Friday).”
“We just have to keep our game simple,” added Robby Fabbri. “We want to get in, be physical, play fast and hard and outwork them. We know what they can bring to the table, we just have to be able to contain that. It’s great we can (make comebacks), but we want to get to a fast start and try to play with the lead.”
The Blackhawks come to St. Louis with an 8-7-1 record, good for sixth in the Central Division. Chicago is coming off a 3-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Thursday at United Center. But, the Blackhawks will get defensemen Duncan Keith (MCL) and Michal Rozsival (ankle) back in the lineup tonight. Since last week’s meeting between the teams, Marian Hossa has returned to the lineup, too.
“This is a different team. When you add those two defensemen into the lineup and you add Hossa, it’s a completely different team,” Hitchcock said. “They look like they’re full tonight and it’s a great evaluation for where we’re at. A guy like Duncan completely changes the dynamic for both teams. He’s as dangerous defensively as he is offensively. This will be a good challenge for us.”
Ryan Reaves will be looking to make an impact tonight as he gets back in the lineup after seeing two games as a health scratch. Reaves does not have a point in 12 games this season and is a plus-1.
“Obviously my game hasn’t been as good as I want it to be and as good as the coaching staff wants it to be, so getting an opportunity against this team will be fun,” Reaves said. “(I just need to) play my game, play where I was finishing off last year. I’m the energy guy first and foremost. Being responsible, playing with some energy and getting pucks down deep and grinding it out, that’s what I need to do.”
“He’s had some games where he’s been up to speed, and then it’s fallen off again. He’s got to get those two steps back in his game,” Hitchcock said. “We’ve worked really hard with him from a conditioning standpoint, a fitness standpoint in the last week, so hopefully we get to see the real Ryan this time.”
With Reaves back in the lineup, tonight’s lines look like this:
Steen - Lehtera - Tarasenko
Upshall - Backes - Fabbri
Paajarvi - Gomez - Brouwer
Jaskin - Brodziak - Reaves
Bouwmeester - Pietrangelo
Edmundson - Shattenkirk
Gunnarsson - Parayko
EVERYTHING’S BETTER WITH BACON
Fans can purchase #RoarBacon T-shirts tonight at the True Blues Team Store. Shirt designs were submitted by fans last week on Twitter and Instagram, and a fan vote determined the winning design. Click here to view the winning T-shirt design, which features an old-school goalie mask in the shape of a pig’s face, two hockey sticks, a St. Louis Blues logo and the #RoarBacon hashtag.
In addition, several #RoarBacon-inspired menu items will be available at the concessions stands at tonight’s game:
- Roar Bacon Explosion Sandwich - available at Stand 108, this sandwich features smoked pork belly with crisp smoked bacon strips, bacon infused cheddar, bacon brioche bun and garnished with a smoked bacon wrapped jalapeno.
- Roar Bacon Dog - available at Section 117 and 328, this jumbo hot dog features bacon strips, bacon beer cheese and a bacon-infused hot dog bun.
- Roar Bacon Cheeseburger - available at Section 116 and 315, our great cheeseburger has been topped with hickory smoked bacon, bacon infused cheddar spread and a bacon brioche bun.
Jake Allen will make his fourth consecutive start tonight despite getting pulled Thursday after falling behind 3-0 against the New York Rangers. Allen is 6-1-0 in his last eight games and has allowed more than two goals just once in that span. “He’s had a wonderful start to the year. He’s played awful well. We’ve got to go back with him,” Hitchcock said. Allen has won three straight games against Chicago, giving up just one goal in all three games (1.08 GAA, .966 save-percentage).
Scott Gomez has registered at least one assist in each of his last four games (five assists).
The Blues have won three straight games against the Blackhawks. St. Louis has won five of the last six regular season meetings with Chicago.