CALGARY - After going a perfect 4-0-0 against the Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks and Dallas Stars last week, the Blues can’t afford to let their foot off the gas if they intend to win the Central Division and the Western Conference.
Thanks to Saturday’s 5-4 overtime win, the Blues have pulled even with the Stars for the top spot in the division and conference with 91 points, now three ahead of the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks.
“We’re getting something out of everyone,” Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said after Saturday’s win. “It’s a different game, each guy is stepping up and I think we’re doing a great job of everyone just sticking with it and rolling with the punches. We’re playing a great team game right now. This is the time of year when the intensity starts to ramp up and I think we’re doing a great job of handling it.”
The Stars are idle tonight, meaning the Blues can take sole possession of first place with a point in tonight’s 8 p.m. game against the Calgary Flames (FSMW, KMOX).
If recent history is any indication, the odds are in their favor. The Blues are on a season-high six-game winning streak and have also won six straight games against the Calgary Flames. What’s more: the Blues have points in nine straight against Calgary (8-0-1) dating back to April 2013. The Blues have also won their last three trips to the Saddledome by a combined score of 13-3.
The Flames are currently giving up the most goals per game in the NHL (3.10).
“We’ve got to think of it as a start of a new week,” Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said. “Last week was a very emotional, intense week. Not only the games and the competition, but the way they finished with overtimes, shootouts, stuff like that. We’ve got to get grounded and get going right away. You’ve got a hungry hockey club coming (tonight) against Calgary - same against Edmonton, same against Vancouver - a bunch of young guys trying to prove themselves. When a team is loose like these teams are, they play hard.”
“Where we are in the division, we’ve just got to keep winning,” Blues forward Paul Stastny said. “We’ve found a good groove and no matter who we play, it’s a challenge for us to play our game.”
THE FIRST STAR
Vladimir Tarasenko was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week on Monday after recording three goals and three assists in the Blues’ four games last week.
Tarasenko ranks fifth in the NHL this season with 33 goals - it’s also his second consecutive 30-goal season.
“I think our line started playing way better with me, Jaden and Jori,” Tarasenko said, giving credit to his teammates for the honor. “Without them, I couldn’t make it, especially with the opponents we had last week. It was a really important week for us, and now we only have 12 games left to (get ready) to play in the playoffs.”
One lineup change tonight: Magnus Paajarvi will take Dmitrij Jaskin’s spot alongside David Backes and Patrik Berglund.
“We need that line to be a better line,” Hitchcock said. “They need to have a bigger impact on the game, so we’ll see.”
Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko
Robby Fabbri - Paul Stastny - Troy Brouwer
Magnus Paajarvi - Patrik Berglund - David Backes
Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Carl Gunnarsson - Kevin Shattenkirk
Joel Edmundson - Colton Parayko
Tarasenko has a seven-game point streak against the Flames (four goals, six assists). His next goal will be the 100th of his NHL career.
Jake Allen is 2-0-0 in his career against Calgary, recording a 1.50 goals-against average and a .940 save-percentage. Allen is riding a career-high six-game win streak, posting a 2.70 goals-against average and a .925 save-percentage in that stretch.
Since the All-Star break, the Blues power play ranks fourth overall in the League at 26.8 percent, while the penalty kill ranks second overall at 87.5. The Blues also own the League’s second-best record since the break, going 13-4-1.