PHILADELPHIA - As luck would have it, defenseman Robert Bortuzzo will make his Blues debut tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center (6 p.m. CT, FSMW, KMOX).
As any Penguin would, Bortuzzo developed a dislike for the Flyers overs his four seasons in Pittsburgh, and that’s some extra motivation for him tonight.
“This building is obviously fun to play in,” Bortuzzo, who will wear No. 41, said after today’s morning skate. “I had a couple good battles in here. It’s exciting.”
Bortuzzo, who was traded to St. Louis on Monday in exchange for Ian Cole, brings significant size to the Blues’ defense. The 25-year-old Thunder Bay, Ont. native is 6-foot-4 and weighs in at 215.
“It will be great going down the stretch with some bigger bodies. In the playoffs, having size and mobility really wears on the other team,” Barret Jackman said. “He’s a big kid that plays hard. He sticks up for his teammates, so that’s something we have a lot of respect for in this locker room.
When asked to describe his game, Bortuzzo describes himself as a competitive player.
“I want to be hard to play against,” he said. “Get pucks in and out of our zone as quick as possible. Obviously we have a very talented forward group up there, so obviously I need to get pucks in their hands.”
Bortuzzo has played in 113 games over the course of his career, recording four goals and 16 assists. In those four seasons, he’s collected 171 penalty minutes.
DICTATING THE PLAY
Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said the key to the game is quite simple: it’s all about who dictates the play.
“They need to dictate, that’s their game,” Hitchcock said of the Flyers. “They’re a great initiation team, a team that’s really really strong in their forecheck and physical play. And we need to dictate to win. Neither one of these teams is at their peak when they counter attack. We’re best by initiating and so are they.
“I don’t think there’s going to be a lot neutral zone play. It will be in one end or the other tonight.”
The Flyers are 27-25-12 this season and currently sit five points out of a Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. Jakub Voracek leads the team in points with 65 (19 goals, 46 assists), while Claude Giroux is second with 60 points (18 goals, 42 assists).
Overall, the Blues have won three of the last four meetings with Philadelphia.
Wish Nashville picking up points in just five of their last 10 games, the Blues find themselves chasing down the Predators for the Central Division lead. With two games in hand, the Blues are just four points behind Nashville and could be two points behind them entering Saturday’s game in Toronto.
“That’s why you play the game. Getting into first place, it puts value and extends value in the season,” Hitchcock said. “That’s why you play for eight months. You want to get the highest seed possible. I think a lot of us a week ago thought it was out of reach. Now it’s back in reach. Let’s take advantage of it.”
The Blues have won nine of their last 11 road games and have picked up points in five straight on the road (4-0-1). The club is in the midst of a stretch that sees them play 11 of 14 on the road.
Brian Elliott will start tonight against the Flyers. He’s won seven of his last eight games on the road and has stopped 96 of 100 shots over the last three appearances.
Hitchcock said he expects Olli Jokinen to make his Blues debut on Saturday against the Maple Leafs.
Jackman is celebrating a birthday today and turns 34 years old.