EDMONTON - Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester will reach 900 games played tonight when the Blues meet the Oilers at 9 p.m. at Rexall Place (FSMW, KMOX).
Bouwmeester, an Edmonton native, will become the 15th active defenseman to have played in 900 games. Montreal’s Sergei Gonchar (1,294) is the active leader in a Top 10 that includes Ottawa’s Chris Phillips (1,179), Boston’s Zdeno Chara (1,174) and former Blue Chris Pronger (1,167).
“It’s one of those things where your career kind of goes in stages,” Bouwmeester said after the morning skate. “At first you want to just get playing and establish yourself and stay healthy over time. I’ve been lucky I haven’t missed a lot of big stretches in the year or anything, so it got here relatively quick. It goes by quick, it’s kind of scary.”
The 900 games number seemed to surprise people around the Blues locker room. Bouwmeester, who joined the Blues after a trade in 2013, is only 31 years old.
“He’s 31 and he’s already at 900 games? I mean, that’s incredible,” Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said. “It shows you he’s been healthy and he came in the League early. It’s incredible. A lot of those guys, when you get to 900 or 1,000, guys are 35, 36 years of age.”
Earlier this season, Bouwmeester’s 737-game iron man streak ended as the fifth longest in NHL history. This season, the Blues defenseman has played in 53 games, recording two goals, eight assists and a plus-6 rating.
“He’s only missed seven games or so the last however many years,” said defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. “It speaks to him as a professional, the way he takes care of himself off the ice and the way he trains. It goes a long way as to why he’s been able to play as long as he has.”
Bouwmeester met friends and family last night, and they’ll be in attendance tonight to share No. 900 with him. That’s something Bouwmeester’s teammates are excited to be part of.
“As a player with him over the last few years, you know what he’s going to bring every night: his consistency,” Pietrangelo said. “That’s what makes him such a professional. You know what you get with Bo every game.
“It’s a special game for him and a special moment for all of us to share that with him.”
The Oilers get Nail Yakupov back in the lineup after he missed Tuesday’s game with a groin injury. Yakupov has four goals and four assists in his last eight games. His return could be a boost for the Oilers, who have scored one goal or less in four of their last six home games.
The Oilers (18-34-10) currently sit in last place in the Western Conference with 46 points. But Edmonton isn’t a team the Blues can afford to overlook.
“We’ve seen them beat lots of good teams this year. We’ve got to make sure we’re ready to go,” Pietrangelo said. “We built something good there in Winnipeg. I thought we played a really good game, but it wasn’t an easy game, but we have to make sure we keep up the same tone tonight.”
Overall, the Blues have won five consecutive games against the Oilers and 10 of the last 11. At Rexall Place, the Blues have shutout Edmonton in two of the last three on the road.
“I think the players recognize what’s at stake. It doesn’t matter the opponent anymore,” Hitchcock said. “If we’re preparing for Edmonton (now), less than 24 hours later we’ve got to get ready for Vancouver. I think you just prepare to play your game and play it as well as you can.”
Patrik Berglund will tie Pavol Demitra for 15th on the all-time franchise games played list tonight, appearing in his 494th game.
Brian Elliott is expected to start in goal tonight and has won six of his last seven starts on road. In his last two road games, he’s stopped 70 of 72 shots. Elliott’s road goals-against average (1.87) and save-percentage (.931) are the best in the League since the beginning of the 2011-12 season.