ST. LOUIS - Long-time teammates and close friends Jake Allen and Ben Bishop are looking forward to squaring off for the first time tonight when the Blues host the Eastern Conference Champion Tampa Bay Lightning at 7 p.m. at Scottrade Center (NBCSN, KMOX).
Allen and Bishop shared the goaltending duties with the AHL’s Peoria Rivermen for two seasons (2010-11 and 2011-12) back when the Rivermen served as the Blues’ AHL affiliate. The Chicago Wolves took over that role in 2013.
“It’s going to be fun to play against Bish,” Allen said after today’s morning skate. “We’re good buddies and we see each other every summer. He taught me a lot as a young guy, but it’s going to be fun to go up against him tonight. Hopefully I come out on top and get some bragging rights this summer, and maybe he’ll owe me a dinner or two.”
Three seasons ago, the Blues’ had a surplus of talented goaltenders with Jaroslav Halak, Brian Elliott, Bishop and Allen in the system, so the club traded Bishop to Ottawa in February 2012. Fast forward three seasons later, Allen is putting together a solid career for himself at the NHL level while Bishop helped the Lightning make a long run in the postseason last year.
“It’ll be fun,” Bishop said of playing against Allen for the first time. “He’s a good kid, I kind of watched him grow through his career from Day 1 in Peoria and had a chance to play with him (there). We’re still close friends. It’ll be a lot of fun to go against him.
“There will be no friends tonight. I don’t think you’ll see us meeting at center ice (after the game),” Bishop added. “We’re both trying to win the game, and he’s a really good goalie so I’m going to have to play well to beat him.”
The Lightning currently sit second in the Atlantic Division with 12 points (5-2-2), so the Blues definitely expect a tough test themselves, especially playing without Jaden Schwartz (ankle), Paul Stastny (broken foot) and Kevin Shattenkirk (lower-body).
“It’s going to be a real good test. You look at the forward lineup, actually the whole team from Bish right out, they have a pretty impressive lineup,” Allen said. “(They’re a) skilled, fast team. If we’re not on our toes, they’re going to make us look silly. We know we have our work cut out for us tonight.
“It’s going to be a good challenge and we’ll see where we’re at.”
(A FEW) REINFORCEMENTS ARRIVE
The Blues will get two players back in the lineup tonight against the Lightning.
Robby Fabbri, who missed six games with a concussion he sustained Oct. 10 in Minnesota, will return on the third line with Scott Gomez and Troy Brouwer. Scottie Upshall, who was slated to play on the second line Saturday but had a last-minute bout with the flu, will also return.
“It sort of feels like my first game again, it’s been so long since I’ve played,” Fabbri said. “(There’s) a lot of energy and a lot of excitement. I’m just going to bring as much as I can to help the team.”
Fabbri scored in his NHL debut on Oct. 8 vs. Edmonton and is looking to pick up where he left off.
“I feel as good as I did before the injury, so that’s a good sign. I just want to carry that into tonight,” Fabbri said. “Just keep building on where I was, just keep improving every day and every game.”
Here are tonight’s projected lines based on the morning skate. Shattenkirk won’t play tonight but said Monday after practice that he’s getting close to making his return.
Steen - Lehtera - Tarasenko
Jaskin - Backes -Upshall
Fabbri - Gomez - Brouwer
Ott - Brodziak - Reaves
Bouwmeester - Pietrangelo
Gunnarsson - Parayko
Edmundson - Bortuzzo
The first 10,000 fans 21 and over will receive a beer stein courtesy of Bud Light. Vouchers will be distributed to fans upon entry, but steins will be distributed after the game at all exits.
The Blues have won three consecutive games against Tampa Bay and five of the last six meetings overall. Most recently, the Blues beat the Lightning on Feb. 12 in Tampa Bay, where six different Blues scored in the game.
Alexander Steen has nine points in his last seven games against Tampa Bay (five goals, four assists). Scott Gomez has 42 points (10 goals, 32 assists) in 50 career games against the Lightning.
Tonight’s game will celebrate Oktoberfest, an annual German beer festival / fair. Fans can enjoy some German music throughout the game, along with special Oktoberfest food / drink items outside Section 111.