ST. LOUIS - Injuries seem to be a storyline every game for the St. Louis Blues right now, but another storyline should be how impressive the team has been in collecting wins despite missing a handful of key contributors.
The Blues have earned three of a possible four points on the home stand thus far, most recently a 2-0 victory against the Eastern Conference Champion Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock says he’s impressed with how his team has managed to keep pace in the tough Western Conference.
“We’ve been able to stay with it. It’s not a great painting at times, but boy, the way we stay with it and the way we battle has been impressive so far,” Hitchcock said. “You can commiserate all you want (about) what’s missing, but I like the fact that it’s more about the guys that are in (the lineup rather) than the guys that are out.
“When it’s your turn to play, (the players) expect you to contribute.”
The Blues will need plenty of big contributions if they expect a victory against the Anaheim Ducks tonight (7 p.m., FSMW, KMOX). Anaheim has struggled mightily, collecting just one win thus far (1-6-2), but the tide appears to be turning.
“I’ve been very impressed with the last two games. They’ve played good,” Hitchcock said. ”For five of the last six periods, they’ve been very impressive. If that’s the way they’re going to play, they’re going to win a lot of hockey games. They look like they’re right back on track to be honest with you.”
“You worry about teams who are expected to have success and don’t early. You worry about them having their breakout game against you,” Blues forward Scottie Upshall said. “They’re a team that rises to the occasion…they’ve got a stacked lineup, a team that can score goals and great goaltending. We’re expecting them to push us and give us a test, but right back at ‘em.”
The Ducks are coming off a game in Dallas in which they had a 3-0 lead in the first period but lost 4-3. Anaheim has been without captain Ryan Getzlaf, who is expected to be out 4-12 days after having an appendectomy on Wednesday.
“Teams go through slumps, but teams come out of them real quick,” said Blues forward Ryan Reaves. “You sleep on a team like that, they’re going to make you pay and we just need to make sure we’re ready. We have to prepare like they’re coming out of their slump today.”
Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk did not practice Wednesday, but it wasn’t due to a setback in his recovery from a lower-body injury.
“It’s 95 (percent), he wants to be at 100 and we want him at 100,” Hitchcock said. “We’re trying different aspects to see if we can get it (there). He worked really hard, he’s skated extra and done all the extra work, but it’s stalled. By taking the day off and doing the work off ice, we’re hoping we can crack it through to the last five percent. We’re right there, we got to find the right balance between the work and the rest.
“He’s days away, he’s not weeks away.”
Shattenkirk did skate with the team during today’s morning skate, but he will not play tonight.
Upshall didn't skate Wednesday and Hitchcock said he was "banged up," so Rattie could be in the lineup tonight. Today's morning skate was optional, so here's an educated guess on what the lines might look like. Subject to change, of course.
Steen - Lehtera - Tarasenko
Jaskin - Backes - Brouwer
Fabbri - Gomez - Rattie
Ott - Brodziak - Reaves
Bouwmeester - Pietrangelo
Gunnarsson - Parayko
Edmundson - Bortuzzo
Steve Ott, on the recent goaltending…
“We’ve got that two-headed snake going right now.”
The first 12,500 fans at tonight’s game will receive a Shattenkirk bobblehead. Shattenkirk is the first of four bobbleheads being given away this season. Others include Chris Pronger (Dec. 10), David Backes (Feb. 16) and Alex Pietrangelo (March 25).
Jake Allen has a 1.44 goals-against average and a .940 save-percentage over his last seven starts at home. He notched his sixth career shutout in his last start Tuesday, making 26 saves in a 2-0 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He’ll start tonight against the Ducks.
Anaheim took two of three games from the Blues last season, including the most recent meeting 4-3 on Jan. 2. But the Blues won the last game between these teams at Scottrade Center, 2-0, on Oct. 30.