ST. LOUIS - Not that he needs it, but if Vladimir Tarasenko ever wanted some extra motivation to play well or put on a show, tonight's matchup with the Washington Capitals (7 p.m., FSMW, KMOX) will certainly give it to him.
The Capitals' roster boasts three Russian players - Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov - all of whom Tarasenko knows quite well.
"Especially for me, it's always fun to play against your friends and guys you know from the national team," Tarasenko said after the morning skate. "It's nice having other Russians on the other side of the ice. You want to win even more."
Those feelings were mutual in the visitor's locker room today after the morning skate. Here's what Tarasenko's buddies had to say about facing off against each other on the ice:
Alex Ovechkin: "Obviously (Vladimir) is a great player, tremendous skill, great shot. It's going to be a challenge for our goalie and our defensive side… (Tonight) is against a team that last year almost went to the Final. It's a good team, it's a challenge for us as a group and we'll try to win."
Evgeny Kuznetsov: "It's always nice to play against (Tarasenko). He's one of the best players right now from Russia, and we've played together for a national team and junior national team, too. It's always nice to see him on the ice and the game is always fun against him."
Dmitry Orlov: "It's great to see him. Because in the regular season, we don't play each other a lot. It's always fun to see him. He's my friend and he's great hockey player too but we have to be ready for the game today. We're friends off the ice, but today is a big matchup for both teams. Everybody is close in the standings and everybody wants to win and gets points every game. It's going to be a good night for fans and good game for everyone."
Video: Tarasenko set to meet old friends
The Blues certainly won't have it easy tonight. The Capitals come to town having won nine of their last 10 games but on Monday night, the Capitals lost an 8-7 triller to the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime.
Nonetheless, the Capitals are tied for the League lead in the standings (64 points) and have points in 11 straight games.
"They're playing the best of anybody in the League right now. To think we're going to come in here and outscore them is unrealistic," said Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock. "For two of the last three games, we've had our A-game, and our A-game can beat everybody. That's our attitude."
After sitting out three games and working hard with Blues Goalie Coach Jim Corsi, Jake Allen will be between the pipes tonight against the Capitals.
"He needed a break mentally and physically," Hitchcock said. "We needed to get some things adjusted and like any other young guy, you get a chance to work on those things and you just have to live with it… We think he's going to take some steps in the right direction. That's part of making the decision to go with a young guy and giving him the ball and letting him run with it.
"There were just some things technically we want to see him get better at, and we saw that in the last two practices. If we didn't see those things, we wouldn't play him. But we saw them."
Video: Allen to start vs. Capitals
Allen has faced the Capitals just once in his career - that was a 32-save shutout at Verizon Center, which included four stops on Ovechkin - in a 4-0 Blues victory last March.
"Trust yourself, try to slow the game down a little bit," Jake Allen said when asked about what he's worked on lately. "That felt good the last few days, and it'll be a great test."
- Alexander Steen has 10 points (three goals, seven assists) over his last 10 games.
- Tarasenko has goals in four straight games against Washington.
- Kevin Shattenkirk will play in his 410th game as a Blue tonight, passing Murray Baron for 11th on the Blues' all-time franchise list for defensemen.
- Since Dec. 15, Patrik Berglund shares the League lead in goals (10) with Cam Atkinson, Patrick Maroon, Nikolaj Ehlers and Chris Kreider.