The Vancouver Canucks (27-24-9) begin the post-Olympic portion of their schedule tonight when they host the St. Louis Blues (39-12-6) at Rogers Arena. Depending on the line-ups and injuries, tonight’s game could feature 17 players who were selected to represent their countries in Sochi (7 Canucks & 10 Blues). It’s the third meeting of the season between the teams with the Canucks winning both -- 3-2 in overtime in St. Louis on October 25th and 2-1 on home ice on January 10th.
The Canucks have 22 games left on their schedule and start into the stretch run sitting 10th in the NHL’s Western Conference. Of those 22 remaining games, 13 are on home ice beginning with a three-game homestand (STL, MIN & OTT). The Canucks have not played since a 3-1 setback in Toronto on February 8th – the team’s seventh consecutive loss. Prior to the break, Henrik Sedin, Kevin Bieksa and Yannick Weber were all out with injuries, but all appear to be ready to return to the line-up.
However, leading goal-scorer Ryan Kesler (hand) will not play tonight. He is listed as day to day by the hockey club. And newcomer Rafael Diaz is set to make his home debut with the Canucks after being acquired in a February 3rd trade with Montreal.
The Canucks resume play looking to rediscover an offense that has dipped to 24th in the NHL in goals per game (2.38). The club’s power play is 28th in the NHL at 14.0%. The team has just four goals in its past four games (Diaz, Higgins, Edler, Kesler).
The Blues start out of the break tied with Chicago for the Central Division lead and just three points back of Anaheim for the overall league lead – with three games in hand on the Ducks. They have won two straight and are 6-1-1 in their past eight games. Alex Steen leads the team in goals with 28 and is tied with TJ Oshie for top spot in the team’s scoring derby with 46 points. The Blues greatest strength though is their depth with five players recording 40+ points already this season and another four with 30+.
Statistically, St. Louis is having a remarkable season. The Blues are the 2nd highest scoring team in the NHL (3.32 G/G) and the 3rd best defensive team (2.32 G/G). They are fourth in the league in both PP (21.7%) and PK (85.1%). Only New Jersey gives up fewer shots per game than the 26.6 the Blues average. The Blues are 33-1-4 when scoring first in games this season, 24-0-3 when leading after the first period and 26-0-4 when leading after the second.
With Pietrangelo (4th), Shattenkirk (T-9th) and Bouwmeester (T-16th), the Blues boast three of the top 17 highest-scoring defensemen in the NHL this season.
It’ll be Eddie Lack and Jaro Halak in goal tonight. The Blues will be missing Vladimir Sobotka and Jordan Leopold.
The Blues are 10-1-5 against Canadian teams this season – the lone outright loss was against the Canucks last month. Defenseman Roman Polak is scheduled to play his 400th NHL game tonight.