By Kyle Shohara
If Friday’s home opener had you on the edge of your seat in the closing moments of Anaheim’s 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild, you can expect more of the same tonight as the bruising St. Louis Blues make a visit to Honda Center.
The Ducks have had their way with the Blues at Honda Center recently, having reeled off seven consecutive home wins dating back to Jan. 7, 2010. In addition, the Ducks swept the 2013-14 three-game regular season series against the Blues, including two wins at Scottrade Center.
The Ducks have shown the ability to adapt to different styles of play, including two nights ago against the speedy Wild. But tonight will feature much more physicality, and the Ducks will need to raise the bar against a Blues squad that went 52-23-7 (111 points) last season.
Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau says it’s going to be a “man’s game” tonight. “There is a lot of hitting and very little space to go around,” he said. “You have to be willing to take a hit and get it. It’s a tough one.”
“Any time you go up against teams like this, it’s something you can measure yourself up against,” said defenseman Cam Fowler. “St. Louis has been one of the top teams in the league the past couple of years, and I don’t think this year is any different. We know the type of hockey team they have, but we’re confident with our group. It’s going to be a big test for us, early, to see where we’re at.”
Tonight might be Anaheim’s toughest challenge so far this season. The Blues scored four unanswered goals against the Coyotes last night in Glendale, Arizona, posting a 6-1 victory with three of them coming from Jaden Schwartz. It was Schwartz’ first career hat trick, and the 22-year-old forward finished the night with four points.
The victory came at a cost, however, as prized center Paul Stastny left the game with an upper-body-injury on his first shift of the game after receiving a hit along the boards from Coyotes forward Martin Hanzal. Stastny won’t play tonight, according to Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock, and St. Louis Post-Dispatch Blues beat writer Jeremy Rutherford reported that Stastny was wearing a sling after the injury. It’s a big loss for the Blues, as Stastny was averaging a point per game (one goal, three assists) in four games. Stastny was St. Louis' big free agent signing this past offseason. His presence will also be missed in the faceoff dot. He ranked second only to Blues captain David Backes in overall faceoff win percentage (54.1 percent compared to Backes’ 54.2).
“Every team got better, including us, so it’s going to be interesting to see some of the changes and how they play out,” said Fowler. “As a core, we - and the other teams - are pretty much the same. We’ve just added a few pieces. It’ll be interesting to see how everything turns out.”
COGLIANO CONTINUES HIS STREAK
Andrew Cogliano’s Iron Man streak continues tonight, as the speedy forward is expected to play in his 546th consecutive NHL game. Cogliano, who had a shorthanded goal against Minnesota that sparked Anaheim’s 2-1 comeback victory, has not missed a game since his NHL debut with Edmonton on Oct. 4, 2007.
Cogliano ranks second on the NHL’s active Ironman list, trailing only Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester at 721.
Cogliano is the fifth player in NHL history and first since Doug Jarvis to play 500 straight games from the start of his NHL career (stat courtesy of Elias Sports Bureau), and made his 509th consecutive appearance on Jan. 18, 2014 at St. Louis, surpassing Murray Murdoch (1926-27 to 1936-37) for sole possession of fourth on the five-player list.
IN THE CIRCLE
Anaheim enters tonight's game with a 52.7% faceoff win percentage, good for eighth in the NHL after finishing last season at 20th. The Ducks have two players in the top 20 among faceoff leaders, including Ryan Getzlaf (56.6%, 17th in league) and Ryan Kesler (56.3%, 20th). In addition, Nate Thompson is the third Anaheim center with a faceoff win percentage better than 50% (50.7%).