ST. LOUIS --
The Blues and Canucks have a tremendous amount of respect for one another heading into tonight's matchup, which sees the top spot in the Western Conference be up for grabs.
The Blues are 2-0 against the Vancouver Canucks
this season and the Canucks are very aware of it.
"They've always played well defensively," Canucks forward Daniel Sedin
said. "They've got a hard-working team. It's for first in the conference and it's fun to see St. Louis up there. They should be up there and they're finally here."
Added Canucks forward Cody Hodgson
: "They're one of the top teams in the League, no question. They've got emerging real stars. They have a real good team that plays together and they've just been getting better since (coach Ken) Hitchcock got there."
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault
, who spent parts of two seasons as a player with the Blues, saw the makings of a good hockey team in St. Louis.
"Because we had that playoff series against them a couple years back (in 2008-09), we knew there was a tremendous amount of potential that that team had, the great kids that that team had," Vigneault said. "At some point I remember comparing them to the Blackhawks. With the young players that they had in their lineup in that group, they would be like Chicago and they would be able to challenge for top billing.
"I'm not exactly sure what happened, but this doesn't surprise me at all. They've got a lot of talent and a lot of potential. They've got a good-sized team that right now is playing a good system and playing a real good way. Obviously right now, they are one of the best teams in the NHL."
Hitchcock said his team isn't where the League's top heavyweights are yet, but continue to make progress.
"We're in the evaluation stage against good teams," Hitchcock said. "When you play against teams like Vancouver or Detroit, we're the ones that learn the most. They already have that knowledge. We want that knowledge.
"At the end of the day, we want to know what makes teams like Vancouver tick. We're hoping that they bring their 'A' game and they give us their best game so that we can evaluate our players. We respond when we're a little bit scared."