Good afternoon hockey fans. Tonight the Pens will host the St. Louis Blues at CONSOL Energy Center.
The Pens are looking for a win to close out their current 4-game homestand with a 3-1 mark. All 4 games were against Western Conference teams. The Pens have 40 wins against the West in the last 3 years, ranking 1st in the East.
The Blues are 4 points behind the Dallas Stars in a race for the Central Division. St. Louis is 8-4 on the road with Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen each scoring 6 goals in those 12 road contests.
If history is an indication, it may take more than 60 minutes to decide a winner in this contest. Four of the last 7 games between these teams have gone to OT.
COLE REUNION Pens defenseman Ian Cole was drafted by the St. Louis Blues in the 1st round (18th overall) of the 2007 NHL Draft and spend the first 4-plus years of his career with the Blues. He credits St. Louis and former assistant coach Brad Shaw with his development as a player.
“(Shaw) was an unbelievable teacher, very detail oriented,” Cole said. “He is very peculiar as far as making sure your skates are angled the right way, or your stick is a quarter turn one way. He’s a great teacher. Taught me so much. There are a lot of things that I became better at under his tutelage.”
With the logjam on defense in St. Louis the Blues traded Cole to Pittsburgh at the traded deadline. There are no hard feelings and Cole has benefited from the move.
Since joining the Pens on March 2, Cole ranks 3rd among the team’s blueliners in average ice time per game with 19:26. He’s also been used as a top-pairing and has played on the second power-play unit.
“You want to play well, perform well, and prove to them that they made a bad decision not wanting to keep you,” Cole said. “I’ve been given a great opportunity in Pittsburgh. … I ended up coming here, but was able to prove myself and show that I can play at an NHL level, night in, night out for a full 60 minutes. That opportunity I was given helped me grow as a player and into an everyday NHL guy. You can really contribute to a team.”
Cole attributes his mental maturation as the biggest improvement in his game.
“The ability to consistently put a product out on the ice, try not to get rattled by mistakes, come back the next shift and get back to your game as quickly as possible after a mistake. That’s something I’ve gotten better at,” Cole said. “I used to implode pretty bad when I was a younger guy in college and first couple of years as a pro. It’s really important because everyone makes mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s the ability to bounce back and play a complete game after that.”
SCOUTING THE BLUES St. Louis is one of the best defensive teams in the NHL. It all starts with their backend. The Blues have one of the deepest defensive corps in the NHL, led by the talented duo of Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo. The smallest Blues defenseman is Carl Gunnarsson at 6-foot-2, 196 pounds. Their entire unit is big, strong and rangy. They take up a lot of space and can be suffocating in the defensive zone.
The Blues forwards are very gifted. Tarasenko may be the most dynamic player in the league, and the most fun to watch. His puck skills are insane and he can single-handedly take over a game. Paul Stastny is finally healthy. With Steen and David Backes, the Blues are solid up front.
Jake Allen has been phenomenal between the pipes. He certainly is helped by his team’s willingness to emphasize defense and utilize a neutral zone trap. But Allen has done some great work on his own. He’s seems to be making one highlight reel save per game and has really earned the starting job.
GAME INFO Where: CONSOL Energy Center When: 7 p.m. TV: ROOT Sports Radio: 105.9 the X, the Penguins Radio Network Social: @penguins, @PensInsideScoop