It had to happen sometime: the Blues were dealt their first regulation loss of the Hitchcock era last night, losing to the LA Kings 3-2. There's no time for licking wounds, though, as the Blues are right back in action with the Penguins tonight in Pittsburgh. Back-to-back games with travel in between usually offers a challenge to young teams, so Kenny and the Vets will have to ensure that the youngsters put the loss behind them fast, and focus on the challenge ahead. The Penguins are first in the Eastern Conference with a 12-6-3 record, and they just got a little tougher to beat: Oh yeah, Sid is back boys and girls...
The Enemy: In case you haven't heard (impossible), the best team in the East just got better, with the return of Sidney Crosby. Of course, his first game back in action almost lived up to the hype. Sid took the first shot of the game for his team, and potted a goal against the rookie goalie that the Islanders served up. He went on to have a 4-point night with 2 goals and 2 assists. This is no sudden reversal of fortune, though; the Pens were already doing pretty well with a deep roster. James Neal leads the team in goals and points (12 goals and 9 points, for 21 points in 21 games played). Second on the team in points is Pascal Dupuis (4 G/ 13A), who is also a +10 so far on the season. Not to be overlooked are the other two centers on the team, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal, each with 16 points. This team can come at you with waves of offense.
Overshadowed by Sid's return was starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury's 2nd shutout of the year. Through recent seasons, he's remained a pretty consistent goalie for the Pens. In his 15 starts so far this year, he's backstopped the team to an 11-3-1 record and 1.90 GAA and .930 SV%. Oddly, with all of that offensive firepower, it is the PK that particularly shines right now. The Pens are 3rd in the league with 89.6% penalty kill rate.
Final Verse: With the game being in Pittsburgh, the puck drops at 6:00 PM St Louis time. The GDT should be along around then as well. The broadcasts are Fox SportsMW for TV, and the mighty KMOX 1120 AM for the radio. Until then, this is your pregame warm-up. Gather here, bitch a little more about NHL officiating, bitch even more about excessive Sidney Crosby coverage, and enjoy a little sample from last year's 24/7 series. I have to confess, I've always liked Marc-Andre, and even more so after seeing this:
Fleury Shootout Before Winter Classic (HBO 24/7) (via MichaelJacksonfan628)