Hey, Blues. Long time, no see. Enjoy your team building activities with all of the fly fishing and Civil War battlefield visiting and practicing and line tweaking? I'm sure you guys did.
Now it's time to get back into the swing of things. No more rest and relaxation - the schedule doesn't have another week off in it. Crunch time starts early, and it starts today with the first of two back-to-back games. Luckily for the Blues, they've drawn an opponent who is on the second of a two game back to back, and an opponent who is getting a little beaten up.
The Vancouver Canucks took out the New Jersey Devils 3-2 in a shootout last night. The Devils are off to their worst start in franchise history with just one win to the Canucks' seven - this was not exactly a challenge for Vancouver. It's hard to judge how the Canucks will be playing tonight if you look at how they and Roberto Luongo played last night.
Their forwards are getting banged up already, probably because they've had to play 12 games already in the same amount of time that the Blues have played seven. Their schedule hasn't given them any room for a breather; thanks to that, David Booth and Dale Weise are out. Ditto with Alex Burrows, Jordan Schroeder and Jannik Hansen. The Canucks have had to make a call to their AHL affiliate in Utica, getting center Pascal Pelletier and left wing Darren Archibald up for tonight. This basically leaves the Canucks short an experienced line. That caused the game against the Devils to necessitate more effort that they thought they'd have to give; it may give them some problems against the Blues tonight.
The Canucks may be juggling lines due to injury tonight, but the Blues are getting guys back. Barret Jackman and Brenden Morrow will be in the line-up tonight, but in different spots. Jeremy Rutherford reports that Jackman will be playing with Kevin Shattenkirk again, and Roman Polak will be paired with Jordan Leopold. Sayeth coach Ken Hitchcock:
"This allows us to have a better transition game," Hitchcock said. "We now have three pairs who we feel can transition the puck, rather than define one pair (Jackman-Polak) as a defending pair."
"I just think Brenden’s game is more suited to … complementing the play of the center," Hitchcock said. "When we watch a guy like ‘Sobi,’ he’s very good at hanging onto the puck, protecting it and cycling. But you can’t be a good cycle team unless you have the weight. We just feel like this will complement Brenden’s game."
Not mentioned about weight is how Morrow, on the second line with Derek Roy and Chris Stewart, has contributed dead weight. Aside from Roy's six points, the line hasn't contributed much aside from unpleasant +/- stats.
Other than the top line, the Blues will be starting the night off with different combinations. The second line will comprise of Magnus Paajarvi, Derek Roy, and Vladimir Tarasenko and the third will be Patrik Berglund centering Jaden Schwartz and Chris Stewart. Hopefully a line of heft and skill will get Chris Stewart going. The Blues' leading scorer last year hasn't netted a goal yet this season.
As good as the Blues've started, it would have been easy for the team to sit on their duff and roll with what's been working. Kudos to Hitchcock to recognize what has and has not been working and adjusting as needed. Let's hope that works better than John Tortorella having to adjust on the fly.