The Florida Panthers have the benefit of not having to worry about high expectations. Many hockey pundits have picked them to finish at the bottom of the Atlantic Division, and fans' expectations have been tempered a bit after last year's fall back to reality.
That's all well and good, but the Panthers aren't a terrible team. They have some surprising speed and Tim Thomas in net. Timmah has returned to the NHL, playing his way back on a pro tryout with the Panthers this training camp. Thomas has a fun, flailing style to watch, so every shot on net tonight by the Blues should be entertaining regardless of if it goes in or not.
The Blues took it to the Nashville Predators Thursday night, winning 4-2 and going a perfect two for two on the power play. Is this something that will continue? Hopefullly so. The patience shown by the Blues in their goals was outstanding - waiting for just the right opportunity to score on Pekka Rinne was a terrific strategy. Unfortunately, Thomas doesn't play that way. He'll just fling himself on the puck at his first chance, so the Blues may have to be more creative than usual.
Alex Steen missed Friday's practice with a dental appointment thanks to a high stick Thursday night, but he is back in the line-up today. The Blues' top line accounted for three of the four goals on Thursday evening, and Steen netted one of their two power play tallies.
Brad Boyes, Mike Weaver, and Blues' PTO cast-off Ryan Whitney will be lacing up the skates, but the guy that Blues fans might want to keep an eye on is Calder winner Jonathan Huberdeau. The Panthers' 2011 first rounder (third overall) already has an assist this season, and on a team without tons of firepower, he's well aware that the onus falls on him to keep his team in the thick of things. Taking him out of the play is something that the Blues need to focus on.
The Blues will be facing Eastern Conference opponents 32 times this year, and they have had success against them in the past. Continuing that success will help them solidify a playoff spot this year, so slacking off tonight is absolutely not an option.
Head on over to Litter Box Cats today and say hi, and head back here for a game day thread later. Today's posting schedule will be wonky - I'm in town and may not have time to do the usual litany of posts. But check back - who knows what'll get published.