The Russian Machine might never break, but the Czech Machine was down for repairs - thankfully not for long.Roman Polak is healed up. His return to the line-up tonight obviously ushers in some change in defensive pairings. Who goes to the press box? Smart money is on Ian Cole, but just because money's smart doesn't make it right. From an interview with Jeremy Rutherford:
But with Cole progressing, Leopold may find himself rotating into the lineup.
"It is what it is," Leopold said. "We’ve got a bunch of guys battling for spots, but also we’re pulling for each other, too. It is a team and we’ve got to put the team first."
You can't say that Cole doesn't deserve the chance. According to coach Ken Hitchcock, the Blues are planning to carry eight defensemen for the forseeable future. He told Rutherford basically that because of the possibility of injury down the stretch and to give the guys playing in the Olympics a rest, both Cole and Carlo Colaiacovo will be kept with the squad. Considering literally half of the team's top six defensemen are participating in the Olympics (and in case of injury, possibly four of the top six), this is a necessary move. The Blues will be in the playoffs barring a giant implosion, so down the stretch it's important to ensure that the Blues' best players are good to go come the postseason.
One of the Wolves' better players as of late will be joining the Blues for tonight's game. Dmitrij Jaskin has been recalled from Chicago due to an injury to Maxim Lapierre Friday night. Where Jaskin will play remains to be seen; the last time he was up with the team Hitchcock wanted to give him top six minutes. That doesn't seem probable tonight, and the line of Brenden Morrow - Derek Roy - Chris Stewart isn't being broken up any time soon, so the Blues might have two maturing skill guys on their fourth line with Ryan Reaves. Luckily, Reaves has hockey sense - can you imagine the horror if Jaskin and Magnus Paajarvi were stuck on a line with Cam Janssen?
The Coyotes got absolutely curb-stomped by the "new Jets" (no, seriously, people were calling them that last night) who simply replaced one slightly above average coach with another. Coach Dave Tippet left Mike Smith in for all five goals against, and some of those goals were not pretty at all. Smith was frustrated, the Coyotes were frustrated, and in post-game interviews Captain Shane Doan looked like he had absolutely had it.
Tonight will be Mike Smith's chance at redemption, and he is going to come out pissed off. The Blues need to exploit that. He wasn't thinking last night, and he probably won't be thinking clearly tonight. If Jaroslav Halak can turn in a performance like he did Friday night against the Coyotes, there's no reason that the Blues can't win.
Unless they decide to take the first period off. Tonight's not the best night to do that. Pounce on the Yotes right away, and the Blues have a good chance at starting a new winning streak, and keeping a losing streak going.