Oilers At Blues Game Preview: Vladimir Sobotka Returns To The Lineup

Dilip Vishwanat

The Blues' face-off master will return tonight to give the team some spark against a piecemeal Edmonton team.

Blues forward Vladimir Sobotka, he of the 60.9% faceoff winning percentage, is back tonight. This is a good thing, because recently the Blues haven't looked as sharp early on in games at the dot as they usually do. Of course, face off wins lead to puck possession, puck possession leads to goals, and goals lead to wins.

Sobotka himself isn't doing much of that scoring though, so I did raise an eyebrow when coach Ken Hitchcock called him elite. Very good at what he does? Yes. A sparkplug whose energy is visible whenever he's on the ice? Absolutely. A good hockey player? Sure. Elite? To be honest, he's pretty much middle of the pack when it comes to stats on the Blues (save for +/-, where he's a +17), including TOI, iFenwick, and iCorsi.

It's still nice to have him back, especially against an Edmonton team who shipped out parts at the trade deadline. They do have two very good very young goaltenders in Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth, but the Edmonton defense is abysmal. It doesn't matter how awesome your team's goaltender is when your team allows, on average, 31.9 shots a game. That's not the worst in the league (that honor falls to Toronto), but it's pretty rough. Ask Ryan Miller about it.

The most that Edmonton can play spoiler to is the Blues' clinching the division or top spot in the NHL. There's no playoff spoiling here - so the Blues need to look at this for what it is - two points - and not play down to the Oilers' level.

Sobotka may be with Vladimir Tarasenko and T.J. Oshie tonight, according to the previously linked Jeremy Rutherford piece. Have fun with that line, Edmonton.

Brenden Morrow will also be sitting tonight on account of being old.

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