This probably isn't the best game for the Blues' top scorer to be out. Alexander Steen, while he can exercise, is sitting out tonight and however many games it takes for his concussion symptoms to go away. How long will that be? Who knows. Scrappy forward and face-off guru Vladimir Sobotka is a game time decision, but from the way that Ken Hitchcock spoke to Lou Korac, it sounds like he could be more than likely in:
"Sobotka is going to be a game-time decision (Saturday)," Hitchcock said. "He made it through practice fine. He stayed the distance. If he's able to come back tomorrow and feel good, then we'll put (in) him as a player. "
... That's why we needed 'Sobe' to be able to tell us 'I'm a go or I'm not a go.' We put him in full, and he went full."
The Blues might be near perfect against the Central Division, and are 2-0 against the Blackhawks, but that doesn't matter much against Chicago. They absolutely destroyed the Colorado Avalanche 7-2 last night, with birthday boy Patrick Sharp scoring a hat trick and adding an assist. Folks can go on about Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane all that they want to, but the Blackhawks' offense is much more balanced than that, and that's what makes them dangerous.
The Blues have the potential to be just as dangerous when all cylinders are firing. Jaden Schwartz will be on the top line tonight with David Backes and T.J. Oshie. Schwartz has absolutely been on fire the last six or so games. Also en fuego is the line of Brenden Morrow, Derek Roy, and Chris Stewart. Morrow has a goal and three assists his last five games, Roy has five assists, and Chris Stewart (last week's player of the week) has six goals and two assists, including his hat trick against the Oilers on December 21st. Sobotka is expected to play on a line with Patrik Berglund and Vladimir Tarasenko, while Magnus Pääjarvi and Dmitrij Jaskin will be centered by Maxim Lapierre. Any of those lines could easily hop on the scoresheet tonight.
The key tonight is to play a full 60 minutes. That is a common key for the Blues, and one that they haven't been the strongest at the past month or so. December's schedule has been hectic, no doubt - but they need to come out strong and play strong the entire game. The 4-3 loss in Calgary was a result of letting up off of the gas and not paying attention to what they needed to do. If the Flames can make them pay for that (as well as the Jets, who also came back from a 3-1 deficit to win in a shootout), the Blackhawks'll walk away with more than their pound of flesh.