If the Blues didn't have the game that they wanted Thursday night, neither did the Blackhawks. Missing starting goaltender Corey Crawford, the Hawks allowed a James Neal hat trick en route to a 3-2 loss to the shockingly good Nashville Predators.
The Blackhawks will be in a similar situation to start the game Saturday night, as Antti Raanta will more than likely be in net tonight as well. Raanta is no slouch, however, and neither are the Blackhawks. They're 4-1-1 to start the season, and have been playing sharp hockey. Since their 6-1 drubbing of the Coyotes, "sharp" isn't exactly the word that most people would use to describe the Blues. "Muddled" would work well.
Of course, half of the team was sick Thursday night, and eight players didn't practice Friday, so Thursday's game is not a fair representation of the squad. If the Blues are healthier, they should play the Hawks well. Hopefully. If they are all still sick, who knows what they'll do.
How bad is this bacterial infection? Says Ken Hitchcock, to the Post-Dispatch:
"It really zaps your energy, so you've got nothing," Hitchcock said. "You're not running a fever, so you can play (in the games). Once we found out what it was, guys could play with medication. Now they're not feeling great, but they can play."
"We were missing six guys [Friday] (due to the illness) and four of them are different," Hitchcock said. "They're the guys that didn't have it yesterday that picked it up and now they're rolling through it. So it's going to go through the whole team. We still got another 10 to get it. ... Both goalies (Jake Allen and Brian Elliott) had it yesterday."
Some sort of scoring would help them go a long way toward victory; they're averaging 2.17 goals a game, and of course that includes the six goals against Arizona, which are skewing that average. They haven't scored even strength since last Saturday, despite averaging 33.8 shots a game. They're going to have to learn how to convert on some of those shots without proven playmaker Paul Stastny; Dmitrij Jaskin should be helpful tonight provided he's in the line-up and provided he isn't on the fourth line.
Is this a "revenge" game? Does a win expunge the nastiness of the Blues' first round playoff exit last year? Of course not. A win would go a long way to help assuage the concerns of a fanbase who is attuned to every hiccup of a team that always seems to find a way to rattle the nerves. A win'd also prevent the disappointing start to the season from continuing for the Blues.