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Rangers At Blues Opening Day Preview: Dethrone The King

The Blues have an unusual opening night opponent - not an in-division or in-conference rival, but the Eastern Conference champions.

Christian Petersen

The Blues aren't opening against someone who would traditionally be a huge draw. The New York Rangers are a good team, and last year they made a surprising run at the Stanley Cup. Despite falling to the Los Angeles Kings in five games, the games were mostly close ones. The Rangers, whose core is essentially the same, would like to make another run.

The Blues would probably like to make a deeper run than one round, but that's not on their mind at the moment. It's just opening night, after all. According to Ken Hitchcock, speaking in an interview with the Post-Dispatch's Jeremy Rutherford, is in prime "playoffs!?!?" mode.

"First of all, we couldn’t get a better opponent, other than it being Los Angeles you couldn’t get a better opponent to measure," Hitchcock said. "I think the first thing we can do is not talk about the playoffs. I think when you’re in the playoffs for a few years in a row, you just assume that you’re going to get there. That’s the biggest mistake you could make.

"What you should be thinking about is playing your best hockey for as long as you can, knowing that there’s going to be dips in the road and you’re going to have to manage them. It’s all about managing the potholes. I think we’re going to need to do that to get into the playoffs."

He raises a good point - coasting and entitlement won't get you anywhere, though it's never seemed that was the Blues problem. The Blues did fix the problem - quality depth at center - by adding Paul Stastny and Jori Lehtera, who had a very impressive pre-season. The Blues have added some finesse and scoring punch while maintaining their defensive prowess.

The Rangers have been a good opponent for the Blues to deal with. They've beaten New York three games in a row, scoring seven goals in two games last year.  Their power play, which is occasionally an issue, clicked, going three for eight. Keep your eyes on David Backes and Alexander Steen. In just two games they each had five points against the Rangers, with two goals and three assists apiece. Part of this success - to the tune of four goals in 40 minutes of play - came against Martin Biron. It's tough to know if the Blues can replicate that success against Henrik Lundqvist. I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that tonight's game will be closer to last year's 2-1 win back on January 23rd than the Blues' 5-3 win last October 12th.