Tonight, it begins.
The Blues won't be getting everyone back tonight, though I think that T.J. Oshie not practicing yesterday foreshadowed that development. Oshie and Patrick Berglund are both still injured and down, but the Blues are getting back reinforcements aplenty regardless. David Backes, Vladimir Tarasenko, Vladimir Sobotka, Barret Jackman, and Alex Pietrangelo will all be returning to the lineup tonight.
For the Blackhawks, they'll be getting Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane back into the lineup. Also not shabby.
Unfortunately, no Oshie means Steve Ott will be starting on the first line. I would say that you should expect that to change over the course of the game (and honestly, you should), but the bottom six aren't exactly finesse guys. Brenden Morrow and Ryan Reaves (on the third line!) will be centered by Derek Roy, and Chris Porter and Adam Cracknell will be centered by Maxim Lapierre. Those lines will be difficult for the Hawks to play against, but they also need to have the energy and smarts that the bottom six showed at the start of the season. The third and fourth lines have not been able to convert on many chances, and Chicago's can.
The second line is, right now, the Blues' most solid one. Vladimir Sobotka will be centering Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko. If you want energy that the Blackhawks could struggle to contain, that's your line.
Backes and Steen, well, I'm sure that Oshie'll be back for game two.
The Blackhawks are deep enough that Patrick Kane will be starting on the third line with Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw. This will not be an easy series.
Goaltending, well, Ryan Miller better bring his A game and leave his late-season slide where it belongs: in the regular season. He hasn't played in the postseason in three years; he's capable of stealing games and getting into the opponent's heads when he's on. Someone flip the switch.
This should be a good game. The Blues are ready to go, the Blackhawks are a tough opponent, and fans of both teams are looking forward to tonight. Optimism seems to be returning a little bit to the Blues' faithful. Hopefully there'll be a reward in our near future.