The last time these two teams met up on a national broadcast, it was in the middle of the Blues' worst stretch of the season. It was punctuated by a 5-0 loss to the Avalanche, where the team looked somewhere between disinterested and lost.
Hopefully the national broadcast jinx won't be on the Blues tonight. They're playing excellent hockey, geting wins in four of their last five and taking nine of a possible ten points. They've leapfrogged the Chicago Blackhawks for second place in the Central, and a win tonight places them two points behind the Nashville Predators for the division lead.
No, it's not a must-win game, but it sure is a "would be nice if they did" win.
The Blues shut out the Avalanche 3-0 on December 29th. They not only shut them out, they shut them down, helping Martin Brodeur to the easiest shutout he's probably gotten in his career. Brian Elliott is a shutout away from tying Jaroslav Halak for tops all-time on the Blues' list; if the Blues play tight defensive hockey again tonight, tying that record is well within reach.
The Avalanche are finishing a five game road trip tonight, much like the Maple Leafs were Saturday night. Unlike the Leafs, they have managed to win one of those games, going 1-1-2 for four out of eight points. They're slowly clawing their way out of the Western Conference's basement, and are three points behind the Calgary Flames and Los Angeles KIngs for the last wild card position.
The Avs' bright spot this season has been their penalty kill, which is slightly better than the Blues' (84.3% to 80.8%) thanks to goaltender Semyon Varlamov's solid work in net.
Word of advise to the Blues: keep your eye on former teammate and 2015 all star Erik Johnson. He has 12 goals and 11 assists and has been an absolute thorn in the Blues' side this season (3G, 2A).
What does Ken Hitchcock think of the Avs? Nothing but praise for their recent play:
They’re a good team, they’ve got a great spirit. They play hard…they make you earn it," said Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock. "It seems one team gets the other team on their heels and it can’t get back up off the mat. They’re playing really well right now, this is the best I’ve seen them play.
"We’re going to get their A-game and hopefully we give them ours."
Hopefully there's no "hopefully" about it.