Lighting the Lamp with Rick Ackerman
And the beat goes on for the weary, worn out St. Louis Blues as the new-look Buffalo Sabres and highly touted rookie Jack Eichel come visiting tonight. The Blues are playing their fourth game in six days. The NHL schedule makers slipped in a road game in relatively-close Columbus between games at the TradeStocks Center, and the bruised, battered and bashed boys in blue are surely feeling the effects, especially after two intense, hard-fought battles with division rivals Chicago and Winnipeg.
And it doesn't get any less difficult with four games in the next eight days, including two on the road in Buffalo and Pittsburgh. Nor did it help that both defenseman Colton Parayko and center Jori Lehtera are now out with injuries. Lehtera only played most of the first period in Columbus before taking a high stick in the face from Ryan Murray right after the Blues only goal of the game. And then later he took a stick to the throat from former Blackhawk Brandon Saad. Lehtera was a sight to see with blood flowing as he was helped off the ice. Saad was assessed a major for high sticking, and the Blues went to work, scoring three power play goals on the five minute high sticking penalty...no, I am just dreaming that, of course, as no penalty on Saad was even called. Saad went on to score the Jackets' game-winning goal in the second period. If Senior Director Chris Frome and Music Coordinator Carl Middleton are looking for a musical theme for the Blues, a really good choice might be Aerosmith's signature song, "Dream On."
The badly out-shot Blues valiantly fought back in the third period in an effort to tie the 2-1 game, yet it was clear their efforts would go for naught, especially when David Backes was whistled for a marginal boarding penalty with around six minutes to play. The retaliatory cross check on Backes from behind by the Jackets' William Karlsson was ignored. Naturally, the Blues only had two power play opportunities during the game, compared to four for the home team. So, the Blues fell, 3-1 including a goal into an empty net (by Saad, of course). Another really good choice for the theme song might be Ringo Starr's 1971 "It Don't Come Easy."
As we approach the quarter mark of the season, the Blues find themselves in good standing, although their great start has been somewhat dampened by evenly splitting the first eight games of November. The Blues did not lose in regulation in five games at home and won four of six road games in October. However November has not been as kind as the Note has lost two of three at home while winning three of five on the road. So, how about Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again" as the theme song?
It is clear the many injuries to key players are beginning to catch up with the club and take their toll. The Blues are now second in the NHL with 70 man games lost in 19 games. Only Detroit has more with 78 in 18 contests. While Detroit is missing Johan Franzen, Brad Richards, Kyle Quincy and Landon Ferraro (superstar center Pavel Datsyuk is back after missing 15 games), the Blues are without Paul Stastny, Jaden Schwartz, Patrik Berglund, Steve Ott, and now possibly Lehtera (dreaded upper-body injury) and Colton Parayko (frightful lower- body injury). Perhaps the season's theme song should be Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust."
The Blues would be ill advised to take the visiting Sabres lightly tonight. Although currently out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and working hard to tread water in the Atlantic Division, Buffalo is exceeding expectations so far, led by center Ryan O'Reilly, defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen and rookie goaltender Linus Ullmark, a product of Modo of the Swedish Elite League. Buffalo has played much better on the road (4-3-0) than at home this season (4-6-1). The Sabres are 6-3-1 in the last ten games.
Nonetheless, the only NHL team with a crest picturing both the city and team-name is only one game under .500 and is certainly capable of giving the Blues more than they can handle tonight. Other Sabres worthy of note are defensemen Cody Franson and Zach Bogosian (back after missing 17 games with injury), as well as forwards Tyler Ennis, Matt Moulson, and rookies Sam Reinhart and Eichel. If Buffalo does not qualify for the playoffs, their theme song could easily be Manowar's 2002 hit, "Swords in the Wind."
Just like the Blues, the Sabres have never won a Stanley Cup championship. Unlike the Blues, they are in a rebuilding mode and much further away from even qualifying for the playoffs. Despite the injuries, the Blues must take advantage tonight and come out storming, hitting every Sabre in sight and putting the puck on net as much as possible in the first period. They must get back to their hitting game, especially after only registering six hits against the Blue Jackets two nights ago. David Backes was credited with three in that game, half the team total. Maybe Pat Benatar's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" would be appropriate during warm-up to get the boys riled up, eh?
Of course, if the injuries continue to mount and the officiating does not dramatically improve, Blues Nation will remember this season by playing John Fogarty's hit from 2007, "I Can't Take It No More."