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Lightning At Blues Game Preview: Shock To The System

The Blues are out three of their top players; do they have the depth t o overcome one of the top offensive systems in the NHL?

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Blues' obviously have been in healthier shape this season than they are right now. They've also been pretty beaten up, too. Earlier this season they soldiered through injuries to T.J. Oshie and Paul Stastny, and did fine. The injury to Jaden Schwartz, however, led to a 1-5-1 slide that has helped contribute to the stagnation in second place despite a month in which they lost in regulation just once.

Results like this makes me wonder: is it depth, or are certain players key cogs? The Blues have won their two games without Patrik Berglund and Jori Lehtera (and David Backes, to a degree, on Sunday), but it's been some work. Sunday they lost Kevin Shattenkirk, which is both a blow to depth and to the key cogs. The All-Star has had a dominant season, and I question if the Blues can fill in for him.

Adam Proteau believes that the Blues have the depth to make up for the loss of Shatty. I respectfully disagree. Chris Butler is perfectly fine. Ian Cole has some kinks but is perfectly fine(ish). Barret Jackman is old but good at what he does, which is being the kind of defenseman that Kevin Shattenkirk isn't. A Jackman/Carl Gunnarsson pairing isn't comparable. It's going to be different, it's going to be slower, and play is not going to get out of the zone in the same manner than it does with Shatty in the lineup.

And tonight is the kind of game where you want the puck out of your own zone. The Lightning have 164 goals scored this season, and Steven Stamkos has 27 goals. Tyler Johnson has 49 points. They're the best team in the Eastern Conference. The Blues have won three of their last four against the Bolts, and have only lost three games this season against the Eastern Conference. The Lightning aren't the typical Eastern Conference team that the Blues will be able to plow through. It'll be a tough go, and even tougher without Shattenkirk.

Tonight is the last home game until Sunday, which is an early game against the Blackhawks. Between the two I'm not sure which is going to be the more exciting game. Neither will be easy.