We know that Carl Gunnarsson and Kevin Shattenkirk are back in tonight. Shatty in particular seems pretty happy about returning to the line-up just in time for that last push to the playoffs.
He may not be able to wait for that first hit, but I think that until he makes it through the game 100% unscathed, we'll all be cringing every time someone goes after him. The power play has needed him; it hasn't produced at the same level without a defenseman who, before he was injured, was among tops in powerplay points and points per game.
Before he was hurt, Shattenkirk was in the running for the Norris. I don't think it's possible to not underestimate how important having him back is for the team.
The Blues have six more home games, and eight more games in total. Both Brian Elliott and Jake Allen have turned in solid performances, so if course it's time for that annual debate of "well who is the Blues' starter going into the playoffs?" I wish I could say that this debate wasn't happening this year, but why not continue to make a mountain out of a hill of ice shavings? Brian Elliott is the guy, according to Hitch, who shouldn't have to say it.
"Ells is the starter," Hitchcock said. "Jake got rewarded for an exceptional performance (in a 2-1 overtime loss to Detroit Sunday). We’ll go right back to Ells. He’ll play the majority of games leading up to the playoffs. We’re on the course that we set two months ago when we made the decision that Ells was going to be the guy and we’re not changing that course."
It's pretty bad when you have a starter who has two shutouts in his last five games, and yet STILL the team has to have the "don't worry about it!" talk with him. Elliott will have his work cut out for him this evening. The Blue Jackets are showing fans that their spot in the standings this year is more due to injuries than it is due to quality of play. In their last two games they have defeated the Anaheim Ducks 5-3 on the strength of a Scott Hartnell hat trick, and then last night they chased Cory Crawford en route to a 5-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Cam Atkinson netted the hat trick in that one. The Jackets are riding a five game winning streak, four of which have come on the road; tonight's homestand won't get off to an easy start.