The Minnesota Wild aren’t a team that allows a lot of goals against. They took out the Pittsburgh Penguins last night 6-2, and have a team GAA of 1.89. Devan Dubnyk is tied with Matt Murray of the Penguins for the second best GAA in the league (1.58), behind Andrei Vasilevskiy’s 1.50 - but Dubnyk has played 15 games while Murray has played seven games and Vasilevskiy has played eight.
Scoring for the Blues tonight may be tough. A way to power through that challenge is offensive zone possession and face offs, and those - as Robb proved - come from not taking so many penalties. The Blues are working on righting that ship, but they didn’t have much help from the officiating crew led by Tim Peel in their 4-3 loss to the Washington Capitals on Wednesday.
Hitchcock hinted recently that he may need to take stronger action against repeat offenders. David Perron has a minor in four straight games and six in his last eight games; Jay Bouwmeester has four in his last nine games; and Nail Yakupov, in limited ice time, has two in his last four games. But when asked about that Friday, Hitchcock backed off.
“We’ve tried that, done that, don’t play, sit out shifts, we’ve done all that,” he said. “Eventually it has to be done through teaching of positional play. If you teach proper positional play, you’ll be in the right spots, you’ll be in a good position and you won’t take penalties.”
The latter seems like a more proactive and productive solution to the issue. Whatever Hitch’s gameplan is, getting the team to not take nearly twelve minutes of penalties a night would be helpful. It doesn’t matter that the Blues have one of the best penalty kills in the league - PK time is time not spent on offense, and it’s time not spent on scoring. Time spent on offense tonight would be helpful against the Wild, or any team for that matter. The Wild average 2.75 goals a game - more than the Blues, thanks to their streak of not being able to put the puck in the back of the net. They’re solidly in the middle of the pack; scoring goals on them is difficult, but having a breakout night against Dubnyk will be a key to winning.
Tonight’s projected line-up sees Jaden Schwartz and Paul Stastny together yet again. The duo has nine points in the last six games. If you were hoping on seeing Tarasenko with Stastny again, hold your horses. David Perron will be playing right wing; Tarasenko will be back with - you guessed it - Jori Lehtera. Robert Bortuzzo, after playing nearly 17 minutes on Wednesday, will be on the second pairing with Kevin Shattenkirk.
Jaden Schwartz - Paul Stastny - David Perron
Robby Fabbri - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko
Dmitrij Jaskin - Patrik Berglund - Ty Rattie
Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Robert Bortuzzo - Kevin Shattenkirk
Carl Gunnarsson - Colton Parayko
Ty Rattie’s back in the line-up tonight; Nail Yakupov sits again. Rattie has no points yet this season and is averaging 7:33 in ice time. Whether he is making the most of an excellent opportunity remains to be seen.