The Blues embark on their second year of the Dad's Trip. This time around, they've wisely chosen Florida as the Winter destination for their fathers. Twenty dads will be joining them on the road, and hopefully bringing some luck as well. Last year, the boys won both games on this trip, and it'd be a swell idea to duplicate that this time around. It'll be quite a challenge, with 2 of the top 3 teams in the Atlantic Division on the agenda. First stop is the Miami burbs and the Panthers.
While we'll miss Alex Pietrangelo quite a bit, we will also welcome the return of Jaden Schwartz to the lineup. He's healthy, skated a few sessions, and is ready for competition. While he'll probably end up on a different line eventually, it makes sense for him to ease into game conditions with familiar linemates. According to the beat writers, we can expect to see a reunion of the STL Line with Schwartz skating with Vladimir Tarasenko and Jori Lehtera . That'll be a sight for sore eyes. You can nod ya head and see the logic in that, but there was quite a lot of Blues Twitter angst when those practice lines were announced. With luck, this addition to the forward corps will spark some offense and help cover for the absence on the blueline. While Petro's injury allows Robert Bortuzzo to slot into the lineup, the Blues also took out some depth insurance by calling up Peter Harrold from the AHL. While other defensemen would have brought more to the table, I believe the front office felt it better that Harrold comes up to sit in the pressbox and allow the other guys to continue playing with the Wolves. If something should happen, Harrold can fill in for a game or two.
Bortuzzo got a chance to play on Tuesday after sitting in the press box for a while, and marked the occasion by taking two minors and putting the team down a man each time. That's putting yourself on the fast track back to the press box tour. Just for comparison, Pietrangelo has played 55 games this year, and is amongst the league leaders in average time on ice. With that role, he's only earned 14 penalty minutes so far. Meanwhile, Bortuzzo has played in 25 games and has 46 PIMs, good for second on the team. Even considering the 4 majors (20 minutes), he seems likely to cost us an additional PK every other game. While the Blues are 3rd in the league in PK, you cannot rely on that being sustained with more opportunities being given to the other team and one of the top penalty killers being on IR. By the way, Peter Harrold has 20 PIMs in 45 games played with the Wolves. If Bortuzzo doesn't clean up his act, we might have to switch to someone that doesn't draw the attention of the men in black and white stripes.
Florida has been one of the hottest teams in the league this year. They've gone 6-3-1 in their last ten games, and have been particularly good at home. They have only 1 regulation loss in their past 12 home games. Most recently, the Panthers shelled the Sabres 7-4 on Tuesday. They are led by three players all tied with 38 points- Jaromir Jagr, Jussi Jokinen, and Jonathan Huberdeau . There are 3 more with over 30 points behind them. The Panthers can throw out a very balanced attack, with threats coming from all directions. While their offense is just cruisin', they are also solid on defense. That Aaron Ekblad is going to be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. They'll be tough to defend, and the Blues will need to get up by a few goals on these guys.
Expect to see Roberto Luongo in net tonight, with Brian Elliott in place on the opposite side of the ice. Bobby Lu has posted a .928 Save percentage so far this year, and earned the win in the game held in St Louis earlier this year.
On Frozen Pond (Miami Herald)
Blues vs Panthers coverage
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Final Verse: Early start on the East coast tonight. The puck drops at 6:30 PM St Louis time, and the Game Day Thread should drop shortly beforehand. Please join us, won't you? You can even bring your dad along too, like the players did. The TV call will be on Fox Sports MW, and the radio call will be on KMOX 1120 AM. Tonight's artist and the Dads Trip converge with: