It’s tempting to write the Blues’ defeat Thursday off as a symptom of a cold going around the team. It’s also tempting to pre-emptively assume that bug will impact the team tonight. It’s fair, because no one can be at 100% when they’re ill, ether mentally or physically. Hitch will have to make some adjustments tonight; here’re the potential lines barring flare-ups:
Alexander Steen - Paul Stastny - Nail Yakupov
Robby Fabbri - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko
Jaden Schwartz - Patrik Berglund - David Perron
Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves
Joel Edmundson - Alex Pietrangelo
Brad Hunt - Kevin Shattenkirk
Jay Bouwmeester - Colton Parayko
Hutton will be probably showing off a new mask, one that matches the prototype jerseys they’ll be wearing tomorrow during the team’s skills competition.
For the most part, that’s sharp. I’ll let you figure out which part is not the “most part.”
Kari Lehtonen will be manning the net on the other side of the ice. If both teams’ defense isn’t on their top game, we could be in for a shooting gallery tonight.
Hitch is right in that goaltending needs to be the story for the second half of the season, but the team’s save percentage is close to the bottom of the league. This isn’t all on the goaltenders - this is a team, after all - but if the goalies have to overcome, so do everyone else.
"We need our goaltending to be the story in the second half of the year," Hitchcock said. "It's going to have to be the story if we expect to punch our ticket into the playoffs here. It's going to have to be a major factor to us getting in."
It’s not pleasant to hear the coach discuss “major factors” to getting into the playoffs when this team’s been a lock every year that he’s coached here. Something that could go a long way to limiting the necessity of that talk is picking up a couple points against divisional opponents. The Stars aren’t an easy team to beat, but they’re one that the Blues can handle.
The Blues have taken two of the last three games against the Stars; the last one needed David Perron heroics in overtime to put it away. Jamie Benn, a traditional thorn in the Blues’ side, is on IR and won’t be an issue tonight.
Keep an eye (as always) on Vladimir Tarasenko. He has nine goals against the Stars since 2013, and four of those are game winners.
If you own one of the Winter Classic jerseys and you’re wearing it tonight, you’ll match the Blues. The team’s putting them on against the Stars and against five other opponents.