Tonight at 6:30 CT on NBCSN the Blues, who are fresh off their bye week, take on the Blackhawks for the fifth and final time this season. The series is currently tied at two games a piece. The last time these two teams squared off was over a month ago in the winter classic.
Not only will the Blues be fighting some rust and cobwebs they will also be going up against some pretty staggering odds. Teams are a dismal 4-12-4 in their first game back after their bye week.
A major reason that returning teams have not faired very well is because they are not allowed to practice until the day before their first game. So not only will the Blues have one just practice to try and get back to form, it’s very possible a few of them might be fighting some Kennedy sized hangovers. I know I would be.
Fortunately, the Blues enter the game with a healthy roster after getting back injured centers Paul Stastny and Kyle Brodziak. Well, healthy except for Robby Fabbri (ACL) and AHL call-up Ian Barbeshev, who suffered a minor upper body injury during a Chicago Wolves game last week.
Barbashev had upper body injury while back in AHL, won't play Sunday, but injury not serious.— Tom Timmermann (@tomtimm) February 25, 2017
The Blues also enter the game with newly re-signed 2nd/3rd line center Patrik Berglund. During the bye week the big Swede signed a 5 year extension with the team worth a reported 19.2 million dollars, making him the 6th highest paid forward currently on the team.
According to the lines from Saturday’s practice it looks like Mike Yeo is sticking with the top line of Steen-Stastny-Tarasenko as well as putting Berglund between Schwartz and Perron. Since there is no way in hell he is going to break up the fourth line that leaves what I like to call the “leftover line” of Jaskin-Lehtera-Yakupov, unless Magnus Pajaarvi returns from the AHL to bump one of those guys to the press box (hint: it won’t be Lehtera).
So to summarize: Sluggish Blues returning from their bye week, facing one of the hottest teams in the NHL, with the Shattenkirk trade looming over their head, and missing at least two of their three standout AHL call-ups.
How soon is too soon to start drinking on a Sunday?
The Chicago Blackhawks are in the middle of a pretty successful stretch of hockey, going 8-1 in the month of February. Most notably beating the conference leading Minnesota Wild by a score of 5-3 in a game where slumping Jonathan Toews recored 5 points and a hat trick.
It should also be noted that all-American boy Patty Kane also notched a hat trick the following night against the Arizona Coyotes (allegedly). Apparently he was able to score repeatedly despite some strong resistance from his victim, I mean opponent.
The Blackhawks will be without top pair defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson who is listed as day to day with an undisclosed injury (maybe the clap, I don’t know).
Hjalmarsson has five goals and nine assists in 60 games and leads the team in blocked shots.
In goal you either have Corey “not an all-star but made the all-star team” Crawford who has a .917 save percentage and a 2.58 GAA. Or Scott “backup who is better than the starter” Darling who is sporting a .928 save percentage and a 2.19 GAA. Either way I don’t think it is really going to matter.
The Blues are currently in the second wild card spot and 2 points behind third place Nashville who are 12 points behind the Blackhawks who have pulled within 3 points of the conference leading Minnesota Wild. Not that anyone is counting.