This weekend could’ve gone a bit better for the Blues. They’re bringing home just one point out of four after a disastrous game against the Flyers on Saturday (it’s ok, guys - I forgot about the early start too) and a see-saw of an overtime loss to the Capitals on Sunday.
Tonight is the last game before the bye week, that dreaded time where we all wonder if the team will completely forget how to play hockey and stumble when returning. It’s a fair thing to worry about - number crunching from last season showed that teams did in fact slip after the week off. The Blues have been inconsistent at best since Jaden Schwartz’s injury. Will they just shift to consistently meh after the bye?
The Blues have played the most games in the Western Conference. The schedule has been busier than years where the NHL sends players to the Olympics. A week off for rest and re-focus could do a lot of good, especially where Schwartz is concerned. He’s walking without his boot now, so a return may be coming in the next couple of weeks. A bye week means one of those two weeks will be without him missing any games.
The Blues have been playing a little better as of late, clunkers this weekend aside. They’re 3-1-1 in their last five, which brings them up to 4-5-1 in their last ten games. The extra points they gathered at the start of the season are going to be used up next week when the team’s off, so a win tonight would at least provide a little cushion.
The Panthers are 7-12-3 away from home and 5-4-1 in their last ten, good for 13th place in the Eastern Conference. This four game road trip for them hasn’t been a good one - so far they’re 0-2-1, with a shootout loss in Columbus on Sunday. Overall, they’re in the bottom fifth of NHL teams as far as special teams go, and they allow the most shots in the league. A win here is doable despite the Blues losing to them back in October.
James Reimer should be in net tonight with Roberto Luongo injured and out until February, but the Blues’ biggest issue will be containing Jonathan Huberdeau, who has six goals in his last seven games.