Here’s a fun fact to start off with: Alexander Steen has been a Blue for as many games as Brett Hull. Will Steener have a statue in front of Enterprise Center after he retires? That’s doubtful, but it’s hard to argue that he hasn’t made an impact with the team, especially considering that he’s been leaned on in multiple roles over the years. The Blues aren’t playing in the House that Steen Built or anything like that, but he’s been a keystone in this franchise in a way that Lee Stempniak never would’ve been.
Speaking of key members of the Blues, Colton Parayko returns tonight. He’s missed seven games and has been on the IR since the Blues’ 7-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche to start the new year. The team has played well without Parayko, but there were a couple of clunkers heading into the All-Star break that his presence would’ve been helpful in.
Parayko hasn’t skated in a game for a bit, but the whole team has been off for a week. The Canucks have as well. Coach Craig Berube has tempered his expectations for tonight:
“Our timing will not be there, probably. Like most teams, it’s going to be off a little bit. You’re going to have a lot of energy, the skating is going to be fine, but the timing is going to be a little bit off.”
Speaking of expectation tempering, Sammy Blais isn’t a lock for tonight. He’s very close, and could well play if he gets his way, but he may also sit a little bit longer to make sure that he’s at 100%.
If the Blues are the hot team in the Central, the Canucks are the one to beat in the Pacific right now. They’re on an eight-game home win streak and have won 11 out of their last 14 games. The Canucks had three representatives in the All-Star Game for the first time in ages and all three - Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, and goaltender Jacob Markstrom, have been key cogs in the Canucks’ success. Pettersson leads the team in goals and assists (21G, 30A). Markstrom has had an solid season as well, though his numbers don’t necessarily reflect his play.
The Blues are an impressive 10-2-2- in their last 14 games in Vancouver, but between the All-Star break and the Canucks streak, tonight isn’t the easiest way to come back from some time off. It took the Blues extra time back in November to beat the Canucks 2-1. Don’t expect a blowout in either direction.