Learning to Fly; Avalanche at St. Louis Blues Preview

Two teams completely out of contention, ready to close out the season on behalf of nasty injuries and poor play will face one another at Scottrade Tuesday, April 5th. There’s not much at stake as far as point accumulation or playoff berths but St. Louis has a draft pick riding on this game. It’s easy to forget that a draft pick was an integral condition of the exchange with the Colorado Avalanche. If the Blues are in such dire straits at the end of the season, they get the option to keep their number one 2011 draft pick or exchange it for Colorado’s number two 2011 draft pick (Dan O’Neill with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch does a great job explaining the complexities of the draft pick and exchange).

Paul Stastny [Photo by Dale MacMillan/Getty Images]

So, what exactly is there to look for? The Avalanche are having a rough stretch of injuries, something the Blues are no strangers to, and have announced that Paul Stastny would be sitting out the remainder of the season thanks to a stress fracture in his leg and John Michael Liles will miss their road trip here to St. Louis (as well as Dallas) after suffering a concussion during their game against Calgary on Sunday. As of right now the Blues don’t have any major injuries save for David Perron still being out (though he is tweeting again, after a lengthy hiatus) with post-concussion symptoms. The draft pick is on the line but thanks to immediacy and our need to focus on now, many fans will be fixated on the Erik Johnson/Jay McClement for Chris Stewart/Kevin Shattenkirk exchange. Debate will likely be spurred on by plays made by any one of the four players involved in the exchange and most St. Louis fans will stand firm in contesting that the Blues got the better end of the deal and more on their return. Stewart has doubled his goals since being in St. Louis, and even added one, sitting at 27 goals and 25 assists. Chris Stewart has recorded five multi-goal games in his 20 games as a Blue and become a fast fan favorite. Stewart has seen some time in the penalty box, too, after a few notable fights. Shattenkirk has also recorded a goal as a Blue on March 22nd against Phoenix and is set to finish the season as one of the league’s highest scoring rookie defensemen. Stewart has been an excellent all-around player for the Blues and Shattenkirk came to the Blues at a perfect time to assist in being a key member of the penalty kill/power play unit(s).

While Jay McClement was seen as a detrimental loss to the penalty kill, Shattenkirk has made up ground and raised the penalty kills from a little over 81% to 82%. Though not a hefty difference, a positive variance is better than merely holding steady or losing ground. Not much has changed in Erik Johnson’s play; he keeps making costly mistakes in his own zone and was slow to show his offensive skills. Johnson wasn’t scoring much in St. Louis this season prior to the trade but is still in transition mode in Colorado as he’s only scored three goals and had seven assists. Jay McClement also seems to be struggling a bit to find his role in Colorado with only one goal and two assists. McClement was traded for primarily the same role he played in St. Louis – a great penalty kill player. The Avalanche still have a weak penalty kill unit despite having McClement, and though the responsibilities don’t lie solely on him the trade was made with the expectation of a positive upswing. One of the best words to describe the Avalanche’s play in their last few games? Abysmal. In the last 10 games the Avalanche are 3-7-0, all of their wins have been shootout victories. The Blues have seen a bit of resurgence in the energy department while playing the last few games and can hopefully keep up the momentum.

The Blues game is available for viewing on Fox Sports Midwest, with pre-game starting at 6:30p CST, but due to an overlap with the St. Louis Cardinals broadcast the game will be on alternate channels. Once again Frozen Notes has a great comprehensive list to find what channel the St. Louis Blues game will be televised on depending on which cable provider you use.

Post Music: Learning to Fly by Tom Petty – I’m sure for the Avalanche the “coming down is the hardest thing” both coming to St. Louis as both teams have that awkward ex-girlfriend-at-the-store awkwardness thanks to the trades and also due to coming down from the mountains and the altitude/lack of oxygen provided.

Tags: Chris Stewart Colorado Colorado Avalanche Dan O'Neill Erik Johnson Jay McClement John Michael-Liles Kevin Shattenkirk Paul Stastny St. Louis St. Louis Blues St. Louis Post Dispatch Tom Petty

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