ST. LOUIS BLUES
vs. DETROIT RED WINGS
February 13th, 2013
Joe Louis Arena
6:30 p.m. CST
TV: NBC Sports Network
Detroit Leads Series 2-1
Wednesday night marks the fourth meeting in less than a month between the St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings. The Central Division rivals will only meet once more this season in early April toward the home stretch of the season. While the Blues felt good coming into 2013 with a big win against the Red Wings at home on January 19th, the Red Wings have proven once again that their veteran leadership can best the Blues. Tonight’s matchup will see a the Blues look to end a five game losing streak while the Red Wings hope to extend their three game winning streak after a come from behind win against the Los Angeles Kings.
ST. LOUIS BLUES
(6-5-1, 4th in Central)
Coming off an incredible 6-1 start to the season, the St. Louis Blues lost their game in Joe Louis Arena on February 1st. Since then, the Blues have looked like the team they were in the dark ages after the lockout. With five straight losses it looks like the Blues are standing still on the ice, not playing a team game, and waiting for plays to happen. The third period call against David Backes in Detroit marked the beginning of the downfall for the Blues, and they will look to find what they lost on the ice tonight. After the “homestand from hell”, as Coach Ken Hitchcock called it, saw the Blues go 0-3-1 at Scottrade Center which had been a very friendly place to the Blues since Coach Ken Hithcock had joined the team. Losing Jaroslav Halak did not help, but the overall team play was not there so not all of the blame can be placed on Brian Elliott. According to Andy Strickland, Halak did not re-aggravate his injury on Monday, but rather was concerned that he was coming back to early and did not want to be dealing with lower body issues all season.
A MRI exam of Halak on Tuesday morning revealed there was still room for improvement in his injured groin area. Halak participated in practice on Tuesday, but only on a limited basis. Allen and Elliott did the heavy lifting.
Alex Steen has been hot for the St. Louis Blues at a time when it seems no one is producing at their potential. Steen has netted a goal in the last two games and has managed 6 points total in the last five. While Steen has been working hard each night his plus/minus still does not show it, but none of the Blues are having a very good time when it comes to that. Allowing the most goals in the NHL will cause the entire team to suffer. Still, Steen has been just a -5 in the last 5 games while the Blues have been outscored 25-14 in the same span. Look for Steener to be working hard again tonight and possibly put up a goal against the Red Wings.
Jake Allen has been recalled by the St. Louis Blues and while the goaltender for tonight’s game has not yet been announced, it seems like Hitchcock will go with Allen. Although he is not yet proven at the NHL level, Allen will bring his game if he is called upon. Much of his struggles in the AHL have been due to a lack of defense in front of him which might be a problem considering the state of the Blues at the moment. While Allen is not necessarily going to impact the Blues in a major way, he could play a major role with the club in a chance to prove himself while Elliott struggles. If Allen gets the start, look for him to go above and beyond to prove himself. In an interview with the St. Louis Post Dispatch Allen had this to say:
It’s a little faster (game), but really, I don’t even think it’s that much faster. It’s just guys have better shots here, and you have to be prepared that way. But everyone can skate nowadays, especially in the American League. It’s just more a case of different systems here. Execution is better. You have to be prepared for everything, have to know where guys are on the ice. So, you just have to be a little bit more aware of your surroundings. I think that’s the biggest difference for me.
Others to watch
Kevin Shattenkirk might be the best defenseman in the league, but his offense is among the best. Shattenkirk has posted an incredible 12 assists this season and is tied for fourth best in the league among defenseman. Of those 12, four have come in the last three games. Shattenkirk is on a roll and will be looking to join into plays in the offensive end. I wouldn’t be surprised if Shatty adds another tonight, so he is indeed a player to watch.
DETROIT RED WINGS
(7-4-1, 2nd in Central)
The Detroit Red Wings are on a roll and are moving up the Central Division standings. Starting the season without long time captain Nicklas Lidstrom, many thought that the Red Wings might not have what it takes to make the playoffs this season, but they are erasing those thoughts now a quarter of the way through the season. Coming off a three game winning streak and taking position as the second place team in the Central, the Red Wings are looking to add to their good fortunes and what better place to do so than on home ice. Joe Louis is very kind to the Wings as they rarely lose on home ice.
Jimmy Howard was incredible to watch against the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday. He was the reason that the Wings were able to come out of the game with a win and is always a strong guy on the ice. If Howard gets the net tonight he should be on fire as he faces a Blues offense that seems to have burnt out. With players like Vladimir Tarasenko cooling off, Howard has the potential to record a shut out against the Blues if he is on his game. Howard’s play is going to be important in this one as it seems the Blues will be trying anything they can to steal a win.
Others to watch
Henrik Zetterberg is taking his new duties as captain very seriously and it shows. Tied for the league lead in points, Zetterberg currently has 13 assists and is always a threat when on the ice. Blues fans will remember the last game in Detroit when Zetterberg managed to net a hat trick in the final moments of the game on an open net and will want to see less from the captain tonight, but don’t expect that to happen. Zetterberg is a fierce competitor and wants to see his team win. Knowing that the Blues have been struggling, I would expect Zetterberg to come out strong and never back off.
Depending on which St. Louis Blues team takes the ice tonight this game could go many different ways. Ken Hitchcock is going to hope the Blues return to form and give the Red Wings a run for their money, but if we see the team we have seen the past 5 games expect Detroit to run away with the game again. The key is going to be defense for the Blues. In order to beat Detroit, the Blues are going to need to step up their game and keep their forecheck going for a full 60 minutes. Let’s hope the Note can pick up at least one point in an important divisional matchup.
LET’S GO BLUES!