ANAHEIM, Calif. - The Blues wrap up a three-game road trip out West tonight at Honda Center, where they meet the Anaheim Ducks at 7 p.m. CT (FOX Sports Midwest, KMOX 1120 AM).
The Blues are coming off a big night offensively in Arizona, where six different players had multiple points in a 6-1 win against the Coyotes: Jaden Schwartz (3G, 1A), Jori Lehtera (1G, 2A), Vladimir Tarasenko (3A), Alexander Steen (1G, 1A), David Backes (1G, 1A) and Kevin Shattenkirk (2A). Schwartz scored his first career hat trick, Lehtera netted his first NHL goal, and Backes tallied assist No. 200 of his career.
The Blues will need more where that came from tonight against a Ducks team that has won four consecutive games after dropping their season opener 6-4 in Pittsburgh. Anaheim is coming off a come-from-behind win Friday against the Minnesota Wild. Andrew Cogliano and Corey Perry scored in the third period to complete Anaheim’s second come-from-behind win of the season.
Perry has five goals and two assists through five games to start the season. Ryan Kesler, who signed with the Ducks as a free agent in the offseason, has two goals and three assists.
GLENDALE, AZ - Blues goaltender Jake Allen will make his first appearance of the season tonight when the Blues meet the Arizona Coyotes at 8 p.m. at Gila River Arena (FOX Sports Midwest, KMOX 1120 AM).
Allen last played on April 21, 2013, when he made 11 saves in relief against the Colorado Avalanche in a 5-3 loss.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Allen said of tonight’s game. “I’ve been trying to treat my practices like games. I think I’ve put in a lot of good work at training camp with me, (Goaltending Coach) Jim (Corsi) and (Brian Elliott). Obviously it has been awhile since I played a meaningful game, but you always have to be sharp and ready and that’s my job. I feel confident in myself and ready to go. It’s something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time.
In the 2012-13 season, Allen made 15 appearances with the Blues, posting a 9-4-0 record to go with a 2.46 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage.
“He’s been good. We need to just get him up and running,” Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said of Allen. “We’ve got to play good in front of him so we give him a fighting chance. We don’t want to hang him out to dry and put him in a vulnerable position. He’s going to be a big part of our team now and in the future.”
Allen said he learned a lot watching the first three games of the season from the bench.
“To be able to watch our team, to see how they perform on and off the ice, to watch the D, how they play, how they handle the puck…it’s going to help me and give me a little more confidence,” Allen said. “I think the work that I put in through last season, this summer, training camp…I think it’s going to pay off.”
GLENDALE, AZ - Cows, mooing, mechanical bulls...you never know what you're going to get when you sit down for an interview with Blues defenseman Jordan Leopold.
Chris Kerber learned that on Friday afternoon following a team practice at the Gila River Arena, where the Blues will meet the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday at 8 p.m. CT.
The interview quickly goes off topic when Leopold says this: "(I) think of the days when it was just the rink here, and all around there were cows. I'm not kidding! There were ranches here everywhere and there wasn't even a stadium next door. It was a ghost town out here. Now, everything is built up! Times have changed over the years."
Play the video and listen closely. Among other non-hockey related conversation, you might even hear Blues forward Maxim Lapierre mooing in the background.
LOS ANGELES - The Blues haven’t played since Saturday (a 4-1 win vs. Calgary at Scottrade Center), but they’ll face a tough test when they get back on the ice tonight at Staples Center in Los Angeles, where the defending champion Kings are waiting.
“It feels like such a long period of time between games that I hope we don’t have to get restarted again,” Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said. “The last five periods of hockey we’ve played have been excellent, and that’s what we want to build off of.
“It feels like we weren’t even in the League, like we were watching the League on television, and now we get to join it.”
The Blues will face a Kings team that was won two consecutive games after going 0-1-1 to start the season. The Kings have scored 10 goals in their last two wins (Oct. 12 vs. Winnipeg and Oct. 14 vs. Edmonton).
Early on, it’s the line of Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson who have been contributing offensively. Pearson leads the Kings with four goals, while Carter has three and Toffoli has two.
“You can’t let them feed the engine. They’re going to get scoring chances,” Hitchcock said about the line. “They’ve got a lot of skill, they’ve got a lot of size, you just can’t give them easy ones. They’ve gotten far too many easy scoring chances based on the opposition’s turnovers…we don’t want to give them the second or third chances.
“We’ve got to be diligent and make it hard for them defensively. When we get the chance to get the puck out, we’ve got to get it out of the zone on the first try.”
Tonight’s game is a 9:30 p.m. start time in St. Louis on FOX Sports Midwest and Y98 FM.
ST. LOUIS - After getting off to a slow start Thursday vs. the Rangers, Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock wants to make sure his team dictates the play from the start when they host the Calgary Flames (1-1-0) tonight at 6 p.m. (FSMW, Y98).
“We put 40 great minutes in the last game, and we’d like to put 60 in,” Hitchcock said after an optional morning skate on Saturday. “We let New York dictate period one. We don’t want to let Calgary dictate. They’ve got too many tenacious high-energy guys.
“We can’t let them dictate, we have to do that ourselves.”
Tonight will be Calgary’s third game in four nights. The Flames earned a 5-2 win against the Oilers on Thursday night thanks in large part to a hat trick from Mason Raymond.
“They’re very aggressive on the forecheck, very aggressive in the neutral zone,” Hitchcock said. “We’ve got to make them defend more than they want to, because once they get a bead on you, they have foot speed and tenacity so they can take the game over like they did in the third period (Thursday) against Edmonton.”
Brian Elliott will start in goal for the Blues tonight. He has a 1.80 career goals-against average against the Flames, which ranks fourth among all goalies since the 2006-07 season. Only Ray Emery (1.33), Marc-Andre Fleury (1.57) and Jonathan Quick (1.60) have a better goals-against average.
Last season, the Blues went 2-0-1 against the Flames, who have lost in their last four trips to Scottrade Center.
ST. LOUIS - The Blues are back.
I mean, technically, they’ve been back for a few weeks now with training camp practices, #IsItOctoberYet hashtags on social media, and preseason games with young players still trying to get a feel for the NHL game.
But for real…tonight, hockey is officially back.
“Opening Night is special. You look forward to it every year,” said Blues captain David Backes, who will lace up the skates for his seventh season-opening NHL game tonight. “You get the goosebumps because you’ve been working every year training to work up for this night and it’s finally here. (We’ll be) waiting in the tunnel, waiting to come out, and we’ll hear the place going crazy.
“Hopefully we deliver two points.”
That won’t be an easy task. The schedule-makers handed the Blues an opening night match-up with the Eastern Conference Champion New York Rangers (7 p.m., FSMW and KMOX). It’s just the second time in team history the Blues have opened a season against the Rangers. The first meeting, a 3-1 Blues win, was on Oct. 10, 1970.
ST. LOUIS - The Blues are set with their 23-man roster for Opening Night.
Forwards: David Backes, Patrik Berglund, Maxim Lapierre, Jori Lehtera, Joakim Lindstrom, T.J. Oshie, Steve Ott, Magnus Paajarvi, Chris Porter, Ryan Reaves, Jaden Schwartz, Paul Stastny, Alexander Steen, Vladimir Tarasenko
ST. LOUIS - The Blues will make their second preseason appearance at Sprint Center in Kansas City tonight, where they'll host the Dallas Stars at 7 p.m.
It’s the fourth time since 2003 that the Blues have played an exhibition game in Kansas City (the previous two were played at Kemper Arena).
The last time at Sprint Center, the Blues fell 2-1 to the Los Angeles Kings in a preseason game on Sept. 22, 2008. T.J. Oshie made his first appearance as a Blue, as did goalie Chris Mason, and newly-signed free agent Paul Kariya scored his first goal in a Blues uniform.
Tonight’s roster, which includes Oshie, Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund, Steve Ott, Jay Bouwmeester and Kevin Shattenkirk, is excited to play in what’s expected to be a big crowd in Kansas City. Sprint Center seats over 17,000 for hockey.
ST. LOUIS - If Ivan Barbashev looked a little tentative at the start of his first NHL training camp last week, he sure doesn’t now.
“We had a talk with him,” captain David Backes said. “(We said) listen, you’re an NHL draft pick for a reason, you’re at an NHL camp for a reason - because you’re a good player. Start playing and stop thinking out there.
“That sank in for that scrimmage yesterday and he did a fine job.”
Barbashev will make his NHL preseason debut tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets (7 p.m. at Scottrade Center, KMOX 1120 AM). The 6-foot, 180-pound center was selected in the second round (33rd overall) at the 2014 NHL Draft.
He’s expected to start the game on a line with Backes and T.J. Oshie.
COLUMBUS - Brendan Woods isn’t likely to forget the first Blues preseason game of 2014.
He’ll remember meeting David Backes and T.J. Oshie. He’ll remember getting his hockey stick signed by Barret Jackman. He’ll remember flying on the team’s charter and giving a pregame speech to the team in the locker room before the players took the ice.
And that once-in-a-lifetime experience, let me tell you, couldn't have happened to a better kid.