COLUMBUS - It was almost two weeks ago that Brian Elliott arrived in Columbus for his second appearance in the NHL All-Star Game.
But even though All-Star Weekend ended two weeks ago, Elliott’s All-Star play has not.
“He wasn’t there for no reason,” Alex Pietrangelo said of Elliott’s All-Star appearance. “He should have been there from the start in our eyes. He’s been an All-Star all year for us and will have to continue to be.”
Tonight, Elliott starts in goal for the Blues and will be looking for his sixth consecutive win. He was outstanding Tuesday in a 2-1 overtime victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning, turning aside 30 of 31 shots.
Since the start of the calendar year, Elliott leads the League with a .944 win percentage (8-0-1), while also leading the League with a 1.95 goals-against average.
“The last two games, our goalies have been our best players,” Hitchcock said of Elliott and Jake Allen, who earned a 23-save shutout last night in Buffalo. “We’re playing OK, but we’re not playing at the level we want to see our game at. There’s some games you need your goalie, and we’ve had two games in a row now where we’ve really needed our goaltender.”
While on a season-best five-game winning streak, Elliott has earned at least a point in nine consecutive decisions, tying a personal career high he set in 2010.
Against Columbus, Elliott is 6-0-1 in his career with a 1.97 goals-against average and a .924 save-percentage. Columbus is one of four teams (Buffalo, Minnesota and Ottawa) that have yet to beat Elliott in regulation.
BUFFALO, NY - The Blues have a chance to make history tonight when they meet the Buffalo Sabres at 6 p.m. CT at First Niagara Center (FSMW, KMOX 1120).
The club has points in 12 consecutive games (11-0-1), a mark they’ve reached three times over the course of their history, but the Blues have never earned points in 13 straight.
That’s the opportunity they have tonight, but it’s not something they’ll be thinking about.
“We just go out there and try to continue our solid play,” said Blues goalie Jake Allen, who will get the start tonight. “Another three games in three and a half days, so more big tests Thursday through Sunday.”
That first test is tonight. The Sabres are coming off a 3-2 victory against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday in which goalie Jhonas Enroth made 23 saves. Beating one of the best teams in the East is all the evidence the Blues need to make sure they don’t overlook the Sabres tonight.
“A lot of people underestimate their forwards,” Allen said. “They have a lot of quick, skilled forwards. If you take your foot off the pedal at all, they can make you look silly. We’re going to be prepared tonight.”
The Blues have won five straight against the Buffalo and 15 of the last 17 meetings overall.
Steve Ott is back in Buffalo for the first time since being traded to St. Louis nearly a year ago.
Ott was a fan-favorite in his nearly two-year stint with the Sabres.
“I really loved my time here, and my family loved the time here. It’s something special to be able to come back and face these guys,” Ott said after the morning skate. “You try to get that nervous energy out right away, but at the same time, you’ve got to play your game.”
The 32-year-old Summerside, PEI native spent nine seasons with the Dallas Stars before ending up in Buffalo, where he played 107 games, scoring 18 goals and 26 assists (44 points).
ST. LOUIS - The Blues will be without All-Star defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk tonight as they host the Tampa Bay Lightning (7 p.m., FSMW, KMOX), a team that leads the League in goals with 164.
Shattenkirk was injured in the first period in Sunday’s 4-3 win against the Capitals and will undergo abdominal surgery in the next 7-10 days. After surgery, Shattenkirk will be considered week-to-week.
The loss will hurt the Blues both offensively and defensively. Shattenkirk ranks second in the League in points by a defenseman (40) and is second overall in power-play points (24). He also ranks first among Blues defenseman with a plus-18 rating.
“It (stinks),” said Carl Gunnarsson of losing Shattenkirk. “To see a guy like that get an injury is tough, but what can you do? Hopefully he’ll be back pretty quick here, but until then, we’ll take it as it is. We’ve got guys that can step up. (Chris Butler) is coming in tonight. We’re going to be playing together and we’re going to have some fun with that.
“It’s time for guys to step it up.”
Butler has played in 20 games for the Blues this season and will be making his first appearance since Jan. 10 vs. Carolina.
“Those are tough minutes to fill. Shatty’s been unbelievable this year,” Butler said after the morning skate. “He’s been an All-Star, the way he's carried himself on the ice and the minutes he’s played, the chances he’s created and the way he’s played defensively, those are tough minutes we’re going to have to fill as a group.”
As far as Shattenkirk’s power-play minutes, Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said it will be a seamless transition to put Alex Pietrangelo in that spot tonight. He also said after getting a chance to practice it, he might use Ty Rattie or Joakim Lindstrom, both of whom have power-play experience on the point in other leagues.
“Obviously, Shatty on the power play is one of the best defensemen in the League,” Pietrangelo said. “I’ll try to fill his shoes there as best as I can. I’ve played the power play before with (Alexander Steen), so hopefully tonight is a first step in the right direction.”
After a two-week hiatus for the All-Star break, it seems fitting that our DraftKings Fantasy Report returns today to highlight two-time NHL All-Star Brian Elliott.
An injury to Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky paved the way for Elliott to be added to the All-Star Weekend festivities, and deservedly so. As of Monday, Elliott ranks second in the League in goals-against average (1.99) and fourth in save-percentage (.927). In 24 games played, Elliott is 15-5-2.
After returning from a lower-body injury, Elliott is healthy and should get the bulk of the starts in the second half.
If you need some wins, outstanding goals-against average or a high save-percentage, Elliott is a great choice for your DraftKings Fantasy League.
T.J. Oshie had a three-assist performance in Sunday’s 4-3 win against the Washington Capitals.
He now has points in five consecutive games, tallying three goals and four assists. Overall, the Everett, Washington native has 14 goals and 19 assists (33 points) in 41 games this season.
SCHEDULE THIS WEEK
Feb. 3 vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Feb. 5 at Buffalo Sabres
Feb. 5 at Columbus Blue Jackets
Feb. 8 vs. Chicago Blackhawks
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WASHINGTON, D.C. - It’s a bit unusual for me, but I’d like to take a first-person approach to today’s blog so I can share a simple observation from this weekend.
This Father’s Trip, as great as I thought it would be, turned out to be more special than I ever could have imagined.
It’s the little things. Seeing Rick Schwartz pump his fists in the air when Jaden scored Thursday night, or watching Steven Backes high-five Bill Elliott after Brian Elliott made a shootout-winning save to end the game. It's the smiles, the camaraderie, the selfies on the team charter, the dads that stop to take a photo with Martin Brodeur - it’s all a sight to behold.
It sort of makes me think of my own dad back home in St. Louis. A construction worker by trade, he never followed hockey when I was growing up. In fact, me shouting at the TV as I cheered on my favorite players and teams probably kept him up at night when he should have been sound asleep. His tomorrows always started a heck of a lot earlier than mine ever did.
No, he didn’t follow hockey. But he was there to fix anything that broke - an air conditioner, the ice maker, the driver’s side automatic door lock on my car - you name it and he could fix it.
Since I began working for the Blues in 2006, he’s picked up an interest in hockey, often calling to comment on his own observations about how the Blues are playing. Seeing the memories being made by the players and their dads on this trip, it has me wondering what it would be like if he was here in Washington, D.C. instead of watching back home in St. Louis.
Could he talk hockey or professional boat racing with Steve Ott’s dad, or follow Ken Hitchcock’s game plan in the meeting with the team?
But he could tell a good story. He could enjoy a cold one while watching the game. He could high-five Kevin Shattenkirk’s dad after back-to-back shootout-deciding winners or even fix the zamboni if it broke down.
Yep - he could do all that with the best of ‘em.
RALEIGH, NC - It’s been awhile, but the Blues are back on the road for the first time in 23 days for tonight’s 6 p.m. game against the Carolina Hurricanes (FSMW, KMOX 1120 AM).
The Blues collected points in every game of their season-long seven-game home stand (6-0-1), with the only lost point coming in an overtime loss to Detroit. Overall, the Blues have points in nine consecutive games, the longest streak this season.
That includes last night’s 5-4 shootout win against the division-leading Nashville Predators.
“We showed signs of being excited,” Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said about getting back on the ice after nine days off for the All-Star break. “The first period we played was terrific. And then I thought the third period…We looked like we missed eight or nine days. That showed up.”
The Blues and Hurricanes have traded wins over their last seven meetings, but the Blues came out on top in the last game on Jan. 10. Jake Allen, who relieved Brian Elliott, gave up just one goal on 20 shots and stopped all three Carolina attempts in the shootout, helping the Blues to a 5-4 shootout victory.
Allen will start tonight, making his first appearance since a 4-2 win on Jan. 13 vs. Edmonton.
ST. LOUIS - It’s the last game before the NHL All-Star break, but don’t tell the St. Louis Blues.
“We’ve got one task to finish before we get there, and that’s get two points tonight against Colorado,” Blues captain David Backes said. “We’ve seen they can lay it on us if we don’t bring our A-game. Before the last break we had for Christmas, we played them and it wasn’t very pretty. So maybe you (media) guys can stop talking about a break and start talking about the game tonight and we’ll stay focused on it and get two points.
“You can call me (tomorrow) and we’ll talk about the break all you want.”
The game before Christmas that Backes is referencing is a 5-0 loss to the Avalanche on Dec. 23. The Blues bounced back with a 3-0 win on Dec. 29 against Colorado, but they certainly don’t want to repeat the mistake of looking ahead to the break.
“I think we need a great game tonight against a team that’s playing very well, a team in our division that we’d like to keep down there below us if we can,” said defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. “(The break) gives us a chance to recharge and get ready for what looks like a tough February and March.
“These are two points we don’t want to let get away from us,” Shattenkirk added. “We remember what they did to us right before Christmas in their barn… We won’t be falling into that trap again. Tonight, we’ll be ready to play.”
The Blues host an Avalanche team that has points in five of their last six games. Colorado is coming off a 3-2 overtime loss on Saturday in Tampa Bay. Nathan MacKinnon scored with seven seconds left in regulation to earn a point for Colorado, who is 19-17-10 and currently seventh in the Central Division.
Alex Tanguay leads Colorado with 31 points in 44 games, while Jarome Iginla is a close second with 30 points.
“They’re a good team, they’ve got a great spirit. They play hard…they make you earn it,” said Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock. “It seems one team gets the other team on their heels and it can’t get back up off the mat. They’re playing really well right now, this is the best I’ve seen them play.
“We’re going to get their A-game and hopefully we give them ours.”
ST. LOUIS - Carl Gunnarsson meets his former team for the first time since being traded to the Blues when the Toronto Maple Leafs come to Scottrade Center for a 6 p.m. face off tonight (FSMW, KMOX).
Gunnarsson, who spent five seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, is looking forward to tonight’s game but insists it won’t be too big of a deal.
“It’s going to be a little bit different I guess, but I try to see it as any other game,” Gunnarsson said after the morning skate. “It’s going to be a little bit weird being on the other side of former teammates. You just try to forget about that and play your game.”
Gunnarsson was acquired by the Blues at the 2014 NHL Draft in exchange for defenseman Roman Polak. Both players have missed time with injuries this season. Gunnarsson started the season late after offseason hip surgery, then sustained a concussion in December. Polak missed a handful of games with a lower-body injury he sustained in November.
“It’s a good trade, but I don’t think both teams will see the full value until both players are healthy,” Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said. “Polak has a certain element that unnerves the opposition, and Gunnarsson has an element that really makes him a good partner for (Kevin) Shattenkirk, and we needed that type of partner for Shatty.
“We loved (Roman) here, and we loved the element (he brought). But it’s what you’ve got to give to get the element that we were missing on our team.”
Added Shattenkirk, “(Gunnarsson) brings a lot. He makes it easy for a guy like me to feel comfortable jumping in the rush. We found a little chemistry together when moving the puck. I think in our defensive zone, he’s a calming presence. He’s someone who is poised when he gets the puck and when he doesn’t have it, he’s always in good position and ends plays quickly. For someone like me, that allows me to jump up on the rush sooner and have the energy to do it.”
Gunnarsson has played in 27 games for the Blues this season, scoring one goal and six assists. He also has a +9 rating.
Polak spent his first eight seasons with the Blues and ranks ninth in club history among games played by a defenseman (424).
Despite playing in 304 games for the Maple Leafs, Gunnarsson said he won’t be too emotional about tonight’s game.
“Just play your game, go out there and after 60 minutes, hopefully you have those two points,” he said. “It’s going to be special, but you’ve got to get that out of your head a little bit.”
ST. LOUIS - It’s been awhile, but the Blues and Detroit Red Wings will renew an old rivalry tonight at Scottrade Center (7 p.m., FSMW, KMOX).
The teams have met 275 times in the regular season, which is second only to the Blues and Blackhawks, which have met 293 times.
Since the Red Wings moved to the Eastern Conference, the teams now meet just twice a season.
“It’s a little bit different, but there’s still that rivalry,” said Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. “We still know what kind of team they are. Some things don’t change, and there’s certainly some fun memories of playing against these guys over the years.”
While it’s impossible to compile all of the great Blues / Red Wings moments in one blog, here are a few that stand out over the years.
Jan. 23, 1993
The Blues beat the Red Wings 4-3, but the goals and the score aren’t the most memorable part. That belongs to the brawl that started with Kelly Chase and Jim Cummins and ended with goalies Curtis Joseph and Tim Cheveldae throwing punches at center ice. The moment featured Ken Wilson’s now iconic “Here Comes Chevaldae” call. You can see it again on YouTube by clicking here.
April 16, 1995
The Blues gave away hats to all fans who attended the game at Kiel Center. Brett Hull delivered a natural hat trick against Red Wings goalie Mike Vernon, and then added another goal for good measure, in a four-goal performance. More than 5,000 hats came flying to the ice after Hull’s third goal, and the Blues would eventually win 6-5 thanks to fan-favorite Rick Zombo, who scored the game-winner.
May 16, 1996
The Blues and Red Wings needed Game 7 to decide the Western Conference Semifinals. With goaltender Grant Fuhr injured in the first round, Jon Casey filled in admirably for the Blues, who were looking for their first trip to the Western Conference Final in 10 years. The game wouldn’t be decided until double overtime, when Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman scored a heartbreaking goal from the blue line to end the series. “I hated Detroit growing up,” said St. Louis native and Blues defenseman Chris Butler. “That Steve Yzerman shot is forever in-grained in my memory. That picture from behind the goal, the slap shot, it ruined every good feeling I ever had towards the Detroit Red Wings.”
April 2, 2009
David Backes scored a career-high four goals, including the go-ahead goal with 4:07 left in the game, to help the Blues to a 5-4 victory over the Red Wings to catapult the team into the playoff picture in the Western Conference. Thanks in large part to this victory, the Blues surged into the postseason for the first time in five years.
March 30, 2011
The Blues pile 10 goals on the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena en route to a 10-3 win. It was the first time the Red Wings gave up 10 goals in a game since 1993. Chris Stewart, Vladimir Sobotka and Chris Porter each had three points. “Ten goals in Joe Louis Arena…to score five goals it’s a hope and a prayer,” Backes said. “We had a few things clicking that night.”
Jan. 19, 2013
After an NHL lockout postponed the start of the Blues season until January, Vladimir Tarasenko made his NHL debut and scored on his first two shots. The Blues would eventually win the game 6-0 in front of a packed house at Scottrade Center. WATCH
Back to tonight, Detroit is wrapping up a six-game road trip. The Red Wings are 23-11-9 (55 points) and rank third in the Atlantic Division.
“It’s a lot of the same stuff. They’re solid in their checking, they’re solid in the team game,” said Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock. “The score may be close, but the game’s not close when we watch them play. They control the game and it’s been the same for years. They play a certain way, which is very effective.”
“I think it will still be cranked up, but the prominence of how many times we play them maybe lessens that a little bit,” said Backes. “My first six years in the league, we played them five or six times a year and we really built that animosity towards each other…It should be a heck of a game tonight.”
ST. LOUIS - Jake Allen will make his first start since Dec. 27 (a 4-3 loss to Dallas) tonight when the Blues host the Edmonton Oilers at 7 p.m. at Scottrade Center (FSMW, KMOX).
Allen relieved Brian Elliott on Saturday after the Blues found themselves trailing the Hurricanes 3-1 in the first period. Allen stopped 19 of 20 shots in relief, including all three of Carolina’s shootout attempts to help the Blues come back and earn a 5-4 win.
The victory was the Blues’ fourth in a row.
“(I just) got some extra work in practice and get back to the basics and my good habits again. It really paid off,” Allen said after the morning skate today at Scottrade Center. “I felt good in there, comfortable, confident and I’m looking forward to getting another chance in there.”
Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said tonight was a scheduled start for Allen. Elliott will be back between the pipes Thursday vs. Detroit and Saturday vs. Toronto.
“Jake playing two periods the last game was not scheduled,” Hitchcock said. “Jake playing against Edmonton was scheduled. We’re not changing the schedule because we pulled Brian (on Saturday). We’re staying on the schedule where Brian obviously will play the bulk of the games here lately into the break, but unfortunately he only played one period in that last game. That probably didn’t sit well with Brian, but we’re not going to lose track of the the fact that (tonight’s) game was Jake’s game anyway. We want to stay on that task.”
Despite not appearing in six consecutive games, Allen leads all NHL rookies with 12 wins this season. The 24-year-old goaltender has a 2.69 goals-against average, a .901 save percentage and two shutouts this season.
“I just want to be ready for my next opportunity, give the guys a chance when I get in there,” Allen said. “I felt I did that against Carolina.”
“It’s not easy for a backup goalie coming in like that, but he did a great job,” said Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson. “That’s the beauty of having three really good goalies on the team right now. It doesn’t matter who is in net, we have all the trust in the guy who’s behind us. It’s a great feeling.”