Blues Aim to End Blackhawks' Historic Streak
The Blues will face a stiff challenge when they host the Chicago Blackhawks tonight at 7 p.m. at Scottrade Center.
The Blackhawks have yet to lose a game in regulation, going 16-0-3 and setting a new record for the best start to a season in NHL history. The record was previously held by the Anaheim Ducks, who opened the 2006-07 season with points in 16 consecutive games.
Chicago is coming off a seven-game homestand and is playing its first road game since Feb. 10. Each of the Blackhawks’ last five wins (Los Angeles, Vancouver, San Jose, Columbus and Edmonton) have been decided by one goal.
How can the Blues break the streak?
“Sixty (minutes),” Hitchcock said. “Play 40, you’re dead. You’ve got to play 60 the right way and see where it goes. That’s the reason they’re winning…they play more minutes than other teams. They just play more minutes than any other team in the West right now.”
Added Matt D’Agostini, “We’re not thinking too much about their streak. We know they’re a beatable team, we’ve beat them before. So we’ll come out and play our A-game and we’ll get on them quick.”
If the Blues are to end the Blackhawks’ historic run, they will have to do it without Andy McDonald, Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko. McDonald (knee) and Steen (upper body) were injured in Tuesday’s practice, while Tarasenko is still sidelined after suffering a concussion on Feb. 20 in Colorado.
“All you’ve got to do is [watch] the NHL Network every hour and there’s another injury that pops up. We’ve been lucky so far,” Hitchcock said. “We’ve got three or four quality forwards out, but everybody’s got that going.
“We’ll get through this fine.”
Steen skated today but Hitchcock said he wouldn’t risk playing him at less than 100 percent with the team’s busy upcoming schedule. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow morning,” Hitchcock said.
Murray, who joined the organization in July, played under Hitchcock in Columbus.
“He’s a good NHL player. He hunts, he’s heavy on the puck, he’s strong as heck on the boards,” Hitchcock said. “He’s an NHL player that’s played in the minors, but he can play, he can contribute. He’s a very dependable, strong, big-body guy that really hunts the puck.”
Regarding Porter, Hitchcock said he is hungry and has been “a cut above” other players in the American Hockey League. In Peoria this season, Porter has played in 12 games, registering 10 points (7 goals, 3 assists).
Cracknell has played in 43 games in Peoria this season, recording 13 goals and 14 assists (27 points).
Because of injuries, the Blues will have a slightly different look to their forward lines tonight.
“We’re a little bit of a different team,” Hitchcock said, “but we don’t look like we’re going to be easy to play against with this group right now.”
- The Blues have won five of their last seven games vs. Chicago at home dating back to March 30, 2010.
- Jaroslav Halak is 3-0-0 at home vs. the ‘Hawks and sports a 1.00 goals-against average, a .959 save-percentage and one shutout.
- T.J. Oshie has 17 points (5 goals, 12 assists) in his last 16 games against the Blackhawks.
- Patrik Berglund has 9 points (3 goals, 6 assists) in his last 12 games against Chicago.
- At home, the Blues are 70-48-20 all-time vs. Chicago.
- Last season, the Blues played 21 games without McDonald and Steen in the lineup and went 13-4-4. While they will certainly need both players to make long playoff run, the Blues have proven recently they can still have success when key players are out of the lineup. Thanks to Blues Season Ticket Holder Nick Hand for this great stat.
- Halak will start in goal for the Blues tonight.
CEREMONIAL PUCK DROP
The Blues will honor Barret Jackman prior to tonight’s game with a ceremonial puck drop. Fans will want to be in their seats early tonight as the puck drop will feature several special guests.
Jackman played in his 616th game on Saturday, becoming the Blues’ all-time leader in games played by a defenseman. Jackman ranks fifth overall for the Blues, trailing only Bernie Federko(927), Brian Sutter (779), Brett Hull (744) and Garry Unger (662).