Blues try to prevent road skid as they play Lightning
Friday, 03.16.2012 / 9:56 AM
NHL.comBLUES (45-19-8) at LIGHTNING (32-31-7)
TV: FS-MW (HD), SUN (HD)
St. Louis 7-2-1; Tampa Bay 5-4-1
The Blues can become the first team in the NHL to clinch a playoff berth with a win
in Tampa Bay.
Can't Miss: Jaden Schwartz
, the Blues' first round pick (14th overall) in 2010, will make his NHL debut on Saturday
. Schwartz signed an entry-level deal earlier this week after his season at Colorado College came to an abrupt end.
The Blues won 3-0 at home in November in the only other meeting of the season. It was Ken Hitchcock's second win in three games with the Blues (2-0-1). He's 37-12-7 since.
The Blues can reach 100 points for the first time since 2000-01 and for only the fifth time in franchise history as they close in on clinching just the team's second playoff berth since the work stoppage.
St. Louis has now lost two in a row during this six-game stretch away from home after dropping a 2-0 decision to the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night. The Blues are the League's best home team (29-4-4), but they struggled earlier this season on the road. They are 8-4-1 away from home since a 3-1 loss in Nashville on Feb. 4, though, and will face three West teams fighting for a playoff spot (Anaheim, Los Angeles and Phoenix) during the second portion of this road trip.
Tampa Bay looked like it might climb back into playoff contention despite a season full of injuries and a trio of trades sending veteran players away before the trade deadline. However, the roster limitations (and the continued problems with goal prevention) have caught up with them, and losses in four of the past five contests have left the Lightning with less than a three percent chance of reaching the postseason, according to sportsclubstats.com.
Center Andy McDonald
has 9 points in his past seven games and 17 in 18 contests since returning from a concussion. Despite the fact the Blues are 0-for-10 on the power play, they are still 15-for-57 (26.3 percent) since McDonald returned. … Steven Stamkos' strong play as he reached 50 goals garnered most of the attention in Tampa, but Teddy Purcell has also been fantastic of late for the Lightning. He has 7 goals and 28 points in the past 19 games. He had 28 points in his first 47 games.
St. Louis is short three players right now because of concussions. Forwards Alex Steen
and Matt D'Agonstini and defenseman Kris Russell
are all out for the Blues. Andy McDonald
, who injured his shoulder in Thursday's game in Carolina, is questionable … The Lightning have been hit hard by injuries all season. Defenseman Mattias Ohlund (knees) hasn't played at all. Tampa Bay is also without goaltender Mathieu Garon (lower body), captain Vincent Lecavalier (hand), forward Dana Tyrell (knee) and defensemen Marc-Andre Bergeron (back) and Bruno Gervais (upper body).
Stat Pack: Kevin Shattenkirk
has been a huge addition for the Blues, outperforming both bigger names (Chris Stewart
and Erik Johnson) in the trade with Colorado last season. He's got 9 goals and 37 points, but he's also third among defensemen in on-ice plus-minus per 60 minutes at even strength, according to the website Behind the Net. He trails only Detroit's top pairing (Nicklas Lidstrom and Ian White) among defensemen with at least 40 games played.
One of the top prospects in the sport could make his NHL debut for the Blues. Jaden Schwartz
, the 14th pick in the 2010 Entry Draft, signed a contract after two seasons at Colorado College. He had 15 goals and 41 points this season, and also captained Canada's entry at the world junior championships.
Schwartz is the Blues' No. 2 prospect (Vladimir Tarasenko
is certainly No. 1), but he'd be No. 1 for a lot of franchises. He was ranked 17th by the site Hockey's Future in October, and 12 of the guys in front of him have played in the NHL this season.