The St Louis Blues will pay a visit to the Washington Capitals for a Sunday afternoon game. The Blues have been on a roll in January (9-0-1 in their last 10 games) and hope for the good luck to continue into February. The Blues are still in second place in the Central with their record of 31-13-4 and 66 points. The Capitals are currently third in the Metropolitan Division with a record of 25-14-9 and 59 points. The game is set to start at 1:00 PM ET/ 12:00 PM CT, so be ready for the early game.
The Blues played the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday, and just like their earlier meeting, it was an exciting game that did not disappoint. The Canes started out with Anton Khudobin in net. He has been their hot goalie lately, but not this night. Only 1:48 into the game Steve Ott threw a backhand pass to Ryan Reaves who quickly took a shot that found the back of the net. That was Reaves 2nd goal in 2 games and his 5th goal of the season which is a career-high for him. Marcel Goc was also credited with an assist on the goal. Only a minute and a half later the Blues found the net again when David Backes got his 17th goal of the season and his 8th in the past 9 games. He was assisted by Alex Pietrangelo and TJ Oshie. The Blues had scored 2 goals on 3 shots so the Canes changed goalies; out was Khudobin and in came Cam Ward. The changed worked wonders for the Hurricanes. The next goal came from Carolina’s All-Star Justin Faulk who took a shot through traffic. Blues’ Jake Allen had no chance to see the puck as it passed him by. The second period only saw one goal and it was a deflection that got Hurricanes’ Ryan Murphy his first goal of the season. Neither team scored in the third period. On to overtime which once again failed to decide the winner. The shootout was needed for the second time between these two this season, and for the second time in two nights for the Blues. Also for the second time in two nights Kevin Shattenkirk scored the game winning goal in the shootout. He beat Ward inside the post to the blocker side. The final: Blues 3, Hurricanes 2.
Sunday the Blues take on the Capitals for the final time in the regular season. The first meeting in November ended up 4-1 in favor of St Louis. That game was in the heart of the “STL Line” success and saw goals from Jori Lehtera and Jaden Schwartz. Also stepping up for the Blues were David Backes and Patrik Berglund from the top line. A key to success seemed to be taking no penalties for the Blues. The Caps power play was ranked third at the time and the Blues did not want to give them any opportunities. Backes’ line had to face Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin’s line all night. “I think it came down to Backes’ line,” Shattenkirk said after the game. “They had to face the Ovechkin line all night, and they did a great job keeping them in their defensive zone. I think that was the most important thing, shutting them down, and then the other three lines were able to get free and play good hockey.”
The Blues will once again need to stay out of the penalty box. Yes, the Blues’ power play is currently ranked second at 24.4 percent. The Caps are right behind in third place with a power play at 24.1 percent. The penalty killing is also very evenly matched. The Blues rank 19th at 80.5 percent and the Caps rank 18th at 80.6 percent. (espn.nhl) No one wants to see this game come down to special teams.
The Capitals will be entering this game coming off of a game in Montreal on Saturday. The Caps lost that game in overtime by a score 1-0. One can imagine that they will be a bit tired having played and now needing to travel. They have gone 1-3-2 in their past 6 games. This is after going 7-0-2 in the previous nine. The Caps may be in a bit of a slump, even so don’t underestimate this team. They will be ready to play.
Brian Elliott will start in net for the Blues. Braden Holtby started for the Caps on Saturday so he may not be the starter on Sunday. Justin Peters started for the Caps in St Louis and may face them again in Washington.
Ovechkin will be looking to reach 30 goals with his next goal. He has been in the NHL for 10 years and this will be 10 straight years that he will reach 30 goals. To do this in your first 10 years is an accomplishment that not many players get to reach. Hopefully this won’t happen during the Blues’ game.
Injury Report: Chris Porter remains on IR. Lehtera and Berglund will not play against the Caps because of the upper-body injuries they suffered against the Predators. Get well soon guys.
Side Note: If you find yourself in Washington DC before the game and are looking for a place to meet up with fellow St Louis Blues fans, well look no further. Starting at 11:00 AM PI Pizza in Penn Quarter will be opening their mezzanine for a get together of Blues fans. Come join us! There is plenty of time for pizza and a drink before walking down to the Verizon Center to catch warm-ups and the game. I look forward to seeing you there!
Let’s Go Blues!
Feature Image Courtesy Of Dinur / Flickr