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Elliott Returns As St Louis Blues Take On Vancouver Canucks

The St Louis Blues have been struggling of late, but they are getting some relief with the return of goaltender Brian Elliott.   The Blues (41-22-9) are in second place in the Central Division with 91 points. They have been in a battle with Dallas for the lead in the Division as well as the Conference, but Dallas has pulled ahead by 2 points. Tonight the Blues will be visiting the Vancouver Canucks, with puck-drop set to be at 10:00 PM ET/ 9:00 PM CT. The Canucks (27-31-12, 66 points) are currently 12 points behind the second wild card spot, Avalanche. Vancouver, as well, has been struggling lately and enters tonight’s game fighting to prevent tying a season-high losing streak. Expect emotions to be high tonight as both teams look to get things back in order. Someone will put an end to their losing streak in this game.

Preview: This is the second of three games between the Blues and the Canucks this season. The final meeting between the two will be next week on March 25th in St Louis. The first game, October 16 in Vancouver, ended in a Blues 4-3 win over the Canucks. This was the first game of the season where the Blues netted the first goal of the game. The Blues had goals from Jori Lehtera, Alexander Steen (1 goal, 1 assist), Robert Bortuzzo and Kyle Brodziak. Vladimir Tarasenko and Carl Gunnarsson each recorded 2 assists that night as well.

Brian Elliott has been activated from LTIR and will be playing in tonight’s game against Vancouver. Let’s face it, this cannot come at a better time. The Blues are starting to struggle, and this is not the time to fall behind. Elliott sustained a lower-body injury in the February 22 game against the Sharks. Before that game he was on a serious hot streak, going 12-3-3 and he led the League with both a 2.06 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage. Instead of being placed on regular Injured Reserve, as is the usual procedure, the Blues placed Elliott on Long Term IR. Placing him on LTIR meant that Elliott could not return for 10 games and 24 days. By all reports, he has been practicing and looking good for a while now, but couldn’t do anything but wait. “It’s good to get the opportunity to get back in there,” Elliott said. “I’ve been practicing well for almost two weeks now, so it’s good to get back in game action.” (blues.nhl/Elliott) Welcome Back Moose! We’ve missed you!

Jake Allen will get the night off. He has started the past 10 consecutive games for the Blues in net. During that time he had a 6-game winning streak (a season-high for the Blues). Unfortunately what goes up must come down, and Allen has lost the last 2 games against non-playoff contending teams. These are games that the Blues should have won. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that the losses are entirely on Allen’s head. Yes, he had off-nights, but so did the rest of the team. It will be good for him to be able to have a game off.

It looks as if Ryan Reaves will be back in the lineup tonight. He took a seat so that Magnus Paajarvi could rotate into the mix for the last game.

The Blues are going to need to do something about their special teams. What has happened? Has St Louis forgotten how to kill off penalties? Recent games sure make it look that way. In the last game alone the Blues gave up 4 power play goals (PPG) to Edmonton. In fact the Blues have given up PPGs in a season-high 5 straight games, killing off 11 of 19 penalties in that time. (canucks.nhl) The Blues defense is not looking good right now on the penalty kill; they need to find a way to fix this, and fix it fast.

St Louis enters tonight’s game on a 2-game losing streak, but the Canucks enter the game having lost their last 3 consecutive games. The Canucks will be fighting to avoid that 4th straight loss, which would tie a season-high for the team. Everyone should expect Vancouver to be in a bad mood tonight. They have been watching their dreams of the playoffs disappear in the last few games.

Vancouver knows that Elliott is coming back from injury, so expect the Canucks to pepper him with shots. The Blues are really going to need to step up their defense tonight as Elliott gets tested in net. Ryan Miller will get the start in goal for the Canucks. He has a 2-5-0 record with a 3.03 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage in 7 career games against the Blues. He, of course, also briefly played for the Blues.

This is the second of back-to-back games for the Canucks. Last night they were in Edmonton for a game against the Oilers. That game ended in a shutout loss for the Canucks by a score of 2-0. Vancouver is 5-2-1 when playing the backend of back-to-back games.

This is a quick 1-game stop at home for the Canucks before they hit the road again. The club has struggled at home this month, going 2-4-0. They have gone 4-9-1 at home in their last 14 games. That being said, they have beaten such teams in recent weeks as Nashville, Arizona and San Jose.

This is going to be a rough game. The Canucks can play on the edge, and they are in a bad mood to top it off. They have been watching their playoff dreams slip away in recent games, and they cannot seem to get a win. The Blues are trying to get their game back as well. They want to be top of the Central Division and the Western Conference, but they are going to need to get back to winning to accomplish that feat.

Injury Review: Carl Gunnarsson is day-to-day with a lower body injury. He is questionable for tonight’s game. Alexander Steen is on IR with an upper body injury. Steve Ott is on LTIR after hamstring surgery.

 

Let’s Go Blues!

 

Review: After falling to the Flames on Monday, the Blues were in Edmonton taking on the Oilers on Wednesday. This was the second team in a row for St Louis to face that was out of the playoff picture. These two games should have been easy wins for the Blues, but unfortunately that was not the case. Jake Allen was pulled Monday, but back in the crease Wednesday. He would be facing Cam Talbot in net for the Oilers.

Right off the hop, one could see that St Louis was in trouble. The Oilers had several breakaways and Allen was forced to make huge saves on Connor McDavid. Oh boy, this was not a good sign.

Seven minutes into the game and Blues’ Carl Edmundson was getting called for goaltender interference. It was on the delayed penalty that Jaden Schwartz took a shot on net that hit Edmundson in the face sending him to the locker room for repairs. A minute later, on the resulting power play, Patrick Maroon collected a puck that had been deflected in front of the Blues’ net. He fed a pass to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for the shot past Allen. It was Nugent-Hopkins’ first goal since returning from injury. The Blues were down 1-0.

With 6:28 remaining in the first, Taylor Hall gets one more for the Oilers. He picks up a rebound and puts a backhander past Allen. The Blues are now down 2-0.

Very shortly later (35 seconds) the Blues get on the board. Captain David Backes sends a wrist shot from the right circle, in past the glove side of Talbot. The Blues cut the lead to 2-1.

The excitement early in the second period came when Edmonton’s Mark Letestu went down and slid into a referee taking his legs out. The ref hit the ice hard and needed to be attended to by trainers from the teams. Eventually he did remain in the game, and play continued.

The Blues tie the game up after a double reflection 6 minutes into the period. Edmundson took the initial shot from the point. The puck was deflected first off an Oilers’ player and then off of Schwartz in front of the net. Tie game, 2-2.

The Blues once again found themselves on the penalty kill when 7:42 into the period the Oilers strike. Andrej Sekera takes a shot that hits traffic on its way to the net. Allen made the save, but Letestu was in front of the crease to pick up the rebound and backhand a goal into the net. The Blues are now down 3-2.

The Blues’ penalty kill remains under attack and with 5:32 remaining in the period Leon Draisaitl sends a backdoor rebound past Allen. This goal is challenged by St Louis based on off-sides, and for once it was a good choice. This goal is called back. The score is still 3-2 Oilers.

During the same power play the Oilers manage to pin the Blues in the zone. McDavid takes a shot and Draisaitl gets his revenge by deflecting this one 5-hole past Allen with 4:55 remaining in the second period. This one will count. The Blues are down 4-2.

Just for good measure, St Louis goes on the penalty kill to round out the period. Wouldn’t you know it? Nugent-Hopkins takes a shot from the faceoff circle that beats Allen to the short side. The puck flies past Allen’s blocker and in the net. The Blues now trail 5-2. Yikes.

Where, oh where, is St Louis’ penalty kill? We do still have defense, right?

Allen, somewhat surprisingly, starts the third period. The Blues are going to need some serious help in this game.

The period starts out well enough. Patrik Berglund picks up a rebound on the power play, and shoots the puck over Talbot’s blocker and in. Only 58 seconds have passed since the period started, and the Blues cut into the lead, 5-3.

5 minutes later and Alex Pietrangelo sends a cross-ice feed to Backes on the faceoff dot. Backes scores his second of the night by shooting a wrister past the short side and in past Talbot. Blues trail 5-4.

This is Backes 204th goal for St Louis. With this goal, he ties Pavol Demitra for 6th all-time in Blues’ franchise history. Congratulations Backes, keep it up!

With 5:49 remaining in the game, Troy Brouwer gets ejected from the game. Brouwer hit Matt Hendricks into the boards. It didn’t look like that serious of a hit, but Hendricks was injured, and that means an automatic major and a game misconduct.

The Blues pull Allen with 35 seconds remaining in regulation. Unfortunately, their defense wasn’t on par in this game, and Edmonton capitalized. Hendricks sent a pass to Letsetu, who lifted the puck over a sliding Blues’ player, and into the empty net. There was 16.3 remaining on the clock. The Final: Blues 4, Oilers 6.

 

Feature Image Courtesy Of Dinur / Flickr

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