First of all, the title of this preview is, of course, meant to be ironic/sarcastic. We all know these two teams don't much care for each other, and when you add into the mix the whole Ken Hitchcock element, well, suffice it to say these two teams won't be exchanging candy hearts anytime soon, Valentine's Day or not.
In roster news, the Jackets have activated Mark Letestu off of IR, which means--most likely, that either Ryan Russell or Colton Gillies is going to sit down; assuming, that is, that the Test Tube actually gets back in tonight. It would be hard to sit Russell down on the night he gets to potentially play against his brother for the first time in the NHL (assuming Hitch doesn't sit him down for some reason). So, sorry, Colton, looks like you're out. Of course, this is all purely speculation on my part, so don't sue me if the lineup isn't quite the same as below. [update] Looks like Letestu is in on the second line, Johansen is out, and Gillies is down on line #4.
The Blues fired Davis Payne on November 6, sitting at 6-7 on the young season. Hitchcock took over, and the team wasted no time in responding. 42 games later, they've ripped off a 28-7-7 stretch (63 points) to jump to the top half of the standings.
Other than that, these matchups don't seem to need much introduction anymore. Ever since last year's soccer-match-turned-8-1-beat-down, these clubs seem to have no problem getting up to face each other. The Blues are smothering teams on defense, and getting enough scoring to continue winning. The Jackets are, well, the Jackets. Also, no telling who's going to be in net tonight as of yet, so, you know, there's that. Curtis Sanford is listed as "doubtful," which makes my stomach queasy. [update] Sanford didn't skate this morning. Mason it is!
Columbus Blue Jackets
(16-34-6, 38 Points; 5th division, 15th conference)
|R.J. Umberger||Derick Brassard||Rick Nash|
|Vinny Prospal||Jeff Carter||Mark Letestu|
|Derek Dorsett||Samuel Pahlsson||Antoine Vermette|
|Ryan Russell||Derek MacKenzie||Colton Gillies|
|Fedor Tyutin||John Moore|
|Aaron Johnson||James Wisniewski|
|Grant Clitsome||David Savard|
St. Louis Blues
(34-14-7, 75 Points; 2nd Division, 4th Conference)
|David Perron||David Backes||T.J. Oshie|
|Andy McDonald||Patrik Berglund||Jamie Langenbrunner|
|Chris Porter||Vladimir Sobotka||Chris Stewart|
|B.J. Crombeen||Scott Nichol||Ryan Reaves|
|Carlo Colaiacovo||Alex Pietrangelo|
|Barret Jackman||Kevin Shattenkirk|
|Roman Polak||Kris Russell|
11/27/11 - St. Louis 2 at Columbus 1 - RECAP
12/18/11 - Columbus 4 at St. Louis 6 - RECAP
02/14/12 - St. Louis at Columbus
03/10/12 - Columbus at St. Louis
03/11/12 - St. Louis at Columbus
03/31/12 - Columbus at St. Louis
Head to Head
St. Louis Columbus 2.49 (22) GPG 2.29 (28) 1.91 (1) GAPG 3.21 (29) 14.4% (26) PP% 16.0% (21) 81.1% (21) PK% 75.1% (30) David Backes, 16 G leader Rick Nash, 18 David Backes, 25 A leader Vinny Prospal, 25 David Backes, 41 Pts leader Rick Nash, 39 David Backes, 81 PIM leader Derek Dorsett, 139 10-11-3 Road/Home 9-15-3 2/12 vs. San Jose, W 3-0 Last Game 2/12 vs. Anaheim, L 5-3 7-2-1 Last 10 3-6-1
- Powering Up - The Jackets' man advantage is 7-for-23 (30.4%) in its last five games. It's a case of too-little, too-late, but honestly it's nice to see the Power Play starting to be dangerous for a change. The season itself is lost, but if this Power Play unit can string some success together, it might actually, you know, bode well for next year. Assuming they don't blow up the roster. Over their last five, the Blues have only killed off 11 of 15 (73.3%). Hmm...
- The PK, On the Other Hand... - I don't have words. It's awful. After a four-game stretch in which they killed off 10 of 11, they let in THREE Power Play goals on Sunday against Anaheim. Dreadful. So, over those five games, the Jackets have killed off 12 of 16 (75%). Over their last five, the Blues are 4-for-15 (26.7%) on the Power Play, so it will be interesting to see who wins the Special Teams battle tonight.
- Backes That Thang Up - Amazing, but David Backes is leading the Blues in almost all major stats. Look at the table above. He's leading in all of those things. He's also third in +/-, fifth in TOI, and leads his team in PP points (5G, 7A). So, what I'm saying is, umm, MARK HIM UP.
The Jackets are going to have their hands full, and are going to have to bury their chances to have any chance to win. They scored four against the Blues last time out (and of course gave up six), but if they want to win they're going to have to continue scoring and continue cashing in on the Power Play. The PK needs to be better. They need to match the physical edge of St. Louis. They need to skate, which they did not do on Sunday. They need not to turn the puck over. It's a tough go, but man would it be nice to shut up those Blues fans and their schadenfreude.