Ken Hitchcock claims he doesn't have a lot of emotion left about his firing in Columbus, or his return to the confines of Nationwide Arena alongside former Jacket Kris Russell.
If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.
Passion is what drives NHL players and coaches - why else put up with insane schedules, constantly being "on the clock" at one level or another, the travel, the wear and tear, the emotional and physical demands?
The Blues have been running hot since Hitch took over behind the bench for Davis Payne, while the Jackets are riding a five game point streak and looking to make it six.
No emotion? Sure.
(Note: Lines are based on combinations used in practice yesterday and are subject to change)
('11-'12: 12-8-2, 26 Points; 3rd Division, 8th Conference)
|Alexander Steen||T.J. Oshie|
By The Numbers ('11-'12 Season)
STL - 2.50 G/G (20th)
CBJ - 2.41 G/G (23rd)
STL - 2.09 (2nd)
CBJ - 3.18 GA/G (26th)
STL - 8.4% (30th)
CBJ - 14.1% (23rd)
STL - 79.5% (22nd)
CBJ - 74.7% (29th)
- If the Blues do start Brian Elliott, this is not a "normal" backup - the former Ottawa starter is in a true 50/50 situation with Halak right now, and is currently 9-1 on the season with a 1.34 GAA and .951 SV%. Elliott has faced the Jackets three times in his career and is 2-0-1 with a 2.91 GAA and .899 SV%.
- A Ken Hitchcock team leading the league in defense? Well, I never...
- This game is virtually guaranteed to be a physical affair. The Jackets need to play smart here. Clean hits, hard checks, and go for the puck. Let the Blues get themselves into penalty trouble and see if we can't abuse that PK a bit.
- In their last four games, the Blues have scored two goals three times, and managed a third goal to win in OT vs. Pittsburgh. In fact, since Hitch came in on November 8th (9 games), they've scored two goals or less five times. If the Jackets can keep up their offensive production in front of Curtis Sanford, it could go a long way towards a win.
- Speaking of Sanford, this will be the first time he's faced his former team since losing the Blues backup job in 2007. You have to think he'd like to mark the occasion with a big win.
- Since the trade: Kris Russel has 2G, 1A, and +4 in 7GP. Nikita Nikitin has 5A, +3 in the same span of time.
- Both teams are scoring by committee right now, but a player to keep an eye on is Chris Stewart, who recently returned from suspension. The young power forward is off to a slow start this season, but he's previously been extremely dangerous against Columbus, averaging a point a game. The Jackets' defense needs to break that streak and add to his struggles.
- No lineup changes expected, so Cody Bass will sit while Brass gets a chance to shine. Steve Mason, meanwhile, will serve as backup and Allen York is on his way back to Springfield.