It goes without saying that the Canucks are having a lacklustre start to 2014. They’ve lost 5 games in a row, blowing leads in all of them, and prompting coach John Tortorella to question his team’s mental toughness. They’ll need to get tough real fast as they take on the streaking St.Louis Blues at home at Rogers Arena before heading on the road for another 3-game jaunt through the Pacific Division. The Blues are 9-0-1 in their last 10 games, a span in which they’ve outscored their opponents 41-17.
Tonight will be the second meeting between the two teams. Their last meeting was back on October 25th in St. Louis, where, thanks to some stellar goaltending by Eddie Lack and an overtime goal from Ryan Kesler, the Canucks came away with the 2 points. Since that meeting, however, the Blues have gone 26-6-3 and have surpassed the Chicago Blackhawks for top spot in the Central Division and have come within 4 points of the Anaheim Ducks, with 3 games in hand, for top spot in the Western Conference.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Canucks come out tonight after a roller coaster of a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday. They gave up the first 2 goals of the game to the high-powered Pens, but then struck for 4 unanswered goals, including 3 in the third period, before surrendering 2 goals in 16 seconds with 71 seconds remaining on the clock, en route to a 5-4 shootout loss. They’ve had a couple of days to stew over the loss so we’ll see how they respond.
With Henrik Sedin obviously nursing an injury, Chris Higgins and Zack Kassian have stepped up to the plate, contributing a couple of points each in their last game. Kassian was particularly impressive, his goal and his assist on Higgins’ goal showcasing the mix of speed, size and hands that the Canucks coveted when they acquired him for Cody Hodgson.
Brian Elliot is expected to start since Jaroslav Halak played last night in the Blues’ win against the Calgary Flames. Elliot has won 7 consecutive starts with .926% SV and a 1.86 GAA. Team Canada defenseman, Alex Pietrangelo, has 7 points in 4 games.
The Canucks are still without Roberto Luongo, Alex Burrows, Alex Edler, Jordan Schroeder, Ryan Stanton and Andrew Alberts. Burrows and Edler skated with the team yesterday, but neither is expected back tonight. Luongo should be back next week.
The Blues are missing leading scorer, Alex Steen, due to a concussion. Defenseman Roman Polak is also out with an ankle injury.