GAME DAY: St. Louis
Columbus continues its Midwest swing with a divisional showdown against the Blues tonight
BLUE JACKETS (5-10-2) AT BLUES (9-6-2)
SCOTTRADE CENTER | ST. LOUIS, MO
8 P.M. TONIGHT
TV: FOX SPORTS OHIO (HD) | RADIO: 97.1 FM & BLUEJACKETS.COM
Since a drastic turnaround led by current Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson, the St. Louis Blues have made Scottrade Center into one of the toughest road environments in the National Hockey League. But lately, that has not been the case.
The Blues have had some bumps in the road during the first 17 games of the season, and the biggest surprise of all has been their struggles on home ice. Since a 5-4 overtime win over the Minnesota Wild back on Jan. 27, the Blues have a record of 0-4-1 at the Scottrade Center and with the exception of a 6-5 shootout loss to Anaheim, they have been outscored 15-3 in the other three games of the skid. Their scoring woes have extended to the road, as well, highlighted by a 1-0 overtime loss in Denver earlier this week.
What's the crux of the Blues' issues? For one, the offense has dried up after an electric start to the season -- remember than 6-0 thrashing of the Red Wings on opening night? St. Louis currently has seven players with at least 12 points in the 17 games played, two of those being defensemen in Kevin Shattenkirk (one goal, 13 assists) and Alex Pietrangelo (three goals, nine assists). And it's definitely not the power play causing problems, either; the Blues' power play is head and shoulders the best unit in the league with a staggering 31.7 percent efficiency, which is 4.2 percent higher than the next-best team (Pittsburgh).
But there was also tough news on the injury front yesterday for St. Louis, which put standout rookie Vladimir Tarasenko on injured reserve after suffering a head injury on Wednesday night. Avalanche forward Mark Olver delivered a hit on Tarasenko that resulted in a severe facial laceration and Tarasenko did not return to the game.
On the positive side, goaltender Jaroslav Halak has returned to the lineup after missing seven games and looked strong in the Blues' loss to Colorado. He made 19 saves and could help provide stability in net for St. Louis, which relied heavily on rookie Jake Allen in Halak's absence. Halak is 15-1-1 in his last 17 starts at Scottrade Center.
- The only meeting between these teams this season was a 4-1 win for the Blues at Nationwide Arena on Jan. 31. Sergei Bobrovsky was pulled in the first period after giving up three goals on 11 shots, but was stellar in the Blue Jackets' road win in Detroit two nights ago.
- Alex Steen loves playing Columbus. The Blues center has put up seven points in his last six games against the Blue Jackets and he's currently the team's leading scorer with 15 points (four goals, 11 assists).
- Artem Anisimov, who left Thursday's game in Detroit on a stretcher after a scary second period collision, was released from the hospital on Friday afternoon and has returned to Columbus for further evaluation by team doctors.
- The Columbus Blue Jackets and Buffalo Wild Wings have announced a new multiyear partnership that is highlighted by a series of social media events to be hosted at central Ohio Buffalo Wild Wings locations during eight upcoming Blue Jackets road games. Tonight's event will take place at the Grandview restaurant starting at 7:30 p.m. when the Blue Jackets visit the St. Louis Blues. MORE DETAILS
DEFENSEMAN | #22
2013 STATS: 1-13-14, 17 GP
Shattenkirk was a big piece of a late-night, blockbuster deal between the Blues and Avalanche a few years back. Former No. 1 pick Erik Johnson was sent to Denver in a multi-player deal that landed Shattenkirk and Chris Stewart in St. Louis, and both players have become key pieces to a very strong club in the Gateway City. Shattenkirk is still only 24 years old and developing into one of the best two-way defenders in the game, and many people around the game think there's still plenty of room for him to grow.
ST. LOUIS: Vladimir Tarasenko (head), injured reserve