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It’s been a week – a long week – since the Blues have seen game action.
The Blues last did battle on Friday, Oct. 18 when they fell to the Winnipeg Jets in a shootout, 4-3. This came just one night after the Blues stole a hard-fought shootout win from the Blackhawks in Chicago, 3-2.
Since then, the entire roster took part in a team bonding trip in Charlestown, S.C.
“It was like a regular road trip without the preparation for games,” defenseman Jordan Leopold told Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Tuesday. “We didn’t have that added pressure of being ready the night before. I think ‘mission accomplished.’ Now we’re going to get some more rest and get ready to play here on the weekend.”
The team practiced at a local rink three times with the final workout occurring Tuesday morning, then boarded the charter back to St. Louis, where they have been preparing for the weekend ahead.
According to Rutherford, the trip included fishing trips, late-night dinners and even some movie-going. But that relaxed feeling will go away Friday night, when the team hosts the Vancouver Canucks.
Friday – Blues vs. Vancouver Canucks
If there were an exact opposite week from the Blues, the Canucks had it. Already playing in their fourth game since Sunday, the Canucks find themselves in second place of the Pacific Division when they enter Scottrade Center. And they are coming in hot.
The Vancouver Canucks come into St. Louis to play the last game of their seven game road trip. It’s been decent trip for Vancouver so far as they have gone 4-1-1, but still are a team stuck in the middle of the pack. They have yet to beat a team in regulation with a winning record this season and the game with the Blues is a tough match up.
The Canucks are thin up front and played in New Jersey Thursday with only 11 forwards as they have several injuries to the forward group. Because of that John Tortorella has been juggling his lines from game to game trying to find a right touch. That lack of depth will hurt them going against a tough defensive club like St. Louis.
Saturday – Blues at Nashville Predators
After the game Friday evening, the Blues will hit the road once again as they head to Nashville, Tennessee to battle the Predators at Bridgestone Arena Saturday night. Coached by legendary bench boss Barry Trotz, the Predators recently lost their starting goalie, Pekka Rinne, to a hip infection. Still, the team is 5-1-1 in their last seven, thrusting them to third place in the Central Division.
Goaltender Pekka Rinne was the sole reason Nashville remained within striking distance this past Tuesday in the 2-0 loss to Minnesota. Of course, with their lack of scoring, he’s the sole reason they stay within striking distance on most nights. On Wednesday, however, the Predators got the unexpected news that Rinne would miss “a minimum of four weeks” due to an infection in his surgically repaired hip. This thrust rookie Carter Hutton into the starting role and, fortunately for Nashville, he responded. On Thursday night he stopped 34 of 36 Winnipeg shots en route to his second win of the season — both against the Jets.
The Predators already struggle on offense (they’ve scored a Western Conference-low 22 goals in 11 games) and, despite his strong play thus far, now they have to worry about goaltending. After all, Hutton has just three career NHL starts and his back-up, 2011 second round pick Magnus Hellberg, has zero. If the Blues can get a couple by Hutton early, not only can they put a chink in that armor of his growing confidence but they’ll be pushing the Predators to their limits on the other side of the ice.
This weekend will be a little more challenging than the past week for the Blues.
I am a former NHL media member and reporter for the St. Louis Blues, working for various media outlets. Currently, I am an NHL News Writer and Editor for The Hockey Writers. I live in St. Louis and work as a freelance copywriter in numerous industries.