Steen, Halak Lead Blues in Meaningful Rematch Versus Columbus
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The St. Louis Blues start a very important week of hockey this Thursday night. With star forwards Andy McDonald, TJ Oshie and David Perron still nursing injuries, a depleted Blues team will look for redemption versus the Columbus Blue Jackets, who humiliated them a month ago in Columbus
On Nov. 10, the Blues became part of Columbus history as they allowed the Jackets to score eight goals, the most in Columbus's 10 years in the league.
Jaroslav Halak allowed four of the eight goals in one of his worst performances of the season. With this game being in St. Louis, the Blues are looking towards their fans to give them the same boost Columbus had on that record setting night.
With the Blues' leading scorer Andy McDonald out with a concussion, Alex Steen will have to continue his solid season and career against Columbus.
Since joining the Blues Steen has scored six times against the Blue Jackets and also assisted on four more goals. Steen scored two of the three goals in the Blues last game, a 3-2 victory versus Vancouver, and has three goals in his last three games.
Another forward who needs to catch fire again, especially with three of the top forwards out, is Brad Boyes. Since scoring goals in four straight in the middle of November, Boyes has only one goal in the last eight games.
Over the last two years, Boyes has compiled three goals and six assists against Columbus, but for the most part the Jackets have held Boyes in check.
Since his stretch in mid-November when he allowed 19 goals in four games, Halak has steadied the ship going 3-3-1 in the last seven games. Columbus peppered him with shots and odd man rushes in the loss and that aspect of the game will have to be fixed if Halak is to succeed in this game.
After starting the season off on a hot streak, the Blue Jackets have sunk into the same funk the Blues have. Having gone 1-5-0 in their last six games has dropped the Jackets to only one point ahead of the Blues in the Central Division.
But after coming off of a shootout win against the hottest team in the league in Dallas, look for the Jackets to have some confidence in this game.
As always, Columbus will rely on a steady dose of captain Rick Nash and new star Jakob Voracek. These two combined for three goals and an assist in the 8-1 dismantling.
Nash has always been a thorn in the side of the Blues, and don't expect this game to be any different. Over the last two years, Nash has lit the lamp five times including his famous behind-the-back-and-between-the-legs goal two years ago. With no TJ Oshie to knock him around, he should have free reign of the ice, and that is dangerous.
Two years ago I threw out Jakob Voracek's name out as a guy who the Blues should consider trading Keith Tkachuk for. While he hasn't set the world on fire he has become a solid point producer and Columbus's answer to who else would score for this team.
Which team will finish higher in the standings?
The Jackets have a solid trio of lines as well as an improving blue line corps, but it is the net where they really shine. Steve Mason has proven that management made the right choice in offloading Pascal Leclaire and handing him the keys.
While Mason has been a solid goaltender, his record against St. Louis isn't as solid. In nine games since 2008, Mason is 3-5-1 while giving up 29 goals. In the game on Nov. 10, though, he stopped 29-of-30 shots and didn't look phased at all. But like Halak, Mason hit a rough patch in November and is just now starting to come out of it.
Even early in the season, this is an important game. With only one point separating these two teams and the winner jumping back in the playoff picture, it is imperative for both teams to have a strong showing.
Look for a tight checking game plan from the Blues so as not to allow as many odd man breaks. On the Blue Jackets side, they will look to the big man in Nash to take advantage of any power play they may receive.
This game will come down to the goaltenders and whoever feels like they are back on their game.
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