St. Louis Blues Look To Regain Form vs. Their Central Rivals Detroit Red Wings

Michael WagenknechtContributor IDecember 15, 2010

Jay McClement battles Todd Bertuzzi for the puck.
Jay McClement battles Todd Bertuzzi for the puck.Claus Andersen/Getty Images

The St. Louis Blues will travel to Detroit tonight for a match up against the always dangerous Red Wings. In their previous meeting this season the Red Wings smacked St. Louis 7-3, handing Jaroslav Halak one of his worst defeats in his career.

In the previous game the teams were tied at three heading into the third period. In a span of 3:14 late in the third period, though, the Wings broke it open with four unanswered goals.

The Blues are coming off a 2-1 shootout loss to Carolina on Saturday night but have scored points in each of their last four games.

Detroit currently leads the Western Conference and Central Division but were defeated Monday night by the surging Los Angeles Kings 5-0.

The Blues will be without defensemen Alex Pietrangelo, who is dealing with the after effects of a Rick Nash hit two games ago. Tyson Strachen will replace Pietrangelo in the line up. This means the offensive output from the defensive corps must come from Erik Johnson and Eric Brewer.

In 15 games against Detroit, Johnson has three goals, which ties him with Brewer in goals scored by defensemen against the Wings. Brewer leads defensemen this season with a surprising four goals this season.

Up front the Blues must get big games from David Backes and Brad Boyes. In their careers, these two have combined for 14 goals and 18 assists against Detroit. With TJ Oshie, David Perron and Andy McDonald still out these two MUST come up huge from here on out, starting with this game.

Jaroslav Halak's first impression of the Red Wings was definitely one he wishes never happened. Halak surrendered seven goals for the first time in his career. This followed a game in which he had given up six goals but thankfully it was the end of his slide. Halak went 3-0-0 in the next three games giving up a total of five goals in those games.

After getting shut out for the first time this season the Red Wings will be looking for blood in the water. After jumping out to a hot start to begin the season, the Wings have cooled off in the month of December, going 3-3-1. Forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg have excelled in their careers against the Blues and need to continue that dominance to help the Wings get back on track.

Both Datsyuk and Zetterberg are averaging more than a point per game against the Blues in their careers. Zetterberg is the better goal scorer of the two and has 21 goals but Datsyuk is not too far behind with his 19 goals against St. Louis. The difference lies in the helpers, with Datysuk having an impressive 40 assists in 50 games.

Jimmy Howard has successfully taken the reins from Chris Osgood with a sparkling 16-5-2 record and a 2.68 GAA. As any Detroit goalie in the past has done he has been a thorn in the Blues side. Since dropping both games in Sweden last season, Howard has posted a 3-0-1 record against the Blues and has a career GAA of 2.78.

This game begins an important week for the Blues, who will take on Los Angeles tomorrow night and then a rematch with San Jose, the first game since the Joe Thornton hit on David Perron. With no timetable for the return of McDonald and Perron, the Blues will need to get as many points as they can with a rag tag team of AHL starters and NHL third liners.

It is also a big week for Detroit as they will head to Chicago on Friday and wrap up the week back home against the Dallas Stars. The Wings sit only three points ahead of Dallas so even though its early in the season every game counts even for the top team in the conference.

Tune in at 7:30 tonight for a Central Division match up that should be hotly contested from the first drop of the puck.