NHL: St. Louis Blues Try to Rebound Against Vancouver Canucks

Michael WagenknechtContributor IDecember 20, 2010

Alex Steen celebrates one of his two goals against Vancouver December 5th
Alex Steen celebrates one of his two goals against Vancouver December 5thRich Lam/Getty Images

Coming off of a thrilling 6-4 victory against LA last Thursday night, the St. Louis Blues were primed to go on a sustained point streak, as they had four home games in the week leading up until Christmas.

However, the San Jose Sharks came into town Saturday night and thoroughly wiped the ice with a bruised and battered Blues team.

The Blues look to bounce back against the team that has become a hated rival on par with the Red Wings and Blackhawks. That team, the Vancouver Canucks, come into the game on a three game win streak and have collected points in their last five games.

St. Louis will get back two key players from the injured list, as defensemen Roman Polak and Alex Pietrangelo return and shore up a decimated blue line corp.

While still missing key forwards in Oshie, Perron and McDonald, having a healthy defense will only help this team get back to where they were to start the season.

The Blues and Canucks met earlier this year with the Blues pulling out a 3-2 victory earlier this month. Alex Steen accumulated points on all three Blues goals, scoring two and assisting on Matt D'Agostini's goal in the second.

Steen had a five game point streak, starting with the game in Vancouver, snapped on Saturday night against the Sharks.

The Sedin twins will lead a potent attack against St. Louis and will be aided by rising star Ryan Kesler, who has done a wonderful job stepping into the skates left behind by Pavol Demitra. While not the scoring threat that Demitra was, Kesler has held the Canucks 2nd scoring line together with 15 goals and 10 assists this season.

The Blues will need to counter with strong play from players that have been disappearing in games of late. Brad Boyes has two points in the last 10 games but has had a decent career against the Canucks.

In 16 games, Boyes has netted seven goals while also recording 10 assists, not superstar numbers but good numbers for a streaky scorer. Boyes needs to start putting a streak together or this team will flounder even more so than it already is.

If one man can save this season, it would be Jaroslav Halak. The dreadful stretch of play in mid-November is now a distant memory and Halak has kept this team in almost every game this month. Halak has very good numbers against Vancouver with a 3-1-0 record and a 2.01 GAA.

With Polak and Pietrangelo returning, it will only make Halak's job that much easier to stop pucks as this unit started out the season giving up only 1.33 goals per game before the injuries started to add up.

The Canucks will be without one of their star forwards, as Mason Raymond will continue to be out with a broken thumb and defenseman Sami Salo is still recovering from offseason ankle surgery. This still hasn't stopped a very good, young team from having a stellar 18-8-4 record and having one of the top offenses in the league.

With Roberto Luongo in net and a solid defensive corp up front, the Canucks also boast one of the top defenses in the league as well.

Vancouver is tied for third in the NHL with only 75 goals allowed and a GAA of 2.47. Luongo has been an enigma against the Blues, in 22 games he is 12-9-0 with a 2.41 GAA. But since sweeping the Blues in the playoffs two seasons ago, Luongo has given up 17 goals in the last five games and has a record of 2-3-0 in those games.

This is an important game for both teams: The Blues are only three points back of the eighth spot in the West and they need every point they can get with the injuries that they have; the Canucks are embarking on a Midwestern trip that will see them against Conference leader Detroit and the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets.

The last three games have been decided by one goal and expect this game to be no different.