After a surprising start, the St. Louis Blues suffered a rash of injuries that lead to a prolonged pointless streak. Just in time for the Christmas holiday the Blues are getting healthy and it couldn't come at a better time.
The Blues start a stretch of five straight home games and the next three in a row are against Central Division opponents, starting with nemesis Detroit tonight. The Wings have had the Blues number this season but this will be the first home game for St. Louis in the series.
Coming off of a dominating 4-2 win against Atlanta on Tuesday night, the Blues are riding a better emotional wave then in previous meetings with Detroit. Alex Steen has scored goals in the two straight games and Brad Boyes netted his first goal in ten games against Atlanta.
Steen now leads the team with 11 goals on the season but has not scored in a game against Detroit in his career. With players like Boyes, Backes and Berglund not producing, the Wings will continue to keep pressure on the Blues only offensive threat, making someone else beat them.
Jaroslav Halak hasn't won a game in his last four starts and is 0-2 versus Detroit this season, giving up 11 goals in the two games. Ty Conklin has won his last two starts and has a 2-2-0 record with a 2.61 GAA in his career against Detroit. One would think that Conklin might get the start tonight with his stellar play in the last week and Halak's struggles against Detroit.
The Red Wings defeated Vancouver 5-4 on Wednesday night but at a very high cost. Top forward Pavel Datsyuk sustained a broken hand/wrist early in the first period and is out four weeks. While not a death blow to the offense, it will force players like Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula to step up.
In the last meeting on December 17th, Nicklas Lidstrom had a career night. Lidstrom recorded his first career NHL hat trick en route to the 5-2 victory. Paired with Henrik Zetterberg's career point per game average against the Blues, the McClement line with have their hands full even without Datsyuk in the lineup.
Even going 2-2-1 in their last five games, Detroit still maintains the Central Division lead and with last nights victory leapfrogged Dallas for the top spot in the Conference. The Wings sit nine points ahead of last place St. Louis, though, so even a little hiccup could drastically change the landscape of the division.
If the Blues are going to compete for a playoff spot this season, beating Detroit is going to be key to building the confidence this team needs to help them push through until those injured stars return.
TJ Oshie is ahead of schedule from his broken ankle but no time-table exists for David Perron or Andy McDonald so the higher paid players need to step up and lead this team even more so than ever.
Game time is at 7pm CST.