After gaining points in four straight games after the All-Star Break, the St. Louis Blues came out flat on Saturday night against Minnesota and lost ground in the Western Conference playoff battle.
Tonight, the Blues welcome the West-leading Vancouver Canucks to town in a matchup the Blues MUST win to keep their hopes of securing a playoff birth alive.
Vancouver is continuing to roll on in the new year, having lost in regulation only three times since January 1st. Roberto Luongo has won six straight games while the Sedin twins keep the pressure on Steven Stamkos for the points lead.
These matchups are always a physical affair and tonight's game will be no different. Over the last three seasons, the Blues record against Vancouver is 5-4-1 and the goal differential between the two teams is three , 32 for the Blues and 29 for Vancouver.
Despite the poor effort against Minnesota this past weekend, the Blues have some impressive streaks continuing.
David Backes has four goals in the last four games and continues to lead the team in goals scored.
Brad Boyes has evolved from the goal scorer we knew to the assist man we needed.
Over his last nine games, Boyes has 11 assists and his vision on the ice has led to many other great scoring chances. While he is being paid to score goals it is nice to see him finally contributing in some way.
On the flip side is Jaroslav Halak.
In the last 13 games, Halak has only three wins and has struggled as the main goalie for a playoff-starved team. The struggles, while painful for fans, are a necessary step for this young goalie to ascend to the place that Luongo has gotten to.
For Vancouver, Ryan Kesler is slowly turning into a real star in this league.
Kesler leads the team with 32 goals and has five goals in the last six games. On a team with superstars already, its a bit unfair that they have another one emerging. But having another consistent scorer will only make it easier for this team to reach the Finals in 2011.
Tonight's game is not going to be televised locally but the last time that happened, the Blues beat one of the hottest teams in the East: Atlanta. Blues fans hope that a win tonight will be the spark that gets this team going back in the right direction.
Game time is 7pm Central on KMOX.