St. Louis Blues Preview: Ducks, Predators, and Avalanche, Oh My!

Michael WagenknechtContributor INovember 20, 2008

The injury bug continues to plague the St. Louis Blues, as Andy McDonald is now out eight weeks with a fractured ankle. This comes at a time when the Blues will need all the firepower they can get. Starting Friday, the Blues will play four games in the next six nights.

Friday night, the Blues host the Anaheim Ducks in their first visit to St. Louis this season. The Ducks defeated the Blues 5-2 on Nov. 5 in Anaheim. The Ducks fell to the Washington Capitals 6-4 on Wednesday night, and now sit at 10-8-2—which is good for fifth in the Western Conference.

For the Blues, this game will be the first since they were beaten by Montreal in a shootout on Sunday. The tandem of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry continue to lead the Ducks attack, accounting for 47 points in 20 games. The Blues' leading healthy scorers continue to be Brad Boyes with eight goals and seven assists, and Keith Tkachuk with nine goals and three assists.

The Blues will unveil their third jerseys in this game as well. After the game, the Ducks will travel to Dallas for a Saturday night matchup against the Stars, while the Blues will travel to Minnesota to play the Wild.

Saturday night, the Blues face off against red-hot Niklas Backstrom and the Minnesota Wild. Backstrom has won three straight games and has posted a .961 save percentage in doing so. The Blues should counter with Chris Mason, being that this is the second night of back-to-back games. Mason has yet to record a win this season, but was very impressive when he replaced Manny Legace in Buffalo and allowed only one goal on 25 shots.

The Blues will not have to deal with past nemeses Pavol Demitra or Brian Rolston, as both have moved on to different teams. The next two guys to watch for will be Mikka Koivu and Antii Miettinen. Koivu has 13 assists in 16 games, while Miettinen has six goals and six assists.

Lee Stempniak has three goals and three assists in 11 career games versus the Wild. Chris Mason is 1-2-2 in his career versus the Wild, giving up 4.40 goals per game. This will be the first meeting between these two teams this year.

On Tuesday, Nov. 25, the Blues will be in Tennessee to battle their newest rival, the Nashville Predators. The Blues opened the season by pasting the Preds 5-2 at Scottrade Center. This will be St. Louis' first visit to Nashville this year, and they will be looking to end a three-game winless streak at the Sommet Center. The Predators are 9-8-1 this season, but are 5-2-0 at home this year.

Rookie goalie Pekka Rinne was called up in October and has brought life back to the position in Nashville. Rinne has played in four games this season, and has posted a 2-0-0 record with a 3.77 goals-against average—but has never faced St. Louis.

In his one-and-a-half years in St. Louis, Brad Boyes has feasted on Nashville, putting up seven goals and an assist in 11 games, while Paul Kariya is taking it to his old team with one goal and seven assists in nine games. Manny Legace is only .500 in his time in St. Louis against Nashville. He is 4-4-4, but has only allowed 2.23 goals per game. This is the first nationally televised game of the year for the Blues.

The week concludes Wednesday night in Colorado against the Avalanche. This will be the only game in 2008 for the Blues against Colorado, as the rest come after the first of the year. The Avalanche are finally getting solid goaltending from Peter Budaj, who has won three of his last four, giving up only six goals in those games.

The Aves just locked up their leading scorer this week to a five-year extension. Paul Statsny leads the team with 15 points—three goals, and 12 assists. Colorado is one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league this year, scoring only 45 goals this season.

The newest Blues, Steve Regier and Cam Paddock, look to continue their hot starts after both scored goals in their debuts this year. Even though they are playing on the third lines, these two have both contributed effort and points in the games they have played.

This is the second back-to-back set of games this week—so once again, Chris Mason should start this one. The Blues are 1-1 in the second game of back-to-back games this season.

Of the eight potential points up for grabs this week, the Blues should get at least five of them. If they can come out of this week 2-1-1 with all the injuries they have accumulated, they can position themselves to make a run when the likes of Kariya and Oshie return in the coming weeks.

Check back next week for another week's worth of analysis.


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