Jaroslav Halak will get the start for the Blues, who will be without Andy McDonald (knee), Vladimir Tarasenko (concussion) and Alex Steen (shoulder) for tonight’s game. The Blackhawks will once again be without Dave Bolland (upper body), who has yet to skate since suffering his injury last Friday. Coach Joel Quenneville was uncertain this morning if Bolland skated back home today.
Brandon Bollig, who grew up in the St. Louis area, is likely in on the Blackhawks’ fourth line tonight.
But regardless of who the Blues do/do not have in their lineup, they’re formidable. A rival with a stingy netminder – Halak is 4-0-1 this season with a 1.70 goals-against average – the Blues want to give the Blackhawks that first regulation loss this season.
“I think it’d be nice,” Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. “I know with the history we have against the Blackhawks and the games that we always seem play against them, its setting up to be a pretty special night. We’d love to be the ones to end their streak and we’ve love to get on a roll ourselves and maybe do a little of what they’ve been doing these first 18, 19 games here.”
Now, what do the Blues need to do for that to happen?
“Play 60 minutes,” coach Ken Hitchcock said. “You play 40, you’re dead. We played 30 (against them on Jan. 22) and it wasn’t good enough. You have to play 60 the right way and go from there. That’s the reason they’re winning. They play more minutes than other teams. Maybe the game’s up for grabs in the third period, but in the third against Edmonton (on Monday) they always had the puck. (Los Angeles) is catching up, Anaheim’s there, but (the Blackhawks) are the team that plays more quality minutes than anyone in the West now.”
If the Blackhawks (16-0-3) have been unhappy with anything in this record start, it’s been their conga line to the penalty box in recent games. They’ve weathered it, thanks to their much-improved – and No. 2-ranked-in-the-league -- penalty kill. But they don’t want to press their luck, especially facing the Blues’ power play, which is No. 1 in the NHL (78.8 percent).
“These guys have a lot of different weapons on top. So let’s prevent their power play from staying out of the box first,” Quenneville said. “It’s going to be a good challenge for us. Let’s welcome it, let’s be ready for it.”