The Carolina Hurricanes tonight face a strong St. Louis Blues team fresh off a 4-1 Winter Classic win against the Western Conference leading Chicago Blackhawks. The Blues had a strong outing as they scored four unanswered goals after an early fluke goal that directed past Jake Allen.
Allen was strong on Monday, stopping 22 of 23 shots, but he has not had the best start to his season overall. In his first year as the unquestioned starter following Brian Elliott's departure to Calgary, he has posted a 2.62 goals against average (27th among goalies) and a .905 save percentage (37th among goalies).
The Blues have a plethora of offensive weapons which have helped them to place third in Central Division with 45 points and a 20-13-5 record. Vladimir Tarasenko is one of the top offensive weapons in the league and has backed it up with stellar play this season. Tarasenko ranks 4th in the league in points with 41, just two points behind league-leader Evgeni Malkin, and is fresh off a two-goal performance in the Winter Classic.
Behind Tarasenko is a bunched-up group of secondary scorers who give the Blues plenty of scoring depth. In his second season, center Robby Fabbri has become a key component of the Blues’ attack, with 25 points (second on the team) in 37 games while winning more than 56% of his faceoffs. It presents quite a challenge for opposing defenses, because the Blues can come at teams in many different ways, including from the blue line, where Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo are dangerous offensive weapons.
This is the first of two meetings between the two teams this season. Their next meeting will be on April 8th, the last home game of the season at PNC Arena.
- Match-ups will be a key in this game. Putting the right line and defensive pairing will be crucial to stop Tarasenko from lighting the lamp multiple times. Control Tarasenko and you control the pace of the game.
- Former Blue Ty Rattie was claimed off waivers yesterday by the Hurricanes and will be in the line-up tonight. Look for him to play with a chip on his shoulder.
- Speaking of Shattenkirk, he ranks 9th among defensemen with 24 points. He excels at break-out pacing and it will be crucial the Canes cut off passing lanes when the puck is on Shattenkirk’s stick.
- Tonight will be the battle of the penalty kills. The Hurricanes still lead the league with 89% of penalties killed but the Blues rank 4th with 86.4%.