Tracking the Storm

Breaking Down the Blues

Thursday, 10.30.2008 / 10:13 AM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Breaking Down the Blues

The Canes go into tonight’s game in St. Louis needing a win to tie their second-best six-game road trip in franchise history, a record set just last year.  That might surprise you, since the 2-1-2 they’ve posted so far isn’t stellar, but that just goes to prove how difficult these long trips are.

Paul Branecky
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The story with St. Louis so far this year has been their special teams, particularly their NHL-best power play, which ranks first in the league at 34.2 percent after finishing last year dead last at only 14.1 percent.  A very impressive turnaround so far, fueled in part by the resurgence of Keith Tkachuk (league-leading eight power play goals) and Paul Kariya (12 points in eight games), who are all of the sudden putting up 1998 numbers again.

Their penalty killing isn’t bad either (sixth overall, 87.1 percent), which leads me to believe that if the Canes are to win this game, they’ll have to dominate the even-strength play, where the Blues haven’t been as good (-3 goal differential).  That’s also reflected in the poor plus/minus ratings of several prominent players, including Andy McDonald (12 points, -5), Brad Boyes (11 points, -4) and number one defenseman Erik Brewer (-5)

On the injury front, the Blues don’t have as many ailing players as the Hurricanes, but the ones they’ve had are doozies.  Defenseman Erik Johnson (torn ACL, MCL, golf cart, out indefinitely) and starting goaltender Manny Legace (hip, red carpet at Sarah Palin puck drop, day-to-day) are the highlights.  In addition, rookie defenseman and recent fourth overall pick Alex Pietrangelo is out with neck and knee injuries sustained after the Leafs’ Ryan Hollweg boarded him two weeks ago, leading to a three-game suspension for Hollweg.

The injuries to Legace, backup goaltender Chris Mason (emergency appendectomy) and third-string goalie Ben Bishop (groin) have led the Blues to use four goaltenders this year – the most of any team in the NHL. 

Mason is expected to play for the first time tonight since undergoing the procedure on October 16, with Marek Schwarz backing him up.  Mason says he’s ready, but I wouldn’t be surprised if all the goaltending injuries sped up his return a little bit.  The Canes will want to test him early on.

Here’s a story from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on McDonald to help you pass the time before tonight’s game.  As a relatively small player, he’s a great example of a post-lockout late-bloomer.  I had no idea he was 31 already.

SCHEDULE

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 77 23 31 -13 54
J. Faulk 82 15 34 -19 49
E. Lindholm 81 17 22 -23 39
V. Rask 80 11 22 -14 33
J. Skinner 77 18 13 -24 31
N. Gerbe 78 10 18 -14 28
R. Nash 68 8 17 -10 25
J. Staal 46 6 18 -6 24
J. Liles 57 2 20 -9 22
J. McClement 82 7 14 -7 21
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 22 24 5 .910 2.40
A. Khudobin 8 17 6 .900 2.72