Tonight is the 4th meeting between the Blackhawks and their old rivals the St. Louis Blues. There will not be too many surprises tonight. The Blues and Hawks always play a hard hitting and physical game. These teams don’t like each other which always makes for good hockey. Both teams have won 7 of their last 10 games. The home team has won all 3 previous matchups in the season series, with the Blackhawks holding a 2-1 edge.
Tonight is first home game for the Blues after a 6 game road trip. Jaroslav Halak will get the start in net for St. Louis. He shutout the Blackhawks 3-0 back on Novemeber 8th, his only start against the Hawks this year. Goaltending has been the biggest factor in the Blues’ success this season. Halak and Brian Elliot have been quite the dynamic duo in net this season. The have a combined 1.77 goals against average, a .931 save % percentage and have 6 shutouts apiece. Goals will be hard to come by tonight for the Blackhawks. The forwards will have to get to the dirty areas to screen Halak and pay a bit of a price for goals. St. Louis and the Blackhawks have almost identical power plays but the Blues have the 9th best PK unit in the league. The Blues do not have anyone who has reached the 20 goal mark yet. David Backes is the closest with 19. The Blues do not have the star power the Blackhawks do but they do have a balanced attack that plays a great defensive game.
The Blackhawks will ride the current hot streak of Ray Emery down to St. Louis. Emery will look for his 4th straight win in net. He beat the Blues 5-2 back on December 3rd in Chicago. No new news on the injury front for the Blackhawks. Niklas Hjalmarrson has been skating and looks set to return on Friday night against the New York Rangers. Jonathan Toews has yet to skate and according to Coach Q is “fine” but we all know that means nothing at all. This would be a another huge win for the Hawks tonight but it will not be easy. They are going to have to remain patient and keep firing away. We all know the Blues will try and get under the Hawks collective skin, especially if they fall behind, so they need to stay smart. If Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp continue their hot play then the Blackhawks should be just “fine”.