By Patrick Kelly
The St. Louis Blues are back to business as usual less than 48 hours after hosting the NHL’s best. On Sunday, the Blues took an earlier flight than usual to Vancouver in order to get in a quick team skate in the afternoon. The boys in blue are looking to start off the last stretch of the season on a good note with a tour of western Canada, ending on Saturday with a division matchup in Winnipeg.
The Blues seem to have drawn the short end of the stick again when it comes to the schedule, being one of only six games to start up the NHL schedule as well as being the only team besides the Ottawa Senators to start off with back-to-back games.
The Canucks find themselves atop the Pacific Division coming out of the break. The Pacific right now is anyone’s division to win with the Canucks only having a one-point lead over the Flames, Oilers, Golden Knights, and Coyotes, who all sit in second with 57 points. The Canucks won four of their last five before the break, losing only 4-0 to the Jets team the Blues face off against on Saturday.
The Blues are looking to find the success that they found earlier in the season for their last big push. The Blues’ lead in the division is still somewhat comfortable, but the Avalanche are gaining momentum and stomping the Blues in their last two meetings has helped them close in on the top spot in the Central. The Blues have lost four games this month, two coming in regulation and two in overtime with both regulation losses coming against the Avalanche.
One valuable piece of the Blues team that was missing in the game in Colorado was defender Colton Parayko who is expected to be back in the lineup tonight to give the Blues back end a big boost. The Blues also announced that they had placed Troy Brouwer on waivers which he cleared Monday morning. Brouwer being sent down can only mean that someone is ready to step into the lineup and that person is Sammy Blais, who has been out since November 19 with a wrist injury that required surgery. Before going down. Blais was having a breakout year, getting five goals and three assists in his first 20 games with the club. His numbers likely would have climbed with him getting a lot of top-six minutes. Blais still needs to be activated from IR, which hasn’t happened yet, so for now it looks like Parayko will be the only addition to the lineup but it will be a big add. Parayko has been a pivotal part of the defense, making it one of the most revered in the NHL. In his 42 games played, Parayko has played a career-high average of 22:49 in ice time.
The Blues have to pack up immediately after their game in Vancouver to make the trek to Calgary where they will play Matthew Tkachuk and the Flames Tuesday night then having a day off before facing off against the other team from Alberta, the Edmonton Oilers. With four straight games against teams above .500, the Blues will need to hit the ground running if they want to keep their lead in the Central heading toward the trade deadline.