By Josh Elliott, Gareth Bush and Brian O’Neill
With a busy nine games on the schedule tonight, we get you prepared with our five things to watch. From the Blues destroying their road competition, to Michal Neuvirth trying to play his way out of Washington and more.
Sweet road music
St. Louis hasn’t been singing the Blues lately winning their past six games, including their past three by a combined score of 16-4. A win in Calgary tonight would be the Blues’ longest winning streak since they won nine straight from Oct. 15 to Nov. 5, 2002. The Blues have loved their time away from the Scottrade Center, going 9-2-2 in their past 14 road games and are currently tied with Detroit with the best road record in the NHL at 13-4-3. Goaltender Brian Elliott, fresh off being named the NHL’s second star of the week, has won his past six, including a 5-0 blanking of the Los Angeles Kings.
Storm on the horizon
If Brian Burke were still with the Toronto Maple Leafs, now’s about the time he’d be undoing his tie, because you can bet everyone’s collars are getting pretty tight in Leaf Land. Tonight’s matchup against the Carolina Hurricanes is a four-point night for both teams, as the Hurricanes trail Toronto by a deuce for a wild card slot in the Eastern Conference. The Hurricanes’ game against Buffalo was postponed by bad weather so they haven’t played since Sunday, meaning they’ll be well-rested for their home tilt against the Blue and White. Carolina is on a four-game hot streak since losing to Toronto 5-2 Dec. 29, while the Leafs limp into the game coming off disastrous losses to the Rangers and Islanders. Seven of Carolina’s past nine games have been decided by a goal, so if they force the Leafs to play their game, look for a tight contest tonight.
Washington goaltender Michal Neuvirth hasn’t started a game for the Capitals since Nov. 22, having been bumped to the press box by newcomer Philipp Grubauer and the struggling Braden Holtby. A healthy scratch for the past 10 games, Neuvirth just might make his return between the posts tonight in Tampa Bay to take on the Lightning. Coach Adam Oates said yesterday that Neuvirth deserves a chance to play, but would not confirm his Thursday starter. Neuvirth’s agent, Patrik Stefan, says he’s hoping for a change of scenery out of Washington for his client and considering how little playing time Neuvirth is getting, his performance tonight will be crucial in determining his value on the trade market. If he plays well, he increases his chances of being traded. Keep watch for a very determined Michal Neuvirth if he gets the call for Washington tonight.
Don’t Call it a Comeback
Shea Weber’s offensive output hasn’t been at the level that we’ve become accustomed to over the past few seasons, but after starting the year with only 22 points in 37 games, he’s tallied seven (one goal, six helpers) in his past four. One of the few truly elite defensemen in the league, Weber’s minus-12 rating is a bit of a concern. However, considering only four players on the Nashville Predators have a positive rating in that department, it’s hard to put the blame on Shea. The Preds face a tough task tonight as they host the Anaheim Ducks, who have won nine of their past 10 games. Pay attention to Weber, as his continued improved play will be crucial to slow down the Ducks.
After Mother Nature gave the Buffalo Sabres an extended break, their defense could have a long night ahead of them. The Sabres will be without Tyler Myers and Henrik Tallinder, two defensemen who, combined, play almost 40 minutes a night. Myers is serving the first of his three-game suspension for an illegal check to the head of Devils winger Dainius Zubrus, while Tallinder is out with a lower-body injury. Buffalo’s defense will have to make up considerable minutes if it wants to parlay its 2-1 victory against New Jersey five days ago.