Sidney Crosby's back, and the Blues are the second team to face him. Can they put a damper on his triumphant return?
You might've heard about some guy returning to a lineup somewhere. Maaaaybe you caught the game on Versus Monday night. Anyway, it's not like there were approximately a million news stories on Sidney Crosby's return, so I'll assume you missed it and I'll recap: Crosby owned the Islanders. Actually, Crosby always owns the Isles. Perhaps his masterful two goal and two assist return wouldn't've been possible against another team - say, one with a goaltender instead of a traffic cone in net. Perhaps that the emotions were so high in the Consol Energy Center that night that no team had a hope to contain him. Whatever the reason, the Blues're lucky Crosby and the Pens got that out of their system Monday. The atmosphere in Pittsburgh won't be as charged tonight, but the Blues're still going to have to fight for a win.
Crosby might never have scored a goal on the Blues, but the Penguins are still tough competition. They've lost just one game in the last three, which was a 1-0 overtime loss in St. Louis last season. The Blues let five goals go up against them the last time they were in Pittsburgh, and they've lost four road games in a row. They have, though, lost only one game in regulation with Ken Hitchcock behind the bench, and the three goals allowed last night were the most that they've allowed in a game yet. Adding a bit more oomph to the defense is the fact that Brian Elliott is the likely starter tonight. Elliott is on a three game win streak in which he's only allowed three goals, and he leads the league in GAA with a teeny 1.43.
Also helping the Blues out is the return of Chris Stewart. He was suspended three games for a check from behind on Niklas Kronwall, and tonight is his first night back. Stewart's off to an extremely slow start this season, with just three goals and two assists so far. His physicality, though, will be a boost against an also physical Penguins team.
The Pens have just two more wins on the season than the Blues do, yet sit atop the Eastern Conference standings. They're an outstanding team who're well coached, and who will have Crosby, Evgeny Malkin, and Jordan Stall in the line-up tonight. The Blues' penalty killing needs to be top notch tonight, because those three players are experts at exploiting defensive lapses. In all actuality, discipline would do the Blues a world of good. To win, a team needs to limit as many chances as they give the Penguins as possible. Just neutralizing one player isn't going to work, because the entire team is excellent.