Some of the stars of this season of HBO's 24/7, The Road To The Winter Classic are coming to St. Louis tonight. The Rangers are playing excellent hockey and are in second place in the jammed Atlantic Division.
You can't get a more evenly matched game than the one that the Blues and the Rangers find themselves heading into tonight. Each team are 7-2-2 over their last ten games, each are getting quality goaltending from both of their netminders, and each play smart defense that can be more than suffocating. Don't think for one second that tonight's game will be high scoring - brace yourself for a possible repeat of Saturday's 1-0 win over the San Jose Sharks.
The Rangers' position in the Atlantic Division and the Blues' position in the Central Division are both solid, though thanks to the difficulty of each division the teams' records are better than the standings could ever illustrate. The Rangers are 17-7-4 on the season, and the Blues are 17-7-3. If the Blackhawks and Red Wings stumble, the Blues are right there to overtake them. The Rangers have motivation in the Atlantic, because the Penguins are right behind them and the Flyers are just three points better off than they are. Neither team will sit back on their laurels tonight. Playoff positioning begins on day one of the season, and the Blues know how difficult it can be to work their way up the standings only to see chances fall by the wayside.
Brian Elliott continues to amaze, leading the league in GAA (1.45) and save percentage (.947). He's also tied with Jonathan Quick for the league lead in shutouts with four. A little farther down the save percentage list at 5th overall sits the Rangers' goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist. King Henrik has a solid .933 SV%, and is 8th in goals against average with a respectable 2.08. Against the Blues, however, he hasn't had the best luck. He's allowed six goals in his last two starts against St. Louis, and hasn't started against the Blues since March of 2010.
Thankfully for the Blues, they're not down another man to a concussion - Matt D'Agostini'll be in tonight. Vladimir Sobotka'll be out for about two weeks at the very least with a bruised foot that was on the wrong end of an Alexander Steen slapshot. Speaking of concussions, top defenseman Marc Staal is still out for the Rangers, suffering his hit to the head from his brother, Eric.