ST. LOUIS MO - JANUARY 20: T.J. Oshie #74 of the St. Louis Blues shoots the puck against Henrik Zetterberg #40 of the Detroit Red Wings at the Scottrade Center on January 20 2011 in St. Louis Missouri. The Red Wings beat the Blues 4-3 in overtime. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Cola's back, back again. After missing eight games with a tweaked hamstring, beleagured shut down defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo returns to the Blues' line up this evening, probably to be paired again with Alex Pietrangelo
It's always nice when things come together, and aside from a hiccup or two this weekend in the form of a shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche and a 5-2 loss at home to the Chicago Blackhawks, the Blues are coming together nicely. They've only lost two games in regulation under Ken Hitchcock. David Perron returned Saturday night and scored on his first shot. Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott are quite the tandem. What more could the Blues get? How about defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo coming back after being out for the past eight games with a hamstring injury? Not too bad. He's only played thirteen games this year, but he's one of the most solid defensemen on a team chock full of solid defensemen. Him coming back means that Ian Cole has to sit, but it also reunites the pairing of Cola and Alex Pieterangelo, who has scoring punch and a defensive wall all at once.
Actually, Hitchcock has a lot to work with now. B.J. Crombeen's a few weeks away from coming back, but the line-up is stacked enough for Hitch to move players around. Vladimir Sobotka'll be starting tonight at center on the third line, with Matt D'Agostini on his left and Jamie Langenbrunner to the right. This means that Chris Stewart is back up on the second line as a reward for his goal Saturday night against the Blackhawks. Stewart's been struggling a bit, but with David Perron there to help him make plays and Patrik Berglund centering them, the second line's as potent as the top line of Alex Steen, David Backes, and T.J. Oshie.
The Red Wings just had a seven game win streak broken by the Avalanche, and are a dangerous opponent as always. They've played against the new coach before, so there runs the chance of the Wings understanding the new system like the Blackhawks seem to have. The last time they met up, the Blues won in a low-scoring 2-1 contest. Those two goals don't allow much for a margin of error, and the Blues've scored two goals or less eighteen times this year. They have the scorers, they have the punch, but they haven't seemed to be able to convert much. They need to fix that so that there's a margin of error. The game against the Avalanche was lost because they were unable to maintain that one goal lead through the third period. If it's hard to do that against the Avs, imagine how hard it is to do that twice to the Red Wings. Hopefully Brian Elliott's over his brain fart that he had on Saturday.
Coach Mike Babcock doesn't think that the Red Wings and the Blues have a rivalry. I know that's different for them than it is for the Blues, but a few more wins over them and maybe, just maybe both teams can see it the same way. Tonight's a good place to start - the game's on Versus, which means an early 6:30 start time.