CHICAGO - OCTOBER 18: T.J. Oshie #74 of the St. Louis Blues looks to pass against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on October 18 2010 in Chicago Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Blues 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** T.J. Oshie
The Blackhawks sit a comfortable fifteen points behind the Blues in the Central Division standings, and are only five points away from falling out of playoff contention. A big losing streak could do that to them this close to the end of the season, and the Blues'd love to see their arch rivals on the outside looking in.
The Blues and the Blackhawks are, without a doubt, the Central Division's most heated rivalry. It's been that way since St. Louis has come into the league, and God willing it lasts forever -- it makes for some really entertaining hockey games. You can feel the dislike all the way from the rink to your couch, and personally I wouldn't have it any other way.
The Blues and Hawks have both won two games of this meeting, with St. Louis' losses coming at home and then in Chicago on February 18th. That was a different Blackhawks team than the one that they'll be icing tonight -- in fact, it'll be the exact one that the Blues saw on March 6th. The Blues dominated the Hawks 5-1 that game to open their three game homestand.
The Blues didn't exactly dominate the play against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday. The road trip started with a tired looking 2-1 victory for the Blues. Tonight they should have more energy. Energy for the Blues translates into hits, and they like to hit Chicago a lot. They out-hit them 27-11 last week, and have outhit them all season. The Hawks don't play a very hard hitting style - compare the teams' top players and you'll see where the differences lie. Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toewes, and Patrick Kane aren't going to appear on any future Rock'em Sock 'em hockey compilations. David Backes, T.J. Oshie, and Patrik Berglund, however -- well, they're highlight reels unto themselves. Barret Jackman especially enjoys this rivalry as he's been in St. Louis for the past nine seasons, and when he's angry, he's angry.
Brian Elliott will be manning the bench door tonight, as Jaroslav Halak tries for his ninth win in a row. Halak's teeny 1.45 goals against average and impressive .945 save percentage during the stretch will be tough for the Blackhawks to overcome. The United Center is a hard and loud arena to play in, but between the way that the Blackhawks have been playing as of late and how tough of an opponent the Blues are, it could get very quiet very quickly.