The Blues conclude this five game homestand against the Florida Panthers, who under new coach Kevin Dineen have been surprising teams and fans alike.
The Blues are 3-0-1 on this homestand so far, and want to finish it out with a win. They're not going to have an easy job of it tonight, though, as the Florida Panthers are the best road team in the NHL. They've won four games in a row on the road, and would love to make it five. The last game that they won on the road was Tuesday night, where they stunned the Dallas Stars 6-0. New arrival Kris Versteeg has nine goals and eleven assists on the year, and defenseman Brian Campbell is third in the league with assists at 16. Fans are heading back to the arena in Sunrise, and for good reason - this Panthers team is for real.
With new coach Ken Hitchcock, this Blues team is for real, too - and will cause a real problem for Jose Theodore and his team tonight. The Blues have three powerplay goals since Hitchcock took over, and their penalty kill is much improved. The team right above them in penalty kill effectiveness is the Panthers, but while the Blues' penalty kill is improving, the Panthers' seem to have stagnated. The Panthers' power play is anything but stagnant, at the 6th best in the league. They've scored ten PPG on the road and 14 total, while the Blues have scored just under half of that total at six.
The Blues are going to have to play tonight sans one of their top six. Chris Stewart was suspended for three games for a hit against the Red Wings' Niklas Kronwall Tuesday night. Honestly, with the Blues' ability to lose players to injury, what's a suspension? At least they know when Stewart's returning. Hitchcock's just going to have to mix up the lines a bit, but since Stewart's been underproductive this year (2G 1A, -4 in 14 games) this isn't going to be the problem that it would have been last season.
Jaroslav Halak will be back in net tonight. He's played outstandingly well since Hitchcock's taken over, and he's played well against the Panthers in his career. He's 6-1-0 with a 1.99 GAA, .939 SV% and a shutout.