There are no cupcakes in Ken Hitchcock's first week as coach of the St. Louis Blues. The Blues, who are currently the second worst team in the Western Conference (though they also are only three points out of a playoff spot) have three games vs. the elite of the NHL this week. Any adjustments made by Hitchcock will be thrown straight into the fire.
Nov. 8 vs Chicago Blackhawks (7:00 p.m. CT, Fox Sports Midwest)
The Blackhawks are currently the beasts of the Central Division, but they're in a bit of a skid at the moment, having dropped back-to-back games to the Tampa Bay Lightning and Vancouver Canucks. Led by Marian Hossa, the Blackhawks are one of the most high powered offensive teams in the NHL, and the Blues anemic offense will likely have to come up big in order for St. Louis to compete. The teams have yet to meet this season, but obviously these are the types of games that the Blues need to win on order to make a serious run at the playoffs.
Nov. 10 vs Toronto Maple Leafs (7:00 p.m. CT, Fox Sports Midwest)
Drake may no longer the biggest thing in Toronto. After not having qualified for the playoffs since the 2003 season— the second longest drought in the NHL, only besting the Florida Panthers— the Maple Leafs seem assured of reaching the postseason in 2011, and if early indications are correct, they may be able to make a run at the Stanley Cup. Toronto is led by Phil Kessell, the embattled winger who currently leads the NHL in points and is finally living up to expectations that Toronto had for him when they acquired him from the Boston Bruins. The two teams have yet to meet this season.
Nov. 12 vs Tampa Bay Lightning (7:00 p.m. CT, Fox Sports Midwest)
After starting the season off slowly, the Lightning have one six of their last eight games and seem poised to climb into the upper reaches of the Eastern Conference. Their offense is potent, headlined by phenom Steven Stamkos, who leads the NHL in goals, and old standby Vincent Lecavalier. The Blues and Lightning have yet to meet this season.
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