NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, March 17th (All times Eastern)
St. Louis Blues (45-19-8) at Tampa Bay Lightning (32-31-7), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The St. Louis Blues will try to avoid just their second three-game losing streak in the Ken Hitchcock era when they visit the Lightning tonight at Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Since Hitchcock took over for the fired Davis Payne as the Blues head coach on Nov. 6, St. Louis has been on a steady climb to the top of the NHL standings, where it currently sits with 98 points. However, the Blues have lost their last two games (0-1-1) to fall to 39-12-8 under Hitchcock and are in danger of losing three straight for the first time since an 0-2-1 stretch that ended December.
Despite the recent setbacks in Chicago and Carolina, the Blues still enter today with a seven-point lead over Detroit for first place in the Central Division and they're also six ahead of Vancouver for the top seed in the West.
The Blues were dealt a 2-0 setback by the Hurricanes on Thursday, as Carolina goaltender Cam Ward stopped all 40 shots sent his way. Brian Elliott allowed both goals on 30 shots for the Blues.
The Blues will be without forward Andy McDonald tonight after the speedster suffered a right shoulder injury on a hit by Carolina's Tuomo Ruutu. Hitchcock said McDonald, who posted six goals and seven assists in his last 11 games, is week-to-week.
Veteran forward Jason Arnott missed Thursday's game with body soreness and is questionable for this evening.
Highly-touted forward Jaden Schwartz will make his NHL and professional debuts for the Blues tonight. The 19-year-old Canadian was selected by St. Louis with the 14th overall pick of the 2010 draft before playing at Colorado College. Schwartz, who signed a three-year entry level contract with the Blues last week, led the Tigers with 41 points, (15 goals, 26 assists) in 30 games this season as a sophomore.
"It's been a dream of mine to play in the NHL and I'm excited to be able to do it as a St. Louis Blue," Schwartz had said in a release announcing his contract. "The Blues are having a terrific season and I will do whatever they need me to do just to help out."
Tonight marks the fourth test on a seven-game road trip for the Blues, who are just 16-15-4 on the road this year compared to a stellar 29-4-4 mark in St. Louis.
The inconsistent Lightning will try to bounce back from a regulation loss tonight after getting dealt a 3-1 setback on Thursday by visiting Toronto. The loss to the struggling Maple Leafs came just two days after Tampa routed the Boston Bruins, 6-1.
After winning four straight from Feb. 26-March 3, the Lightning have gone just 1-3-1 over their last five trips to the ice. Tampa Bay is still technically alive in the Eastern Conference playoff race and trails Washington by seven points for the last postseason berth in the East.
The Bolts surrendered a goal just 69 seconds into Thursday's game and trailed by a 3-0 count in the second period. Martin St. Louis tallied the only goal for Tampa Bay with just 26 seconds left in the third period.
"It's tough. You get behind by a couple goals, it's tough," said Lightning head coach Guy Boucher. "We just didn't have enough pressure in the zone."
Dustin Tokarski was tagged for all three goals on just 10 shots in defeat. Dwayne Roloson came on in the second period and stopped all 18 shots he saw.
Tampa Bay goaltenders have gone 1-3-1 since No. 1 netminder Mathieu Garon was hurt on March 6, with Roloson taking the loss the night Garon suffered a lower-body injury. Garon is expected to miss three-to-four weeks.
The Lightning are 1-2 so far on seven-game homestand, but they boast a 21-12-2 mark at home this season.
The Blues posted a 3-0 home win over a visiting Lightning team on Nov. 12, but Tampa has still claimed four of the last six encounters in this series.
03/17 10:33:50 ET