St. Louis Blues (22-20-1) vs. Vancouver Canucks (32-11-4)
When and where: Wednesday, 7 p.m., Rogers Arena
TV: Sportsnet Radio: Sportsnet 650
The buzz: When the Blues beat the Canucks two weeks ago in St. Louis, they simply ground the Canucks down. They gave the Canucks no space and no time to build any energy into their game. The Canucks learned their lesson and haven’t lost (in regulation) since. The Canucks are near the top of the NHL, while the Blues have managed to remain on the edge of the Western Conference wild-card battle.
The history: The Blues were impressive in their 2-1 defeat of the Canucks, but Vancouver head coach Rick Tocchet simply lamented a couple missed opportunities in the game. And the Canucks totally outclassed the Blues in their previous meeting at Rogers Arena this season, a 5-0 win for Vancouver on Oct. 27.
The hope: The Blues play in Calgary Tuesday night. The Canucks will have be waiting in Vancouver, ready to take on the visitors. That alone is an advantage. The Blues are getting badly outshot over their last five games, a sign they are struggling to control play, while the Canucks have actually struggled to control play over the past five games, despite their record. But they have played well enough — and their finishing this season is off the charts.
The fear: Blues interim head coach Drew Bannister has his team working hard, but to no different results than previous coach Craig Berube. Still, there’s that Jan. 4 game where the Blues stifled the Canucks. That could certainly happen again.
The top guns: J.T. Miller remains fourth in the NHL in scoring, with 63 points. Elias Pettersson has 61 points. But they’re also slumping, with their five-on-five play a talking point for both players and coach. Meanwhile, Quinn Hughes has 57 points, including six in his last four games, keeping him on course to be the first defenceman in Canucks history to score more than 100 points. Meanwhile, just one Blue, star centre Robert Thomas, is a point-per-game player.
The wounded: Canucks: Carson Soucy (broken hand, six to eight weeks), Phil Di Giuseppe (undisclosed, IR), Guillaume Brisebois (concussion, indefinite). Blues: Kasperi Kapanen (lower body, week-to-week)
The quote: “We’re winning the games, but I don’t know if everybody loves our game right now, which is a good thing, you know. We’re finding resiliency to win, which is a nice thing, but I think we got to recognize how to get better.” — Rick Tocchet on his team’s performances of late.
The prediction: The tired Blues will do what they can, but in the end these Canucks just have too much going for them up front. This will be a tight 3-2 win for Vancouver.
(FAN FORUM: Do you have a specific question for a player? Pass it along to @provincesports and we’ll get it in a future edition.)
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