Blackhawks at the Blues - Game 1 preview
Although it's been twelve years since they faced each other as playoff foes, the Blues and the Blackhawks are very familiar with one another as long-time division rivals since 1970. There is a hatred between these two teams that runs deep between the fan bases, and games between them are always snarling, hard-hitting affairs.
The St. Louis Blues had a rough ending to their regular season - becoming riddled with injuries, and going 3-7-0 in their last ten games. Their six-game losing streak to close out the season dropped them to second in the Central behind the Avalanche.
But by no means should the Blackhawks assume that their first-round opponent will be anything less than their trademark pesky, tenacious selves.
The Blackhawks are healthy, with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane drawing back into the lineup tonight, and Coach Joel Quenneville - based on practices over the past few days - will go with the players he is most comfortable with in the lineup. This means Michal Handzus in as second-line center, the fourth line that's clicked all season reunited, and players like Jeremy Morin and Peter Regin watching from the press box.
Chicago will go with the formula they're built for - speed, solid puck movement, and great puck possession - and hope to not fall into the Blues preferred physical, punishing game style. They went 2-1-2 against the Blues this year, including winning the last two games on United Center ice. Goaltender Corey Crawford was a solid 2-1-1 with .935 sv% and just 1.72 GAA in those games.
Historically, the Blackhawks and Blues have faced each other ten times in the playoffs; Chicago won seven of those series. It will be important for the Blackhawks to take at least one win out of St. Louis before heading home.
Blues: David Backes (foot), TJ Oshie (upper body), Vladimir Sobotka (lower body), Derek Roy (upper body), Brenden Morrow (foot), Barret Jackman (undisclosed), Alex Pietrangelo (undisclosed), Vladimir Tarasenko (thumb), Patrik Berglund (upper body).
Tarasenko is expected to play in Game 1. Berglund and Oshie remain confirmed as out. Backes, Morrow, and Roy also took part in morning practice and will likely play.