Preview: Blues at Lightning
The St. Louis Blues have battled their way back from the bottom of the Western Conference to within one point of a playoff position and go after a fourth straight win on the road Thursday night against the NHL-best Tampa Bay Lightning. The Blues were tied for the least points in the league Dec. 31, but after rallying for a 3-2 win at Florida on Tuesday they are one point behind Vancouver for the second wild card with three games in hand.
“I think our team’s really turned it around,” St. Louis defenseman Vince Dunn told reporters after scoring the winner Tuesday. “We’re finding ways now. Even when we don’t get the starts we want to, we’re finding ways to get back into games and most of the time we’re coming back and winning them.” Jordan Binnington (7-1-1, 1.88 goals-against average, .921 save percentage) has started eight of the last 10 games in net for the Blues, who are 7-2-1 in that span, but the competition gets stiffer Thursday against a Lightning team that is 20-5-1 on home ice. Tampa Bay has cooled off with a 4-3-1 overall record over the past eight contests after coughing up a two-goal lead and suffering a 3-2 shootout loss against Vegas on Tuesday. “It was a good battle against a good team.” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos told reporters. “Could have went either way. We had a couple power plays down the stretch that we didn’t capitalize on.”
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, FS Midwest (St. Louis), FS Sun (Tampa Bay)
ABOUT THE BLUES (24-22-5): All-Star center Ryan O’Reilly boasts 11 of his team-leading 53 points during an eight-game point streak and also tops St. Louis with 20 goals - four of them in his past six contests. Right wing Vladimir Tarasenko has also raised his level of production during the team’s revival with three goals and four assists in the last five games while forward Brayden Schenn owns five assists and a plus-5 rating over his past three contests. Dunn has 22 points, two shy of his total as a rookie last season, after registering his career-best sixth goal Tuesday and second game-winner of 2018-19.
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (39-11-3): Right wing Nikita Kucherov leads the league with 81 points, but has not scored a goal in the past eight games despite collecting six assists during that stretch. Brayden Point returned from a one-game absence with a lower-body injury Tuesday to post his team-leading 31st goal while Stamkos recorded two assists and owns at least a point in nine of his past 10 contests. Veteran right wing Ryan Callahan was a healthy scratch Tuesday for the third time in four games since the break and said to reporters that he has been told he is the team’s 13th forward.
1. Tampa Bay D Victor Hedman, who recorded 16 shots and two assists in the last four games, is one point away from 400 for his career.
2. Tuesday’s win was the second for the Blues this season when they trailed coming into the third period (2-18-3).
3. The Lightning have won the last three meetings and allowed one goal combined in sweeping two from St. Louis in 2017-18.
PREDICTION: Lightning 5, Blues 2