St. Louis Blues vs. Vancouver Canucks: Game Preview & Opponent Outlook


The St. Louis Blues play their sixth game of the 2014-15 season on Thursday night, facing off against the Vancouver Canucks as they begin a two-game homestand at Scottrade Center. While things have cooled down in recent years, the Blues have had somewhat of a rivalry with Vancouver over the past decade, as the Canucks, led by Daniel and Henrik Sedin, eliminated the Blues from postseason action in both the 2002-03 and 2008-09 seasons.

That rivalry should be heightened once again now that goaltender Ryan Miller is with Vancouver. Miller, a three-time Olympian who twice led the Buffalo Sabres to the Eastern Conference Finals, drew the ire of Blues fans after he collapsed shortly following his acquisition by the Blues in March of last season. Though Miller didn’t lose in regulation until his tenth game as a Blue, he went on to go 3-8 over the remainder of the regular season and lost in his last five starts. After Miller allowed 19 goals in a six-game series loss to the Chicago Blackhawks and was rather apathetic about the situation, he turned off the fan base, and obviously management to the point where they chose to stick with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen rather than bringing Miller back on a new deal.

Though he gave up five goals on 13 shots and was pulled early on Tuesday against the Dallas Stars, it’s expected that Miller will get the start in net tonight for the Canucks, marking his first return to Scottrade as an opponent.

Earlier this week, we caught up with Chase Ruttig of The Canuck Wayour fellow FanSided site covering all things Canucks, to get a Vancouver perspective preceding tonight’s matchup.

1. Obviously the most intriguing storyline for this game from a Blues angle will be the return of Ryan Miller, who was here for the latter part of last season and certainly did not create the greatest impression with the fan base. What’s the initial judgement on Miller as a Canuck?

CR: Miller helped get a big win against the Oilers last Friday and obviously has led the team to wins in every game he has started while in Vancouver. His time in St. Louis obviously was a concern for many in free agency, but he has led teams to deep runs in the postseason as well as the Americans to the Olympic Gold Medal game, so the drop off between him and Roberto Luongo isn’t that far off as the Canucks keep a veteran presence as their number one guy going forward.

Of course in Vancouver, nothing matters if you don’t take the team deep into the playoffs so the jury will be out on Miller for a while, but initial results have been good enough for Canucks fans to be optimistic that Miller along with the promising backup in Eddie Lack will give them the goaltending to return to the playoffs. I truly believe Miller’s bad stint in St. Louis is behind him, and after the whirlwind 2013/14 season that the American goaltender will be back to as close to his old form as possible.

2. The two Canucks who have been constant in giving the Blues trouble for years are the Sedin twins, but their numbers have both dropped off in the past couple years as they’ve started to age. Is there a sense that those two have a chance of bouncing back, or is there more of an acceptance that they’re mid-level contributors now?

CR: If you have been watching the Canucks to start the season, you will notice that a new linemate in Radim Vrbata has given the Sedin’s new energy along with less ice time under a new head coach in Willie Desjardins. Vrbata has come from the Coyotes and has a good batch of timely goals in the Canucks’ wins, which have c0me from pairing well with the Sedin twins. It is a time-honored tradition that the twins see a bounce in play after getting a new linemate, but having a reliable scoring option on their line instead of Alex Burrows should bring their production back up, which is the biggest key for the Canucks’ hopes of getting back into the postseason.

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3. Despite the fact that Vancouver finished near the bottom of the standings last season, they’re still a very veteran-heavy, experienced team. Do you feel like there’s a realistic expectation that this group is going to mesh and put it together, or is it more of a matter of them waiting for a youth movement to materialize?

CR: This Canucks team remained relatively “all in” when it came to either rebuilding or trying to make the playoffs with a proven roster. Prospects Hunter Shinkaruk and Nicklas Jensen were sent down to Utica in the AHL, Ryan Miller was brought in to take the starting job from Eddie Lack, all things that point to this being a roster that has been assembled with playoffs in the back of the minds of the front office. Trading Ryan Kesler, Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo has given them some youth in the system, but for now this is a team that is trying to take advantage of the seasons they have left with the Sedin twins.

If the Canucks can start off well enough and not fall apart like they did under the demanding antics of John Tortorella, there should be at least a hope of the playoffs all season in Vancouver. Whether or not that will likely come down to being able to outlast the very tough Pacific Division to make the Western Conference playoffs, if a veteran-laden team rises up to that challenge there could be a lot of people around the league finding out they overlooked the experience on this team when pegging the Canucks as a team that will once again be missing out on the playoffs.

Thanks to Chase for giving us a Vancouver point of view.

The Blues’ lineup will be rather unpredictable tonight. We know for sure that forward Paul Stastny, who is out week-to-week with a shoulder injury suffered last Saturday night against the Arizona Coyotes, will not suit up. The Blues have a flu bug going around the team, and Alexander Steen was the victim of it on Wednesday, as he missed practice. Therefore, it’s likely that both of the team’s extra forwards, Magnus Paajarvi and Chris Porter, will end up in the lineup. Since the Blues have an open roster spot, it wouldn’t be complete shock to see another forward brought up as insurance from the AHL Chicago Wolves.

The Blues are expected to use the same defensive personnel that they used for the season’s first four games, though the pairings will be different, as the oft-used top pair of Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester has been reunited for the first time in 2014-15.

Jake Allen will get the start in goal against Vancouver as Brian Elliott rests up in preparation to face the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night at Scottrade.