St. Louis Blues Look to Continue Spirited Play Against Last-Place Colorado Avalanche


Facing a team that’s tied for last place in the Western Conference, the Blues have a perfect chance to win back-to-back games for the first time in a month.

The St. Louis Blues picked up perhaps their most impressive win of the season on Saturday night, defeating the team with the NHL’s best record, the Dallas Stars, in a momentum-building 3-0 victory. They’ll definitely be looking to carry that energetic level of performance into Sunday’s game against their division opponent, the Colorado Avalanche. The Blues haven’t won back-to-back games since they ended a three-game winning streak on November 10, so while facing the struggling Avalanche, they’ll have a better opportunity than they’ve had in a long while to pick up a second victory in a row. Of course, opponent record has seemed to get to the Blues’ respective heads in recent weeks; the Blues delivered perhaps their most low-energy performance of the year last Saturday in a 4-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the team that’s tied for the worst record in the NHL.

Colorado has once again struggled during the 2015-16, and they sit in last place in the division heading into Sunday’s matchup.

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As opposed to last season, where the Avs finished in last place in the Central but were still quite competitive, finishing with 90 points, they’ve actually had a very rough go of it this year. The Avs have just 27 points and are tied with the Anaheim Ducks for last place in the Western Conference.

For what it’s worth, they did beat the Nashville Predators on Saturday night to continue a solid December run. After losing eight of 14 during November, the Avs have won four of six in December and seem to be on an upward swing. They still need more production from their young stars, Nathan McKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog, so that their core of three forwards under 25 can truly be complete, but at least the team is beginning to compete at a higher level.

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Though the Avalanche will likely rest their top goaltender, Seymon Varlamov, after he started Saturday night’s game, but that’s not much consolation for the Blues; backup Reto Berra has a 2.41 GAA, a .922 save percentage, and two shutouts in 14 games (12 starts) this season, so he’ll provide a tough test for the Blues on Sunday.

With the Blues’ forward and defensive combinations as optimized as they’ve been all season, it’s difficult to tell how the Blues might manage to get their two extra players, forward Scott Gomez and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, into the lineup against the Avalanche. If Gomez were to get back into the mix, it would likely be on the fourth line, either with Kyle Brodziak coming out of the lineup, or with him moving over to a wing to replace Scottie Upshall or Ryan Reaves.

Petteri Lindbohm and Carl Gunnarsson, quite clearly the Blues’ fifth and sixth defensemen in the pecking order, both had standout games on Saturday, so it’s unlikely that the Blues will have a spot to insert Robert Bortuzzo unless someone in the top six is banged up. If he is indeed scratched on Sunday, it will be the fifth straight game for which Bortuzzo has sat, and his seventh game out in the past eight.

With Jake Allen having started Saturday’s game, it seemed possible that Brian Elliott could get back between the pipes against Colorado. Hitchcock announced, however, after Saturday’s victory that Allen will get both ends of the back-to-back and will start against the Avs.

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Here’s how the Blues’ lineup could look Sunday against Colorado:

Magnus PaajarviPaul StastnyVladimir Tarasenko

Alexander SteenDavid BackesTroy Brouwer

Dmitrij JaskinJori LehteraRobby Fabbri

Scottie Upshall–Kyle Brodziak–Ryan Reaves

Jay BouwmeesterAlex Pietrangelo

Petteri LindbohmKevin Shattenkirk

Carl GunnarssonColton Parayko

Jake Allen