Surging Penguins play host to Blues
BLUES (3-2-1) at PENGUINS (7-1-0)
These teams meet for the only time during the 2009-10 season. Pittsburgh claimed a 6-3 win in St. Louis on Nov. 1, 2008, with six different players scoring goals. A three-goal second period, in which Alex Goligoski
, Evgeni Malkin
and Tyler Kennedy
all lit the lamp, sparked the Penguins.
Pittsburgh is off to one of the best starts in franchise history, surpassed only by the 1995-96 team which claimed seven wins and a tie in its first eight games. Now the Penguins welcome in the Blues before a national television audience on VERSUS.
Emerging from out of a post-Europe hangover, St. Louis ended an 0-2-1 stretch back in North America by shutting out Anaheim 5-0 on Saturday. Ty Conklin, who backed up Marc-Andre Fleury
in Pittsburgh two seasons ago, earned the shutout in his second start of the season. Chris Mason will likely start for the Blues in this one.
After playing four straight away from Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh returned home on Saturday and cruised past Tampa Bay 5-1 behind a goal and an assist from Sergei Gonchar. Fleury made 22 saves and has won all seven of his starts this season. This will be the second of a five-game homestand.
St. Louis forward Andy McDonald registered two goals and an assist in the win over Anaheim, while defenseman Erik Johnson picked up his sixth assist in as many games. Pittsburgh added Mike Rupp
to be a grinder who adds physical play, but he has goals in consecutive games and a three-game point streak.
St. Louis forward Alex Steen is out six-to-eight weeks with a fractured wrist. Defenseman Barret Jackman won't play Tuesday due to an ankle injury. Defenseman Eric Brewer (knee) hasn't played a game yet this season but is practicing with the team.
Pittsburgh forwards Jordan Staal
and Evgeni Malkin
didn't practice Sunday for maintenance purposes, as they nurse assorted bumps and bruises. Forward Maxime Talbot
isn't expected to be back anytime soon following shoulder surgery, but he did return to practice for the first time Monday.
"You miss the boys, that’s what you miss the most," Talbot said of being away from the team. "You miss being there in the room getting dressed, getting ready. Being out there and joking around when you miss a shot – guys laughing at you. That’s definitely the hardest part – being on the sideline and watching the guys."
Veteran defenseman Jay McKee
, who signed with Pittsburgh over the summer, had an impressive road trip, recording 15 blocked shots and a plus-5 rating in four games.
It seems as though the Penguins have found the cure for the dreaded Stanley Cup hangover, as they battle the equally hot New York Rangers for the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference leads. But the Blues didn't back down against last season's other Cup finalist, Detroit, when the teams started the season in Stockholm, so get ready for a good one.
-- Brian Hunter, NHL.com