The Blues will get Jaroslav Halak back between the pipes tonight after missing the last three games to injury. It’s a big game for Halak as Conklin has played well in the last two games helping the Blues earn three out of four points. A playoff run depends heavily on Halak finding the form he had the first part of the season. He has just two wins since January 1st and allowed four goals in seven of his 10 starts since then. Against Florida in his career, Halak is 5-1-0 with a 2.14 GAA and .934 save %.
The other goalie tonight can play a large role as well. Tomas Vokoun is very familiar with the Blues after a long stretch in Nashville. His career record against St. Louis is just 13-10-3, but he has a goals 1.93 GAA and a .929 save %. Most of those 13 wins though have come on a run since the lockout in 2005. Vokoun has not lost to the Blues since the lockout and has won nine consecutive starts against them. Even more impressive, he has held the Blues to one goal or less in seven of the nine starts and has posted a goals against average of 1.11 and a .961 save % in that stretch. He has held the Blues to two or fewer goals in 17 of his last 18 starts.
It’s an alumni game of sorts tonight in Florida. The Panthers have five former Blues on their roster: Marty Reasoner, Radek Dvorak, Corey Stillman, Mike Weaver, and Denis Wideman. Stillman will not play tonight due to an upper body injury and he is just two games shy of 1,000 in his career.
The most recent former Blue is Mike Weaver, and he is making his impact felt in Florida. With Mike Weaver the last two seasons, the Blues had one of the NHL’s top penalty kills. This season the Blues are 21st in the league on the PK and more notably, 27th on the PK on the road. Last season the Panthers were 21st in the league on the PK and this season, with Weaver, are ranked 6th. There is no doubt he is as solid as they come in the NHL on the PK.
Barett Jackman is just four games shy of 500 in his career, all of course played with St. Louis. He ranks 5th all-time among Blues defensemen in games played. Two games ago, his ice time was 25:40 and in Tampa it was 24:06. Two games ago was just the second time this season he was over 25 minutes of ice time. Last season it seemed to a regular occurrence.
With better defensive depth this season, including a healthy Eric Brewer, the Blues have been able to manage Jackman’s minutes better, making him a more effective player. He is an “identity” player along the blue line as Davis Payne put it and he logs critical minutes. There is also little argument he may be the toughest player on the team, not missing a game or shift unless it’s absolutely necessary. What he plays through is admirable.
Carlo Colaiacovo did make the trip to Florida with the team and has skated with the team but will not play tonight. Tyson Strachan will be a healthy scratch as well. Ben Bishop was returned to Peoria yesterday, where he and Jake Allen continue to be one of the top tandems in the AHL.