Is the direct competition in this game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and St. Louis Blues the focus, or is it the breeze of the trade winds that have been blowing for months between the Lightning and the Blues organizations? Long before Allan Walsh decided to raise a stink about one of his clients wanting out of Tampa Bay, there had been St. Louis Blues representatives at Lightning games and Bolts scouts and brass in the press box at St. Louis games.
Talent for talent, who for who? Dunno, your-guess-is-as-good-as-mine. With the 2016 NHL trade deadline just over two weeks away (February 29th, 3 PM, bring a friend) you should keep it in mind that the two organizations have been keeping an eye on each other for a while now.
Now will it hold any sway in the direct contest between the two teams? That's an interesting enigma, but I don't think the scouts and general managing staff of each club tell their respective head coaches the overall tactical details of what they saw.
The scouting, the speculation, the rumors, that's a side item that's not in the spotlight at the moment (with thanks to St. Louis not being in the viewer/reader-rich northeast, who the likes of TSN, Sportsnet and others are catering to). If you're a Blues fan reading that, please know it's intended as a compliment.
At any rate, the contest of the moment puts two teams who won their last game against each other. St. Louis took down the Florida Panthers by a handy 5-2 on Friday night. St. Louis is 6-2-2 in their past 10 and has 71 points on the season. Light math tells you that's 7 more than Tampa Bay, though the Bolts have three games in-hand (54 games played to 57). The Blues are soundly in 3rd place in the Central Division with the next team in the standings (Colorado) nine points behind them.
There's a slight question of the Lightning's top line for this evening; Vladislav Namestnikov was announced to have the flu yesterday. Head coach Jon Cooper said this morning that he's a game-time decision. Cooper also said that Jonathan Marchessault would be scratched tonight (which has led to some critical chatter on Twitter). Unless Coop opts to go with 7 defenseman it's likely Slater Koekkoek (who was recalled due to the Garrison injury) will be scratched as well.
Vladimir Tarasenko leads the Blues in points with 49 (27 goals, 22 assists) with Alexander Steen (44 points) and Brandon Backes (30 points) next in line. Most of the roster has a negative or slightly-positive plus/minus rating on the season with some outliers in the negative and positive. Colton Parasyko leads the team in plus/minus with a plus-18 rating. The defenseman also has 22 points on the season (7 goals, 15 assists).