The NHL rivalry night promotion alongside broadcast partner NBC Sports Network clearly missed out this week, as tonight, the United Center will be packed when the St. Louis Blues take on the Chicago Blackhawks in what will be a clash of ideology. An already physical game earlier in the season was decided on an Alex Steen slapshot with 21 seconds to go, handing Chicago their only regular season loss so far this year.
Physicality is a central theme to the St. Louis Blues, and it only escalates when playing the rival Blackhawks. The Blackhawks, however, have dealt with it incredibly well, winning eight of the last nine home matchups against the Blues, and generally have been able to avoid to the checking of the Blues, much to the dismay of Ken Hitchcock.
“When you don’t like the other team, it goes with the game of ice hockey.” Hitchcock told Comcast Sportsnet. Condescendingly, Hitchcock added, “We’ll try to not hit Jonathan (Toews) today.”
The Blackhawks know the pressure is on, and have to avoid the stigma that the team is too relaxed, especially in leading situations. The Blackhawks’ last five games have been decided by one goal, and coach Joel Quenneville has made two lineup adjustments to coincide with the impending matchup.
Ben Smith is off the fourth line for now, and Brandon Pirri will be inserted to center the fourth line, which shifts Marcus Kruger to wing. The rotation of the sixth defenseman will continue, as Sheldon Brookbank will be in against the physical Blues team.
With regards to goaltending, Corey Crawford will start today and again on Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
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