By Jim den Hollander
Game Preview – March 9
St. Louis Blues (27-31-5 – 59 points) vs. San Jose Sharks (19-34-12 – 50 points)
Betting Line – Blues –1.5 (+175)
It’s rare to find at this point of the season but this is a game with zero playoff implications. In fact, if there is a point of interest it would likely be the Connor Bedard sweepstakes as the Sharks enter this game ranked 31st in the 32-team NHL, ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks by a single point while the Blues are only 10 points clea.r of the league basement.
This will be the 64th of the season for the Blues while the Sharks will be playing game 66.
Both the Blues (2-6-2) and Sharks (2-7-1) have just two wins in their last 10 games and since their moves before the trade deadline, there is not much incentive or momentum from the Blues. As sellers, the Blues eliminated top offensive weapons but the team has underachieved almost all season long.
There were a couple additions that appear to be paying off as Jakub Vrana, formerly with the Detroit Red Wings and Kasperi Kapanen, previously with the Pittsburgh Penguins are set to flank center Pavel Buchnevich tonight.
Vrana is still looking for his first point as a Blue, but the second line has been the most consistent on the team through the past five games, Buchnevich scoring four times and Kapanen adding a pair. The most recent goal for Buchnevich was his 20th. So far he and Jordan Kyrou are the lone Blues to reach that milestone.
Jordan Binnington is scheduled to go to the crease looking to snap a personal six-game losing streak. Last start was promising as the lanky goaltender kicked out all but three of 37 shots, but it was still enough for the Los Angeles Kings to pull out the win.
The Sharks also have traded some top players at the deadline but defenseman Erik Karlsson is enjoying a remarkable season despite the overall team performance. Karlsson, the team’s leading scorer enters this one with 19 goals and 63 assists for 82 points. It’s been an amazing season for the 32-year-old defender. His next point will give him 83, the most ever in his 14-season career and he is a couple goals away from his highest total as well.
Blues are home tonight, returning from a 1-2 West Coast swing, the lone win coming against the same Sharks exactly a week ago in San Jose. The Blues wrapped up the trip with losses against the Kings and Coyotes and the Sharks were bounced by an increasingly desperate Colorado Avalanche 6-0 on Tuesday.
Prediction – If for no other reason than pride, the Blues should come away with the ‘W’ tonight. Covering the 1.5 goal betting line might be a stretch but if Binnington can stay hot, the Blues should cover.