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St. Louis Blues (11-3-3) at Calgary Flames (10-7-2)
8 p.m. MT, Scotiabank Saddledome, CBC/Sportsnet 960 The Fan
THE BIG MATCHUP
Flames LW Matthew Tkachuk vs. Blues RW Robert Thomas
For several weeks last spring, these guys were competing for first dibs on dinner. Thomas lived during his rookie season with the Blues under the roof of Keith and Chantal Tkachuk and the house was a wee bit more crowded come mid-May, after the Flames were eliminated and Matthew moved home for the summer. (It must have worked out, because Thomas is back with his billets for a second campaign.) Good friends and former teammates with the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights, these guys could be seeing a lot of each other in Saturday’s showdown. Thomas, 20, has been skating in a top-line role and notched the game-winner Wednesday in Edmonton, while the 21-year-old Tkachuk continues to mix shutdown duties and overtime dramatics. Earlier this week, he erased Dan Quinn’s franchise record for most points before your 22 nd birthday (191).
FIVE STORYLINES FOR THE GAME
THAT’S MORE LIKE IT
“I liked everybody, to be honest.” That’s high praise from a coach, and that’s precisely what Flames skipper Bill Peters told reporters after Thursday’s 5-2 triumph over the New Jersey Devils. The Saddledome-dwellers have been consistently inconsistent so far this season, but they’ve now won four of their past five — including a pair of third-period comebacks — and the consensus in the locker-room was that they delivered their most complete performance of the season against the Devils.
BRING ON THE CHAMPS
There have been no hints of a championship hangover for the Blues, who hung their first Stanley Cup banner in June. Conn Smythe Trophy-winning centre Ryan O’Reilly, captain Alex Pietrangelo, sophomore puck-stopper Jordan Binnington & Co. are sitting atop the Western Conference standings with an 11-3-3 record and arrive in Calgary on a six-game win streak, their latest victory coming Wednesday in Edmonton.
The Blues currently have a couple of big-name forwards on injured reserve. One of the NHL’s most dangerous marksmen, Vladimir Tarasenko will miss most of the season after having reconstructive surgery on his shoulder. There was more bad news earlier this week, with Alex Steen — poised to hit the 1,000-game plateau this winter — suffering a high-ankle sprain that will keep him out of the lineup for four weeks.
Flames’ first-liner Elias Lindholm is currently riding a nine-game point-streak, with five goals and six assists during that superb span. If the 24-year-old hits the scoresheet again Saturday, he would equal the longest heater of his career. He’s twice cobbled together 10-game tears. So far this season, only three NHL stars have stretched personal point-streaks into double digits — David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Nathan MacKinnon.
THIS N’ THAT
Flames forward Sam Bennett, tagged in the laces by Mark Giordano’s slapshot against the Devils, was a no-go for Friday’s practice, but coach Bill Peters is hopeful he’ll be available … The Blues won two of three meetings last winter, including the only head-to-head hook-up at the Saddledome … Blues newbie Jacob de la Rose, acquired Wednesday in a trade from the Detroit Red Wings, will debut for his new squad.
Johnny Gaudreau – Sean Monahan – Elias Lindholm
Andrew Mangiapane – Mikael Backlund – Matthew Tkachuk
Alan Quine – Derek Ryan – Sam Bennett
Milan Lucic – Mark Jankowski – Tobias Rieder
Mark Giordano – Travis Hamonic
Noah Hanifin – Rasmus Andersson
TJ Brodie – Michael Stone
Jaden Schwartz – Brayden Schenn – Robert Thomas
Zach Sanford – Ryan O’Reilly – David Perron
Sammy Blais – Tyler Bozak – Jacob de la Rose
Mackenzie MacEachern – Ivan Barbashev – Oskar Sundqvist
Alex Pietrangelo – Colton Parayko
Jay Bouwmeester – Justin Faulk
Vince Dunn – Carl Gunnarsson
Flames — RW Austin Czarnik (lower body), D Juuso Valimaki (knee)
Blues — LW Alex Steen (ankle) RW Vladimir Tarasenko (shoulder)
Power play (prior to Friday’s action)
Flames: 18.8% (12-for-64, T-17th)
Blues: 25.9% (14-for-54, T-4th)
Penalty kill (prior to Friday’s action)
Flames: 88.4% (3rd)
Blues: 80.8% (16th)
— Wes Gilbertson
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019