Gameday: Blues at Canucks

Blues defenseman Vince Dunn (29) scrums for space with Canucks forward Loui Eriksson (21). Photo courtesy: Darryl Dyck, CP)

1/27: Blues/Canucks, Rogers Arena, 9pm CT – FSMW, ESPN 101.1

VANCOUVER – The NHL is back in action after the All-Star Break, with the St. Louis Blues (30-11-8) starting a Canadian road trip against the Vancouver Canucks (27-18-4). The Blues entered the break on the wrong foot, losing in OT to Philadelphia then losing their most recent contest to the Avalanche, 3-5. Despite the losses, the Blues were in high spirits as David Perron, Alex Pietrangelo, Jordan Binnington and Ryan O’Reilly represented the hometown squad for the All-Star game.

The Blues can get back in the win column by ending the Canuck’s 8-game home winning streak. The Canucks sit atop a tight Pacific Division race, with five different teams all one point apart of each other. “It’s crazy,” Canucks center Brandon Sutter said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. It’s going to be tight all the way down the stretch. It’s definitely one of the deeper divisions in the league now. Obviously, there is some high-end players throughout.”

There are plenty of those high-end players on the Canucks roster, as Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes and Jakob Markstrom all represented their club at the All-Star Game, now eyeing a berth in the playoffs for the first time in 4 years. “Teams in our conference are big and strong,” Canucks winger Jake Virtanen said. “We can’t let off the gas.”

The Blues and Canucks face off in Vancouver at Rogers Arena tonight at 9pm CT. The Blues are on Fox Sports Midwest, radio on ESPN 101.1.

Armstrong Open to a Move

Blues fans finally got their first inkling of trade rumors after the All-Star Game. General manager Doug Armstrong, more than satisfied with the team’s standings after 49 games, gave high praise to Berube and the coaching staff for getting the team comfortably atop the Western Conference.

“Very complimentary of our coaching staff and our players for what they’ve been able to perform this year to this date,” the Blues’ general manager said. “We’re on top in the West and (third) in the league” in points, so they’ve done a really good job.”

While Armstrong is confident I the depth that the Blues have as the postseason approaches, Armstrong did allude to keeping options open for a trade, given the right circumstances. “You’re always looking to see if you can improve your team, and if we can improve our team in our top six, I think we can take a look at that,” he said. “A lot of that will have to do on the updated medical information I get on Vladi.”

Vladimir Tarasenko, the Blues’ top sniper since he was drafted, has will be out until late March (optimistically) due to rehab from a shoulder surgery. With playoffs beginning in April, that’s very little time for the Russian winger to get any more regulation game in the 19-20 season, in which he has only played 10 games. “Getting Vladi back is our No. 1 thing, and if we don’t do that or we don’t believe he’ll be back for any regular-season games, we may look at adding some support into our top six,” Armstrong said.

Kobe Bryant Passes in Tragic Helicopter Crash

The sports world was rocked yesterday with the tragic news of the death of Kobe Bryant, who passed in a helicopter crash Sunday over Calabasas, California. Among the nine killed in the crash were Kobe’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna, as well as Orange County College baseball coach John Altobelli and his family Keri and Alyssa, Christina Mauser, and Sarah and Payton Chester. The pilot of the helicopter has been identified as Ara Zobayabn. The group was heading to one of Gianna’s basketball games.

An outpouring of mourning and love for Kobe Bryant has spread en masse across all of sports and news media since. Bryant was one of the most legendary players of all time, with 5 NBA championships and Olympic Gold medals. He was an NBA MVP, a 2-time Finals MVP and an 18-time All-Star. Bryant even won an Oscar for his animated short, “Dear Basketball”, which features Bryant narrating his letter of retirement from basketball to the Player’s Tribune. Nicknamed “The Black Mamba”, Kobe is 4th all-time in NBA scoring, with 33,643 points.

From everyone at Blues Rants, we send our deepest condolences with Kobe Bryant and his family, the families and friends of all victims, and the entire basketball and sporting world.

Blue Notes

Alex Steen will play in his 744th game with the St. Louis Blues, tying Brett Hull for 4th all-time… Colton Parayko is expected to return to play in tonight’s lineup… Sammy Blais could return to the lineup as early as tonight… Troy Brouwer was placed on waivers Sunday.

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