<span class="vcard">James O'Brien</span>

St. Louis Blues v Colorado Avalanche

NHL on NBCSN: Avs try to slow down bustling Blues

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the St. Louis Blues host the Colorado Avalanche at the Scottrade Center at 8:00 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

In the first five games of their seven-game homestand, the St. Louis Blues have been close to perfect. Meanwhile, the Colorado Avalanche have endured a frustrating five-game road trip that ends with tonight’s contest.

The Blues have been impressive just about any way you slice it since 2015 rolled around, really.

After dropping their first game of the new year, they’ve won six of their last seven. St. Louis has been grabbing victories in a variety ways, from strong goaltending (Brian Elliott shut out the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday) to frighteningly efficient work from their top two lines.

It’s enough that you have to label the Blues the favorite on Monday night, especially since St. Louis has taken three of four games from Colorado so far in 2014-15.

While the Avs only have one win in their last four (all on the road), two of those defeats came via shootouts.

They’re starting to enjoy better work from the likes of Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene while their goaltending has been mostly stellar since Semyon Varlamov came back from injury issues.

The Blues have some clear motivation in trying to catch the Nashville Predators for the top spot in the Central Division, yet the Avalanche have even more on the line. With 48 standings points in 46 games played, the Avalanche are currently three points behind the Calgary Flames for the West’s final playoff spot and are currently ranked 11th overall in the conference.

With the 2015 All-Star break approaching, these two teams try to soak up some key standings points, and you can watch it all on NBCSN tonight.

Awkward or not, Flames will carry three goalies as Ortio shows ‘swagger’

Sam Gagner, Joni Ortio
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Many times in sports, you need to accept a certain amount of discomfort to win.

Calgary Flames head coach Bob Hartley admits that going with a three-goal setup isn’t ideal, yet Joni Ortio is playing so well that he’s forcing it to happen. Hartley isn’t going to throw out a winning formula just because of a “musical chairs” feeling at practice, either.

His comments about the situation with Ortio begins around the two-minute mark of this video:

Tonight’s road game against the Los Angeles Kings looks to be a significant test for Ortio, 23, and the Flames. Calgary seems content to keep throwing these challenges Ortio’s way as long as he keeps passing with flying colors, often with “swagger.”

PHT Morning Skate: Roussel the ‘madman’

RousselEtem
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Good stuff from the Dallas Morning News on the effective “madman” style of Dallas Stars pest Antoine Roussel. (DMN)

It’s not another day of the week without more Chris Stewart trade rumors. (Sportsnet)

David Perron on the difference it makes to play with the Pittsburgh Penguins and how he still feels for his former Edmonton Oilers teammates, who are going through the “draining” experience of losing a lot of games. (Puck Daddy)

The Philadelphia Inquirer describes Rob Zepp as one of the few (maybe only?) feel-good stories of the Philadelphia Flyers’ season. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Patrick Roy praises Ben Bishop as “one of the premier goalies in the league right now.” (Tampa Bay Tribune)

In case you turn to this daily collection of links to get out a tear or two, this ought to have you covered:

NHL on NBCSN: Red Wings hope to smoke Sabres

Detroit Red Wings v Buffalo Sabres
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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Detroit Red Wings host the Buffalo Sabres at the Consol Energy Center at 8:00 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

Just about every sign points to the Detroit Red Wings winning tonight’s game against the Buffalo Sabres, possibly by a wide margin.

The game is in Detroit. Both teams are closing off back-to-back sets, so the fatigue factor is more or less balanced. While the Sabres might use a scathing column as bulletin board material, the takeaway is that Buffalo’s been bad … maybe even historically so.

The Red Wings have won three in a row and eight of 11 despite a road-heavy schedule in which they’ve only played two games in Detroit. The Red Wings have generated five of a possible six points against Buffalo so far this season, only dropping a shootout. Even with an injury to Jimmy Howard in mind, Detroit just keeps chugging along with Petr Mrazek acquitting himself nicely.

Oh yeah, the Sabres are also free-falling with 10 straight regulation losses that have largely erased the memory of Jhonas Enroth briefly boosting Buffalo to something resembling competence. (Now at 14-29-3, it’s difficult to picture Buffalo generating a relatively frisky 13-16-2 mark.)

Even with all these points in Detroit’s favor, the Red Wings still need to actually win the game.

In a strange twist, things have gotten toxic enough in Buffalo that a five-game road trip might just be a tonic for the Sabres’ troubles, or at least a change of pace.

(Hey, it’s probably the best way to boost up Buffalo’s downtrodden spirits at this point.)

Long story short, if you need a touch of “David vs. Goliath” in your sports day, then this game should have you covered.

Goalie nods: Detroit’s Mrazek aims to impress

Florida Panthers v Detroit Red Wings

All the latest from the blue paint …

Amazing Mrazek?

With injuries an issue, it looks like the Detroit Red Wings will give goalie Petr Mrazek back-to-back starts and a great chance to make another impression as they face the lowly Buffalo Sabres.

(Yes, Buffalo deserves “lowly.” One local columnist thinks they’re tanking too hard.)

The Red Wings believe that the 22-year-old could have a real future, but Mrazek may just push things along a little bit if he keeps his current good work up. He’s won three games in a row, including holding the Buffalo Sabres to a single goal on Jan. 13. Going back a little further, he’s won five of six.

Overall, Mrazek is 8-3-1 with a .923 save percentage.

Detroit stands as big favorites here, especially since one seeming disadvantage (playing back-to-back games) is canceled out by the fact that Buffalo played on Saturday as well. The Sabres will probably turn to Jhonas Enroth. Whether it’s Enroth or Michal Neuvirth, they’ll be the underdog against Mrazek and the Red Wings.

Elsewhere …

Stars at Blackhawks: Kari Lehtonen likely against Corey Crawford

Coyotes at Jets: Mike Smith vs. Ondrej Pavelec