Two of the best teams in the NHL will meet tonight in St. Louis when the red-hot Blues host the Tampa Bay Lightning.
You never know, this may even be a Stanley Cup Final preview.
Granted, the mood in St. Louis hasn’t exactly been jubilant since it was learned that defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk would be forced to undergo abdominal surgery and be lost indefinitely.
Shattenkirk has 40 points in 49 games, second to only Calgary’s Mark Giordano (43 points) among NHL d-men. His 20 power-play assists are the most in the league, tied with Arizona’s Keith Yandle.
“He’s a vital part of our team. He’ll be missed, but someone else is going to have to step up and fill that void,” forward David Backes said, per NHL.com. “We can’t dwell on what we’re missing. We’ve got to move forward with the 20 guys in the lineup, wish him a speedy recovery and hopefully he’s back sooner than later. But these things happen and everyone will have to pick it up just a little bit and keep moving forward.”
The Blues still have a couple of pretty good defensemen in Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo, but Shattenkirk’s absence will be felt in all situations, from even strength to the power play and penalty kill. Chris Butler is expected to draw into the lineup on defense, and he’s only played 20 games this season.
St. Louis will also be without key forwards Jori Lehtera (concussion symptoms) and Patrik Berglund (shoulder) against the Lightning.