If one is looking for the location of the marquee game of Saturday’s 12-game NHL schedule, the answer is probably Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
There, the 7-3-0 Columbus Blue Jackets take on the 8-2-1 St. Louis Blues in the second half of a back-to-back for both teams. It’s a matchup between teams that are off to excellent starts because they’ve shown the ability to play different styles.
In Friday night wins, that style was defense first. After ceding an early goal to Winnipeg, Columbus equalized at 10:23 of the third period on Cam Atkinson’s fourth goal, then won 2-1 at 2:38 of overtime when Josh Anderson tallied his third goal on a wrister from the high slot with the help of teammate Brandon Dubinsky’s screen.
Anderson’s skate-off goal came less than a minute after goalie Sergei Bobrovsky made the last of his 29 saves, robbing Blake Wheeler on a point-blank chance to rescue his teammates from a botched defensive assignment.
“After the first 10 or 12 minutes, once we started killing the penalties, it woke us up,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. “We didn’t give them much, but when we did, (Bobrovsky) made the key saves. I’m thrilled about the win.”
St. Louis also took a 2-1 victory, although it won in Carolina and didn’t need extra hockey. Brayden Schenn potted the game-winner at 10:41 of the third period, stealing the puck to start the sequence and then slamming home the rebound of Jaden Schwartz’s shot.
Acquired in the offseason from Philadelphia for Jori Lehtera, Schenn has been strong for the Blues. He has 10 points in 11 games and played a 200-foot game Friday night, winning seven of 10 draws and collecting a team-high six hits.
“It was a patient game where they waited for their chances,” Schenn said to FOX Sports Midwest. “They play it tight. There weren’t a whole lot of chances tonight, but we grinded it out and got the two points. That’s what matters.”
Having played the last six seasons in Philadelphia, Schenn got plenty of exposure to Columbus’ personnel. Much like Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper did before his team’s shutout win earlier this month when he praised the Blue Jackets’ versatility, Schenn noted that they can play at any pace.
“They play a little different, a little more physical,” he said. “But they can skate and they check. Tortorella likes to play like that, so you have to keep it simple.”
The Blues used backup Carter Hutton on Friday night, meaning that Jake Allen (5-2-1, 2.70) should get the start in this one. Allen last played Wednesday night, kicking out 23 of 25 shots in a 5-2 victory over Calgary.
It’s not known if Bobrovsky (6-2-0) will play back-to-back or get spelled by backup Joonas Korpisalo (1-1-0, 3.50). Bobrovsky has faced St. Louis eight times in his career, going 4-4-0 with a 2.37 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage.
St. Louis, which has spent most of the season’s first month on the road, gets to settle in at home for a while. It plays six of the next seven games in front of its fans, including the first four in a row.