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TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 7 p.m.
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SUNRISE, Fla. — The St. Louis Blues, with four wins in their first four tries for just the second time in franchise history, will take their traveling hockey show to the BB&T Center on Thursday night.
The Blues, who will challenge the host Florida Panthers (1-1-0), have been winning despite a massive amount of early-season injuries.
Forwards Alexander Steen (left hand), Patrik Berglund (shoulder surgery), Robby Fabbri (knee surgery) and Zach Sanford (shoulder surgery) are all out. Fabbri is gone for the season, Sanford needs months of rehab, Berglund could be back by December, and Steen could return by the end of this month.
On defense, the picture is not as bleak. First-pair defenseman Jay Bouwmeester (left ankle) is the only one injured on the blue line, and he could possibly return within one week.
Despite all the injuries, Blues coach Mike Yeo said he will not make excuses — and neither will his players.
“The guys who are filling in know they have to perform,” Yeo told reporters in New York following the Blues’ 3-1 win over the Rangers on Tuesday. “And our veterans have really raised their games and delivered in a big way.”
St. Louis, which opened this season as 26-1 shots to win the Stanley Cup, is certainly playing better than that prognostication.
Starting goalie Jake Allen owns a 2.50 goals-against average in three games and backup Carter Hutton beat the Rangers on Tuesday while stopping 32 shots, including 16 in a wild third period.
New to the Blues this year is Brayden Schenn, a forward acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers, and he has already made a difference with two goals and three assists.
“It’s no secret — we’re missing top guys,” Schenn told the media. “But guys are stepping up, and that’s what it takes to be a good team. We’re 4-0 — we’ll take it.”
The Panthers aren’t off to quite that type of start, splitting their first two games with the high-flying Tampa Bay Lightning.
New Panthers coach Bob Boughner has quickly established himself with his players, who voiced their approval of his system and his communication skills.
Boughner, a first-time NHL head coach, read a book called “Legacy” shortly after being hired by Florida. The book is about the New Zealand national rugby team, known as the All Blacks, and how they became world champions.
A 46-year-old former NHL defenseman from Windsor, Ontario, Boughner is hoping some of the lessons he learned from Legacy will inspire his players.
“I think every coach tries to put his own touch on a team,” said Boughner, who served as an assistant coach with the San Jose Sharks the past two years.
“For me, examining this (Panthers) organization and seeing the ups and downs, I think it’s important to create a great environment for them to come to the rink every day. I know as a former player that when you come to the rink and it’s a great environment, it makes you want to work harder.”
When Boughner speaks of the Panthers’ ups and downs, there have been many more downs than ups for the team, which missed the playoffs in 14 of the past 16 years.
Even when the team won its division in 2012 and 2016, the Panthers were unable to sustain that momentum to the next season.
Boughner’s presence, however, brings hope that the Panthers’ revolving door — four head coaches in the past four years — will stop spinning for a long while.
And it’s not just Boughner — it’s his entire coaching staff that has the Panthers excited.
“They are clear, concise and confident in everything they do,” Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad said. “They are always on the dot, making sure we keep our pace. In between periods, they have great insight on how to counter the other team.”