Dec 26, 2011, 7:39 AM EDT
When we tell you that tonight’s game between Dallas and St. Louis from the Scottrade Center (7:30 p.m. ET) is a battle between teams looking to climb to the top of the Western Conference, you’re probably checking your calendar to see what year it is.
Not helping matters there is that Ken Hitchcock is behind the bench for one of the teams, only this time it’s for the resurgent St. Louis Blues. With a 14-3-4 record since taking over, there’s no reason to think that Hitchcock won’t wind up a Jack Adams Award finalist at season’s end.
You could argue about who the guy is that’s benefited the most from Hitchcock’s arrival. Goalie Brian Elliott has had a Vezina-worthy season for the Blues while T.J. Oshie has taken his game to a new level, leading the team in scoring along with Alex Steen. (Update 11:53 a.m.: It’s fitting then that Jaroslav Halak gets the start tonight just to spite our story-building. Thanks, Hitch.)
Meanwhile, the Dallas Stars aren’t doing so badly themselves. We’ve gotten a healthy dose of them lately on Versus and by now we know all about how well Glen Gulutzan has done as their coach. We’ve also gotten to see rookie sensation Richard Bachman carry them in goal since Kari Lehtonen went down with a groin injury. They’ll need him to be sharp tonight, giving up even one goal to the Blues could prove to be enough to win.
It’ll be up to Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson to do their part and make sure the Stars don’t get blanked by the defensively tougher Blues. If nothing else, Hitchcock’s arrival to St. Louis has helped them stop being pushed around. Steve Ott and company will look to make things really uncomfortable tonight.
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