Blues seek to beat Panthers for winning trip
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If the St. Louis Blues beat the host Florida Panthers on Tuesday night in Sunrise, Fla., it would be their first three-win road trip of the season.
So far, the Blues are 2-1 on this trip, losing to the Los Angeles Kings 4-3 before beating the Anaheim Ducks 5-1 and the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2.
Granted, there was a one-week break between the wins over the Ducks and Jackets, but it's still a road trip for the Blues, who got one goal and two assists from Vladimir Tarasenko in the victory over Columbus.
"We had good legs right away," Blues coach Craig Berube said following that win.
Blues forward Ryan O'Reilly, who had one goal and one assist against the Jackets, put it another way: "We're playing a heavy, simple game."
That plan is working for Tarasenko, who has 18 goals this season and 11 points in his past nine games. O'Reilly has a seven-game point streak, getting three goals and seven assists in that span.
The Blues are also getting healthier as forward Robert Thomas returned against Columbus after missing seven games due to a shoulder injury.
St. Louis is expected to start 25-year-old backup goalie Jordan Binnington against the Panthers. Binnington, who was St. Louis' third-round pick in 2011, has won two games in a row, stopping 30 of 33 shots during that span.
For the season, he has been remarkable, posting a 6-1-1 record with a .922 save percentage and a 1.86 goals-against average.
The Panthers, meanwhile, are expected to start their backup goalie, James Reimer, who is coming off a 3-1 win over the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday. Reimer had 34 saves against Vegas.
"We had some huge saves from Reimer when we needed to keep the score tied," Panthers forward Mike Hoffman said.
Reimer is 10-8-5 this season with a 3.06 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage. Starter Roberto Luongo is 10-12-1 with a 3.17 GAA and an .895 save percentage.
Ironically, both have allowed the same number of goals this season -- 73.
Tuesday's contest is important for the Panthers, who have 32 games left in the regular season. This is the part of the schedule where they got scorching hot last year.
The Panthers have 10 more games before the Feb. 25 trade deadline -- nine at home. That home stretch represents an extraordinary opportunity for the Panthers to make a run. If they do, general manager Dale Tallon could be a buyer at the trade deadline. If they don't, Derick Brassard and Riley Sheahan -- who made their Panthers debuts on Saturday -- will likely be among the first players traded by Tallon.
But they likely wouldn't be the last, with top names such as Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov possibly used as trade bait.
For now, the Panthers will roll with the newly acquired Brassard and Sheahan.
"We loved them," Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov said. "Of course, we loved 1/8the traded Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann 3/8. Those are big losses. But 1/8Brassard and Sheahan 3/8 were awesome for us 1/8Saturday 3/8.
" 1/8Sheahan 3/8 is really good on draws. 'Brass' is a really skilled player. They are fun to watch, and we're happy to have them."
--Field Level Media
Updated February 4, 2019