The surging St. Louis Blues (40-17-10) will aim for win number nine in a row as they visit the New Jersey Devils (26-28-12) on Friday. The Blues are trying to secure a division title in the Central, while the Devils hope to get out of last place in the Metropolitan.
Here is a preview for tonight’s game, along with odds and a free pick.
By the Numbers
It wasn’t long ago when the Blues were struggling, facing a 12-game stretch early last month that resulted in them going 2-7-3. However, a 3-0 win over the Devils on Feb. 18 helped them bust through their slump, and have now won seven consecutive games since that previous matchup against New Jersey.
This season, St. Louis is just outside the top-10 in goal-scoring, ranking 11th with 3.19 goals per game. While they’re only 22nd with 30.7 shots, they are also eighth with a 10.4 shooting percentage and enter tonight with a 24.5 power-play percentage, the third-highest in the league.
Defensively, the Blues are sixth with 2.72 goals allowed. They are also a very strong third in shots allowed, averaging 29.5 per contest as well. Their penalty kill is only average though, sitting 18th at 79 percent success.
Early expectations have given way to disappointment for the Devils this season, who sit in last place in a loaded Metropolitan Division. They enter tonight with just one victory in their past four games, but are still a solid 4-1-2 over their last seven games, their lone regulation loss coming against St. Louis last month.
For the year, New Jersey ranks a lowly 26th with 26.2 goals scored. They sit around that same area across most major offensive categories, coming in 21st with 30.8 shots on goal and 27th with an 8.5 shooting percentage. Their power play also hasn’t been anything special at 17.5 percent, good for 23rd.
Things are about the same on the defensive side for the Devils, as they allow the fourth-most goals per game with 3.23. They are also giving up an average of 32.7 shots per game, 26th in the league. But they do, however, boast a penalty kill that is one spot out of the top-10, coming in at 82 percent.
Who to Watch
The goal-scoring has come in bunches lately for St. Louis’ Brayden Schenn. After a goal and assist on Tuesday against the Rangers, Schenn has found the back of the net in five straight games. At 25 goals, he’s just three shy of his career-high set in 2017-18. Tonight against the lowly Devils, he has a chance to keep his goal-scoring streak going.
Other Blues to watch include Jaden Schwartz and Colton Parayko. Schwartz is coming off of a multi-point effort against the Rangers, his third over the last six games. With 21 goals and 54 points, the wing is on pace for a career-best season.
Meanwhile, Parayko has developed an offensive game over the last month in a big way. After another multi-point night on Tuesday, Parayko has seven goals and 14 points over his last 14 games. That makes up the bulk of his nine goals and 27 points on the season.
New Jersey has gotten a nice season from Nikita Gusev. Tuesday’s shutout by Vegas snapped Gusev’s six-game point streak that saw him get two goals and seven assists during that span. The 27-year old Russian has dished out 30 assists while also scoring 12 goals in his first year in the red and black, one point shy of the team lead.
Jesper Bratt and Kyle Palmieri will also be names to watch tonight for the Devils. Bratt has had a solid stretch in which he has five goals and four assists over his last 10 games. The 21-year old is now at 15 goals and 16 assists, passing the 30-point mark for the third-straight year.
As for Palmieri, the winger is looking for his first point since scoring a goal on Feb. 25. But he is still the team-leader in goals and points with 23 and 43, respectively.
Jordan Binnington is expected the get the nod in net tonight for St. Louis. Binnington is 30-11-7 with a 2.56 GAA and .911 save percentage.
New Jersey will likely turn to MacKenzie Blackwood for the start. Blackwood is 21-13-8 with a 2.71 GAA and .916 save percentage.
Odds and Pick
The defending champions are sizable favorites on the road, listed at -190. St. Louis is 17-11-5 as the visitors this season, while New Jersey is 12-10-10 at home.
It’s hard not to side with the favorites here. The Blues are not only on a hot streak but also considered one of the league’s best defensive teams. They’re facing a team that is struggling to score lately and who doesn’t have any elite options to challenge a defense. I think the Blues get it done and make it nine wins in a row, so give me the Blues -190.