posted on March 15, 2012 21:00
Brian Elliott made 28 saves and let in two goals. The Blues fired 40 shots on net and came up empty handed as the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Blues 2-0, but the bad news could be the fate of Andy McDonald. The Blues’ forward, who missed 51 games with concussion symptoms this year, tumbled headfirst into the boards in the second period. Though initial indications are that his shoulder is the area believed to be affected, with his concussion history one can’t help but be concerned; on top of that, a shoulder injury wouldn’t be good news with just ten games left in the season. Postgame reports from Carolina are that he will make the trip to Tampa Bay.
The Blues surged with the return of arguably their only true playmaker. In his seventeen games not counting last night, he scored seventeen points. In the twenty games before Thursday with McDonald, the Blues were averaging 2.85 goals per game. In the fifty-one without him, that number was around just 2.47. During that stretch, the team was 12-4-1 with him in the lineup. McDonald’s presence was a positive for players like David Perron and Patrik Berglund. His speed and playmaking added a dimension to a second line that depending on the personnel had struggled throughout the season. His work on the half wall helped give stability and success to a struggling power play unit as well as the power play percentage rose to 15th in the league at 16.7%.
While the Blues planned to use the newly-signed Jaden Schwartz on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, depending on the availability of McDonald, his spot in the lineup may be changed. While there had been no official word, a quick look at the lineup would have placed Schwartz on the third line with a combination of Jason Arnott, Jamie Langenbrunner, and Vladimir Sobotka. In a potential (though at this time unknown) absence of McDonald, it’s very possible Schwartz could see extended minutes in an expanded top six role. He plays a similar game to McDonald and the right line mates could ease his transition into a productive player at the NHL level.
Meanwhile on the team front, the loss to the Hurricanes prevented the Blues from clinching just their second playoff spot since the lockout though the results of the Cal/Pho, and SJ/Nas games were in play. The Blues will maintain their NHL lead over the New York Rangers who lost to the Penguins 5-2. The Penguins continue to charge towards the top of the Atlantic Division with their tenth straight win. Sidney Crosby returned with a +3, one assist game. Keep an eye on them for a late President’s Trophy charge.