CALGARY, Alberta _ Take it from Calgary forward Matthew Tkachuk. It’s all about the defense when it comes to playing the St. Louis Blues.
“They’re big guys. They’re long,” he said. “Like (Colton) Parayko and (Jay) Bouwmeester, it’s hard to get around them. They brought in (Justin) Faulk this year and they have (Alex) Pietrangelo there and (Vince) Dunn as well.
“They’ve got a really good defense. That’s probably one of the strengths of their team along with their goaltending. . . . I’d say their team defense is probably one of their biggest strengths.”
Tkachuk, the budding star of the Calgary Flames, knows better than most. It is after all his hometown team, and a matchup he always looks forward to, including tonight’s contest at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
“It’s some of the games at the beginning of the season I have circled on my calendar,” he said. “I love playing against the team I grew up rooting for. And I’ve got some connections obviously with the city, with the team and some buddies. So a lot of people in St. Louis will be tuning in for this one.”
One of those buddies is his housemate at the Tkachuk home in suburban St. Louis, Blues forward Robert Thomas. Thomas once again is living in the basement of the Tkachuk home this season.
Tkachuk was asked if Thomas paid for dinner when the two hooked up Friday night in Calgary. The response came quick:
“No. He doesn’t pay rent, he doesn’t pay for dinner,” Tkachuk said in mock protest.
Tkachuk’s mother Chantal has been up from St. Louis for this Flames’ homestand.
DEFENDING THE FLAMES
One of the biggest tasks for the Blues will be defending Tkachuk, 21, who scored 34 goals last season for Calgary and has nine goals already this season. But there is plenty else to think about when playing the Flames.
“They’re good on the rush,” Dunn said. “Defensively they’re very solid. They have good goaltending. Their 'D' are very offensive, too. I think they have threats all over the ice."
And the addition of Milan Lucic adds another physical element to their lineup.
"So they bring all aspects into the game,” Dunn said.
Even during their six-game winning streak, the Blues have been hampered by slow starts. So it wasn’t surprising to hear Dunn say Saturday: “Our focus is on the first five minutes of the game. We want to try to control that. We need to be able to match their intensity and outcompete them all over the ice.”
New forward Jacob de la Rose plays his first game tonight for the Blues with the cleanest of slates according to coach Craig Berube.
“I don’t really have any (expectations) to be honest with you,” Berube said. “It’s his first game. He’s just gotta go out and work hard and compete, and play a simple game. We’ll find out soon what type of guy he is and player he is when you see him in person and live here.”
BLUES’ PROJECTED LINEUP
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CALGARY PROJECTED LINEUP
(From Torie Peterson/CalgaryFlames.com.)