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Published on October 1st, 2013 | by Samantha Hoffmann, Staff writer

Blues games to watch in the upcoming season

After a lockout resulted in both the 2012-2013 season becoming strictly 2013 and the 82-game schedule being reduced to 48 games, fans all over were anxious to see the upcoming season’s schedule. With both conferences being split into two divisions instead of three, the Blues found themselves a member of the Central Division, which includes the Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets. Here are some of the more interesting games on the Blues’ schedule this season.

October 9: Chicago Blackhawks (Home)

On Oct. 9, the Blues play the first of five games against the reigning Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. The Blues and the Blackhawks used to have a much more serious rivalry, one where every game was a hard-fought battle for the victory. Recent seasons have seen a rekindling of the rivalry, with both teams contending for the Stanley Cup on a yearly basis.

After some slight changes to their roster this offseason, the Blackhawks find themselves in a position similar to the one they were in after their 2010 title. However, this time the changes were not as drastic, as the Blackhawks return a similar roster to the won that went all the way last season. On the other hand, the Blues have made great improvements by re-signing right wing Chris Stewart and adding free agents Derek Roy and Brenden Morrow. This makes the Blues a serious threat once again this coming season, as Ken Hitchcock’s will have even more tools at his disposal. This series will go a long way in terms of deciding who wins the Central Division.

November 9: Pittsburgh Penguins (Home)

The first of two games the Blues play against the perennial Cup favorites is at home, where the Blues have played very well recently. The Blues and Penguins should both be at the top of the heap this year, but does either have the wherewithal to go all the way? Neither team showed enough in the playoffs last year, and the result was an exit prior to the Stanley Cup Finals for both.

One of the most difficult teams to face during the regular season, the Penguins have proven time and time again that they can win easily, even in the absence of All-Star Sidney Crosby. Crosby will be healthy this season, meaning there is even more of a reason to fear Pittsburgh. If the Blues can handle them, they can handle almost any team the Eastern Conference may throw their way.

December 2: Los Angeles Kings (Home)

The Los Angeles Kings have eliminated the Blues from the postseason each of the past two years, going on to win the Stanley Cup the first. This last playoff series against the Kings was extremely hard-hitting, with each team trying to force the other to make small mistakes. Unfortunately, the Blues’ defense seemed to pinch at the wrong times, giving up too many odd-man chances on their own net. This season, the Blues need to focus on both tightening up their defense and allowing fewer giveaways if they hope to solve Los Angeles. Their issue did not lie so much in the face-off circle or in the hit realm as it did small slip-ups that the high-powered Kings were able to capitalize on.

February 26: Vancouver Canucks (Road)

This game is the first one back after the much-anticipated Olympic Games. It was not announced until late this summer that NHL players would even be allowed to participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Like every team, the Blues have a few players who hope to crack their respective country’s Olympic roster, meaning the Olympic athletes may become exhausted during this time period. The Canucks will most likely be sending a few of their star players to Russia as well, meaning that the team that faces the Blues in late February will also be a tired one.

If the Blues have that advantage, they will likely be able to get a few extra points from teams rebounding from the Games. The Canucks are known as one of the toughest teams to play against in the Western Conference, so beating them would be a huge boost to their confidence and playoff positioning.

On the other hand, the Blues could be at a disadvantage if they send a significant portion of their roster to Sochi. If that happens, they could suffer from the same disadvantages the Canucks would be facing in those circumstances. Expect this game to be indicative of how the rest of the season may go for the Blues at this point.

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