New York Islanders vs. St. Louis Blues Preview: Maybe catch them sleeping?

Help us, Johnny T. You're our only hope. - Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The poor Blues visit amid a "slump" that has them with just 73 points on the season.

Try this on for size: The St. Louis Blues were absolutely annihilated the other night in New Jersey, 7-1, and still emerged from the game with a net +56 goal differential on the season.

The New York Islanders stand at minus-24.

But say this for the Isles: They come by that goal difference by an honest thousand cuts, avoiding blowouts all season save for one atrocity against Detroit and ... oh, the last time they faced the Blues. Still, whatever you think of Jack Capuano, you can't say his team fails to show up. Win or lose, it's a year of one- and two-goal games, the latter often by an empty netter.

The Blues actually come in with the weaker record in their last 10: They are 6-4, while the Isles are 7-3. But the Isles are still without concussion brothers Lubomir Visnovsky and Travis Hamonic, so it's a daunting task for the Isles defense. if the Blues have righted their ship -- they recovered from the Devils embarrassment with a solid win over the Smurfs -- this one could turn into a rare blowout by the second intermission.

1497508_240254552818059_47314328_n_medium Nyi-islestickslim_medium
Blues (34-11-5, 2nd/Central) @ Islanders (21-25-7, 8th/Metro)
1 p.m. EST | MSG+ | WRHU/WRCN
Nassau [
gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Jekyll of my Hyde:
St. Louis Game Time

The overall zeitgeist around the Blues is "Great team...but do they have the goaltending?" Because goaltending has sunk every great team in Blues history, and Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott seldom give the impression they will alleviate that baggage.

So will the Blues break the emergency glass and, say, go all-in for Ryan Miller? (Because Ben Bishop? He's gone already.)

Also Not Gonna Talk about the Goaltending

Just like most GMs, Doug Armstrong isn't going to trash his players. He's a stealth striker -- Erik Johnson never had any idea he was about to be dealt -- so all you'll get publicly is routine diversion:

On the performance of the goaltending: "I think we're a strong team when we defend well and we haven't defended as well as we need to. And obviously you need timely saves. I know the guys want to give us better games than we've gotten in the last week and I'm comfortable that they will."

On whether he's considering bringing up Jake Allen from the minors: "As I said, you don't want to overreact on a game-to-game situation. We know that we have very good players in the American Hockey League, whether it's Allen or (Dmitrij) Jaskin and (Chris) Porter. So we have replacement players if needed. But I think right now, we're going with this group. They've put themselves in a good position this year.

Alexander Steen, who just returned from a concussion, took a lower body injury Thursday night at the Garden, so the first line will likely miss him again. Fortunately for the Blues, they have gobs and gobs of enviable depth.

On that note, Ken Hitchcock has said one of the joys this season is that, instead of him having to send the David Backes line after the opponent's best line, now the opponent has to worry about matching the Backes line. Will the Islanders let it go Tavares vs. Backes? Or will they send the Frans to try to keep the Backes line in check? Or will it be {shudder} all about sending the D pair of Andrew MacDonald and Brian Strait to the wolves?

How they lined up yesterday at practice without Steen:

Schwartz - Backes - Oshie
Sobotka - Roy - Tarasenko
Paajarvi - Berglund - Stewart
Morrow - Lapierre - Reaves

Karma's on Their Side: Of course the Blues have karma on their side for this one, given what they did between games for Jaden Schwartz on his first visit to Yale, where his late sister played NCAA hockey. "It means more than they'll ever know," he said.

From that link, here's Armstrong, on how Schwartz dealt with the tragic early death: "They're a very stoic family," Armstrong said. "They're prairie people. They put their heads down and forge ahead. Life shows them something good and something bad and they deal with them the same."

And finally, many more quotes from Blues and Yale people on the day.

Whom to Watch: Take your pick from this roster, really. Alex Pietrangelo is the obvious choice. But you might not know about Ryan Reaves, who is a beast of a man and can actually play hockey too.

On the One Hand...: Kevin Shattenkirk is a New York native who grew up rooting for the Rangers, so screw him.

On the Other Hand...: Kevin Shattenkirk's power play goal defeated the Rangers in regulation the other night, so way to go, man.

Curiosity or More? Of the Blues' 42 power play goals this season, nine of them have come within the first 10 seconds of the opportunity.

What is Brett Hull Doing, Anyway? I fear I forgot to post this earlier this week, so now is a good time: Here is a good taste of how Brett Hull used to live back when he was lighting up goalies for the Blues, as well as a glimpse into what he's doing for the franchise now.

FIG Picks

Leave your First Islanders Goal picks for Saturday night, er afternoon's game, right over here.

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