St. Louis wages battle with its former leader
David Backes has long been one of the top power forwards in the NHL. Now, though, he’s providing that steely net-front presence in Beantown.
The 32-year-old, who spent the first 10 seasons of his career with the Blues, is 13 games into a new chapter for the Bruins. Tonight, the two squads collide at 7 p.m. ET in Boston. Online sports book Bovada.lv gives the hosts odds of -145 to emerge victorious. Ken Hitchcock’s troops, on the other hand, represent +115 underdogs.
St. Louis, which occupies second place in the Central Division, holds an uncharacteristically poor road record of 2-5-1. It also continues to do without two-way stalwart Alexander Steen. Driven into the boards by Buffalo’s Josh Gorges last week, Steen remains sidelined due to an upper-body injury.
The Bruins are missing a key piece, too. David Pastrnak, who leads the club with 10 goals, won’t suit up this evening on account of an upper-body ailment. That puts more pressure on Backes to deliver against his former teammates. While the Minnesota native boasts a plus-9 rating, he’s scored only once over the past 12 contests.
It’s difficult to dismiss Boston when the setting shifts to TD Center, particularly considering goalie Tuukka Rask’s phenomenal performance of late. Yet the Note’s knack for subduing Eastern Conference titans pushes us in the direction of the visiting group here. Expect Vladimir Tarasenko or the red-hot Jaden Schwartz (seven points since Nov. 6) to pot the decisive tally in the third period.
TUESDAY NHL FREE PICK: BLUES +1.5