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Blues @ Ducks Preview: The First Big Western Test

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The St. Louis Blues are in California, and that can only mean one thing: the Ducks are in for an extremely physical test that will really gauge how well they will fare against a dominant possession team.

Jeff Gross

The first homestand of the season continues with what I would consider the first big Western Conference test for the Anaheim Ducks this season: the St. Louis Blues. Obviously the Minnesota Wild gave Anaheim a little more trouble than I would have imagined and likewise than I think they should have but the Ducks still squeaked out a win somehow.

The St. Louis Blues are not the Minnesota Wild however. In fact, I would consider them to be much, much better. The Blues are a dominant possession team with a core of big-bodied forwards who often dominate games on skill and puck possession alone. The key addition of Paul Stastny has many people believing this may be the year St. Louis makes the Stanley Cup Final, and possibly even wins it for the first time in franchise history. However, Stastny will not be playing on Sunday as he recovers from an injury.

Game Notes:

Patrick Maroon, Dany Heatley, Kyle Palmieri, and Bryan Allen will once again be out of the lineup with injuries. Paul Statsny, as mentioned, will be out for the Blues.

The Blues will be playing the second game of a back-to-back as they played the Arizona Coyotes in Glendale on Saturday night. The Blues won that game by a score of 6-1. Jaden Schwartz scored his first career hat trick in the win.

Stay tuned here for more updates throughout the day.

What Can We Learn From This Game:

As I've said before, I feel like this is the Ducks first big test of the season. The Blues are easily a playoff contender and will likely go at least two rounds deep in the postseason this year. In fact, were it not for the rotten luck of them facing the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round last year, they easily could have done so last year.

However, the Ducks often struggle against the Blues style of play, which relies heavily on a majority of puck possession throughout the game, and the Ducks have proven time and time again that they really aren't the most adept at handling this style of team.

Granted it's early in the season, but the Blues are already showing their guns, going 58.9% Fenwick for per game, third in the NHL. The Ducks are mired in the middle of the league at 50.5%.

A large portion of this is the Ducks glaring inability to get the puck out of their own zone, a tendency that the Minnesota Wild jumped all over and very nearly cost the Ducks their home opener with. A large number of D-zone turnovers resulted in a number of high-quality chances against, and the Ducks were extremely fortunate that Frederik Andersen was on his game, keeping pretty much all of those golden opportunities out of the net.

Fearless Prediction: Ryan Keslaf scores a combined hat trick but the Ducks still find a way to make the game terrifyingly close through a whopping 28 D-zone turnovers on the night.