(AP) — The Detroit Red Wings’ defensive issues can be partially traced to their poor penalty-killing unit.
Leaking goals is a more recent problem for the St. Louis Blues, but both clubs are staring at a potential three-game slide.
The Red Wings and Blues are looking to show improvement defensively Thursday night when they meet for the third time already this season.
Detroit (4-4-1) opened the season with a 6-0 loss at St. Louis (6-3-0) on Jan. 19, allowing the Blues to go 4 for 5 on the power play. The Red Wings weren’t much better in the latest meeting with the reigning Central Division champion on Friday, giving up two more power-play goals in a 5-3 home win.
Of the 28 goals Detroit has surrendered, a league-high 13 have come on the man-advantage.
They’ve also allowed a league-high two short-handed goals – one to the Blues in the opener.
The penalty kill did Detroit no favors again Tuesday, giving up two goals, with one putting the Red Wings behind by two in the opening period of a 4-1 home defeat to Calgary. That came three days after they blew an early lead by giving up three straight goals in a 4-2 loss at last-place Columbus.
“Catch-up hockey is losing hockey,” coach Mike Babcock told the team’s official website. “You can’t start from behind. You have to start from ahead; that’s what you want to do and get playing right from the get-go.”
St. Louis is feeling frustrated since they followed last week’s defeat to the Red Wings with Tuesday’s 6-1 loss to Nashville to open this four-game homestand.
“This is a team loss that has been coming for a little while,” coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We’re allowing the other teams’ competitiveness to frustrate us. And it pushes us into individual hockey rather than team hockey.”
The Blues haven’t dropped three straight in regulation since a four-game skid from Feb. 27-March 5, 2011.
Vladimir Tarasenko will try to help keep them from getting closer to that mark by rebounding from just his second pointless performance this season. The 21-year-old rookie right wing leads St. Louis with 10 points, and three of them have come against the Red Wings, including a two-goal effort in the season opener.
Patrick Berglund is tied with Tarasenko for the team lead with five goals, but he was kept off the scoresheet by the Predators after finding the net four times over the previous five games.
The center has scored in both meetings with Detroit, and he’s managed six goals and two assists in the past nine home matchups.
It’s unclear if Berglund and Tarasenko will be facing Jimmy Howard, who is expected to be rested at some point during this stretch of three games in four days.
After visiting St. Louis, the Red Wings face Edmonton in the opener of a four-game homestand Saturday before meeting Los Angeles a day later.
Detroit follows that Wednesday with another meeting versus the Blues.
Howard has played all nine games, and he’s 1-2 this month, compiling a 3.67 goals-against average and .857 save percentage.
“Obviously, he’s been getting too much (work),” Babcock said.
Howard has lost three of his last four starts at St. Louis, and allowed five goals on 28 shots in the season opener before being pulled early in the third period for Jonas Gustavsson.
Since Gustavsson has an injured groin, Petr Mrazek could be in line for his NHL debut. He went 16-7-3 with a 2.26 GAA in 25 games with Grand Rapids of the AHL before being recalled Monday.