(AP) — The St. Louis Blues had the league’s best goaltending tandem last season. Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak haven’t been nearly as effective in 2012-13.
Rookie Jake Allen could be in net for the Blues on Thursday night when they play their only road game against the Phoenix Coyotes this season.
The NHL’s best with 15 shutouts and a 1.89 goals-against average in 2011-12, the Blues (11-9-2) are now searching for answers between the pipes as Elliott and Halak are clearly off their games.
Elliott, last season’s NHL leader with a 1.56 GAA, is 0-5-1 with a 4.56 GAA in his last six appearances, while Halak has yielded 10 goals in his last three starts. Halak, who recorded a career-best 1.97 GAA in 2011-12, was pulled in the third period of Tuesday’s 6-4 loss to Los Angeles after giving up five unanswered goals following St. Louis’ 4-1 start.
However, there was plenty of blame to go around the Blues’ dressing room after the club registered 14 shots – their fewest since they had 12 at Detroit on Nov. 21, 2007.
“We took our foot off the gas, and you can’t do that against good teams,” captain David Backes said. “… We got off our game plan and tried to be too cute in our end when they were putting pressure on us … and the result was four unanswered goals in the third and another bad feeling in this locker room.”
Perhaps Allen could help turn things around after getting called up from AHL Peoria on Wednesday. The 22-year-old, 3-1-0 with a 2.62 GAA in five appearances, hasn’t been named the starter yet, but the Blues – one point behind seventh-place Phoenix (11-9-3) in the Western Conference – need to do something to get back in the win column after opening their five-game trip with a pair of defeats.
St. Louis, loser of five of seven, also needs scoring help, as Andy McDonald (left knee), Alex Steen (upper body) and Vladimir Tarasenko (concussion) are out. The club is taking a look at former Blue Jason Arnott, but it’s uncertain when, or if, the Blues will sign the veteran center, who had 17 goals and 34 points with the team last season.
St. Louis will try to prevent its first four-game road skid since an 0-3-1 stretch from Oct. 28-Nov. 19, 2011.
The Coyotes, meanwhile, are getting right back to work after a three-game stretch against Pacific Division-leading Anaheim. Phoenix lost 2-0 on the road on Wednesday after back-to-back 5-4 shootout home wins on Saturday and Monday.
“We’re going to need more people to show up with a harder push tomorrow,” said coach Dave Tippett, whose team had a season-low 18 shots while getting shut out for the second time this season. “I don’t think (the Blues are) too happy about how their game went last night.”
The Coyotes, though, feel great about the play of backup goaltender Jason LaBarbera, who turned away 22 of 23 shots – including a penalty shot – in his first start following 15 straight by Mike Smith.
LaBarbera surrendered seven goals in the two home losses to the Blues last season, while Smith posted a 2.03 GAA while these teams split two matchups in St. Louis.
The Coyotes can win a season-high third straight in Glendale as they open a three-game homestand.
Phoenix will follow that stretch with its first of two visits to St. Louis this season on March 14.