Blues welcome the hot (but just reality-checked) Capitals to STL

Vladimir Tarasenko had just two shots on goal against the Senators.
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

ST. LOUIS — This might not be a good time for the St. Louis Blues to play the Washington Capitals.

The Blues have lost four of their last five games at Scottrade Center and are struggling both on offense and in goal as they prepare to host the Capitals on Thursday night.

They might see an angry bunch of Washington players, too.

The Capitals saw their nine-game winning streak snapped on Monday night — even though they scored seven goals, losing a wild 8-7 overtime game in Pittsburgh. The focus against the Blues is to hit the reset button and bounce back from their first loss since Dec. 29.

“It was just a good reality check, just to say, you know, you’re not that good,” Justin Williams told The Washington Post. “You’ve still got to work for things, and it’s not going to come easy for you. It was a good challenge for us.”

Despite Williams’ statement, the Capitals have been good, all season, sitting in a tie with Columbus for the most points in the NHL with 64 and earning at least one point in 11 consecutive games. They have been especially hot offensively of late, having scored 47 goals in their last 10 games.

Coach Barry Trotz expects the Capitals will be able to quickly forget about the loss in Pittsburgh.

“We’re going to talk about, let’s bounce back in our game, you know?” Trotz told the Post. “I have a lot of trust in this group. We’re a veteran group. Even when momentum was going the other way, it could have been easy to call timeout, slow things down, but I have a lot of faith in the group, that they are good enough to respond after a little bit of adversity.”

The Blues have dealt with their own share of adversity, and will be trying to bounce back themselves from a 6-4 loss at home to the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night. Backup goalie Carter Hutton, after winning two consecutive starts, got the nod again in place of a struggling Jake Allen and allowed five goals on 23 shots.

Allen has been pulled from three of his last five starts, including in his last game Jan. 10 in Los Angeles against the Kings, when he gave up three goals on 15 shots.

The Blues had a day off Wednesday, so there was no announcement on whether Allen or Hutton will start against the Capitals.

Regardless of the identity of the netminder, his first challenge will be trying to snap a streak that has seen the Blues allow the game’s first goal in their last seven home games.

The Blues also need to find a way to get their leading scorer, Vladimir Tarasenko, back on track. Tarasenko has been held to just two assists in his last five games. He had just two shots on goal against the Senators.

“He’s not getting any chances,” St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. “It’s something we’ve got to talk about. Not scoring is one thing, but he’s not getting any grade-A chances, he’s not getting any quality chances, there’s no second chances. That’s something we’ve got to talk about.”