Steven Stamkos always finds himself among the NHL’s scoring leaders, while Alexander Steen’s inclusion has been very unexpected.
Steen looks to continue his incredible start to the season by helping the St. Louis Blues to a fourth straight victory against Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.
Stamkos has led the league in goals twice over the past four seasons, and he finished second with 29 in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign.
Steen hasn’t come close to posing the same threat, but that could be changing behind his league-leading 12 goals. The total is four more than he had all of last season and halfway to the career high he set in 2009-10.
The center’s surge includes goals in 10 of 11 games, and he’s found the net eight times over the past six.
Steen kept that streak going Friday, closing out the scoring in a 4-0 win at Florida.
He said he’d prefer not to discuss his emergence as a scoring threat, shifting the focus to Brian Elliott, who made 31 saves against the Panthers.
“I think we’ve talked enough about that,” Steen said. “I think Elliott is the reason we ended up winning the hockey game. He made some timely saves, some really big saves, and pretty much stood on his head at times.”
Elliott, though, may be returning to the bench in favor of Jaroslav Halak, who is 7-1-1 with a 2.15 goals-against average in nine games. He’s won his last two by stopping 43 of 46 shots, and would be facing Tampa Bay for the first time since making 22 saves in a 3-1 road win March 17, 2012.
Halak turned aside all three of Stamkos’ shots in that contest and may need a similar effort if the Blues (8-1-2) hope to match a season-opening four-game win streak.
The Lightning (9-4-0) have scored 17 goals while winning four of their last five, including Friday’s 3-0 victory at Carolina. They took 29 of their 32 shots over the last two periods – nine coming from Stamkos, who scored his 10th goal of the season.
“I was joking with the guys on the bench, laughing,” Stamkos said. “When you get so many chances, you’re doing something right. Our whole team responded well after the first period. You just keep at it and you get rewarded.”
Stamkos has five goals and four assists during a five-game scoring streak, but he hasn’t mustered a point over his last two meetings with St. Louis.
Martin St. Louis has also been kept off the score sheet in those meetings, but he enters this one with six points in five games after getting two assists Friday.
It’s unclear if Ben Bishop – a member of the Blues from 2008-11 – will face his former team for the first time after making 31 saves against the Hurricanes. He’s won five of six home games with a 2.68 GAA, while backup Anders Lindback’s only start there this season resulted in a 5-4 loss to Pittsburgh on Oct. 12.
Lindback had 32 saves for Nashville in a 4-3 loss opposite Halak in his only career meeting with St. Louis on Oct. 14, 2010.