Avalanche-Blues Preview

St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock is disturbed with his team’s
scoring funk.

Facing the Colorado Avalanche may not be a good way to fix those

The Blues again try to get their offense on track Thursday night
when they host the Avalanche in the first meeting of the season
between these new Central Division rivals.

Despite being just three points back of first-place Colorado,
St. Louis (11-2-3) isn’t enjoying much offensive success. The Blues
have been held to three goals or fewer in each of their last five
games, and each of their last six in St. Louis.

They had a season-high 39 shots Tuesday against Phoenix but
suffered a 3-2 overtime loss.

“If we want to get to the next level, we’ve got to find a
solution to outwork the goalie,” Hitchcock said. “It doesn’t matter
how you get it done. You’ve just got to get it done. If we want to
go to the top echelon and be there and be part of that, that’s one
of the things we want to see get done.”

Captain David Backes is in the middle of the offensive woes,
going scoreless in nine games after tallying six goals in his first
seven contests. Right wing Vladimir Tarasenko has cooled off
considerably after scoring four goals in the season’s first five
games, notching just one in the last 11.

“It’s the whole focus of finishing, burying it in the back of
the net, not relaxing,” Hitchcock said. “Some guys are struggling
offensively right now. … We’ve got to get them going, but that’s
pretty much it. We had opportunities. … But at the end of the
day, you’ve just got to put it in the net.”

That could be difficult against the Avalanche (14-3-0).

Colorado’s 1.76 goals-against average is one of the best in the
league, and it has surrendered two goals or fewer in nine of its
last 10 games. Starter Semyon Varlamov has a 1.49 GAA in four road
games while backup Jean-Sebastien Giguere has a 1.00 GAA and two
shutouts in going 5-0-0 overall.

Varlamov stopped 26 of 28 shots Tuesday in Carolina, yet it
wasn’t enough as the Avalanche fell 2-1 for their first defeat in
seven road games.

Colorado managed 34 shots, but after scoring four goals in each
of their last four games, only Paul Stastny tallied.

“We just didn’t execute around the net, and I thought that was
the only thing that was missing because we had a lot of chances,”
coach Patrick Roy said.

Stastny’s score was his seventh of the season and gave him six
goals and three assists in his last eight games.

Even though the Blues are sputtering offensively, Alexander
Steen has compiled an 11-game point streak – the longest active
point streak in the NHL. Steen, who has 10 goals and four assists
during his run, has the longest scoring streak for a St. Louis
player since Keith Tkachuk went 12 games in 2002-03.

Steen is pointless in his last four games against the Avalanche
and has gone nine games since his last goal against them.

Stastny hasn’t scored in his last five contests versus St.
Louis, and Matt Duchene, Colorado’s leader with 11 goals and 19
points, has one goal and one assist in his last eight matchups.

Although the Avalanche won two of three against the Blues last
season to improve to 11-3-1 in the series since 2009-10, they’ve
lost their last four contests in St. Louis.