Blues-Red Wings Preview

Plenty has changed since the St. Louis Blues dominated the
Detroit Red Wings in the teams’ season opener.

The Red Wings have taken two meetings since that poor effort and
won a season-high three straight overall as they try to hand the
visiting Blues a sixth consecutive defeat Wednesday night.

St. Louis (6-5-1) was spectacular in a 6-0 home victory over
Detroit on Jan. 19, but the Blues have lost twice to the Red Wings
(7-4-1) during their 0-4-1 slide. They’ll be trying to avoid
dropping six in a row for the first time since a 0-5-2 skid Dec.
26, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010.

“It’s an easy time to beat everybody up,” St. Louis coach Ken
Hitchcock said. “We’re not playing with the sense of urgency
collectively throughout our lineup necessary to win in the National
Hockey League.”

Detroit has won four straight home matchups with St. Louis, the
most recent a 5-3 victory Feb. 1. Henrik Zetterberg matched a
career high with five points in that contest, and he’s among the
league leaders with 13 assists and 18 points.

The Red Wings also won 5-1 at St. Louis last Thursday, as Petr
Mrazek made 26 saves in his NHL debut with Jimmy Howard getting a
night off.

That started this win streak for Detroit, which has taken the
first two of a four-game homestand with one-goal victories over
Edmonton on Saturday and Los Angeles on Sunday.

Pavel Datsyuk scored in both contests after going three games
without a point.

“When I watch Pavel Datsyuk play, all I think about is how much
will he has and how determined he is,” coach Mike Babcock told the
Red Wings’ official website. “He just keeps coming. He doesn’t care
who it is or who he’s playing. The best of the best are
ultra-competitive and they bring it every single day.”

While the Red Wings are playing well at home, the Blues
completed an 0-3-1 homestand with a 4-1 defeat to the Kings on
Monday.

Jaroslav Halak was scheduled to make his first start since
leaving the Feb. 1 outing against Detroit with a groin strain.
Halak, though, re-aggravated the injury and struggling Brian
Elliott made 19 saves on 23 shots.

Now the Blues hope to regroup on a three-game trip.

“This is the homestand from hell,” Hitchcock said. “We lost our
goalie, we didn’t play as well and now we’ve got to take this onto
the road and we’ve got to be much more accountable to each
other.”

Elliott has gone 0-3-0 with a 3.03 goals-against average in
three career starts at Detroit, while Halak is 1-3-0 with a 4.48
GAA in his five there.

Howard has posted a 1.86 GAA in winning seven straight home
starts versus St. Louis.

The Blues have converted on a league-leading 34.8 percent of
their power plays, including 7 for 13 against the Red WIngs. Their
woes occur at even strength.

“All our scoring chances against good teams come on the power
play,” Hitchcock said. “They don’t come 5-on-5. Well, you have to
really dig in 5-on-5 against good hockey clubs to create scoring
opportunities. And we don’t get those.”