Senators-Blues Preview

The St. Louis Blues started the season as one of the NHL’s

surprise success stories, but they’re now searching for answers

defensively as they try to snap a five-game losing streak.

A return home and a matchup with the reeling Ottawa Senators on

Friday night may be just what the Blues need.

St. Louis (9-5-3) took 20 of a possible 24 points from its first

12 games, holding opponents to 17 goals thanks in part to strong

play from new goaltender Jaroslav Halak.

The Blues, though, have allowed 28 goals during their five-game

skid, 18 coming on a three-game road trip that ended with a 7-3

loss to Detroit on Wednesday.

While injuries to forwards T.J. Oshie and David Perron and

defensemen Roman Polak and Barret Jackman haven’t helped, Halak

couldn’t explain the reasons for St. Louis’ swoon.

“It’s a tough question to answer,” said Halak, whose

goals-against average has risen from 1.79 to 2.48 in his last two

starts. “If we knew the answer, we wouldn’t be losing games.”

The Blues were tied at 3 and outshot the Red Wings 24-17 through

two periods, but allowed four goals in a 3:15 span late in the

third.

“We did a lot of good things out there,” Halak said.

“Unfortunately, the last eight minutes … I don’t know what

happened … maybe we were tired.”

Returning home may help. While a 3-2 shootout loss to visiting

Nashville on Nov. 11 was a part of their current skid, the Blues

are 6-0-1 in St. Louis. They have gone 12-0-1 in their last 13 at

the Scottrade Center.

Halak has a 1.25 GAA and two shutouts in his new home arena

after arriving via trade from Montreal.

The Blues hope Andy McDonald’s production on the trip carries

over to Friday. The center had two goals and five assists in the

last three games.

The Senators (9-9-1) have been dealing with more than just

hockey lately after assistant coach Luke Richardson’s 14-year-old

daughter committed suicide Friday. The team attended a memorial

service in Ottawa on Wednesday, then traveled to Carolina and fell

behind 4-0 in the first period of a 7-1 loss.

“It was pretty much the worst-case scenario,” defenseman Chris

Phillips said. “We wanted to win this game for so many reasons. A

couple early mistakes and lost battles, and before we knew it, we

were down 4-0.”

After taking its previous four road games, Ottawa has dropped

its last two by a combined 12-2 heading into the finale of this

four-game trip.

Both Senators goalies are having problems. Brian Elliott has

allowed nine goals in his last two starts and was pulled in the

first period Wednesday, while Pascal Leclaire has a 5.24 GAA in two

appearances since returning from a groin injury.

It’s unclear which player will be in net as Ottawa tries for its

sixth consecutive win over the Blues and third straight in St.

Louis. Elliott has posted a 1.50 GAA while winning both of his

starts against the Blues.