Ex-Blue Polak returns to St. Louis with Maple Leafs

Roman Polak (right) faces his former team for the first time since the Blues traded him to Toronto.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

The St. Louis Blues are hoping to start a new winning streak after coming up just short of keeping one going.

A visit from the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs could help them do just that.

St. Louis looks to avoid back-to-back home losses for the first time this season when it faces Toronto, which tries to avoid a winless four-game road trip Saturday night.

The Blues (27-13-4) are second in the NHL with 3.1 goals per game, and they proved all the more potent during a recent five-game winning streak as they outscored opponents 28-10. However, St. Louis saw that run come to an end in Thursday’s 3-2 overtime loss to Detroit.

David Backes got the Blues on the board early in the third period and Alexander Steen tied things up with 48 seconds left in regulation, but the Red Wings scored 4:57 into OT.

"We showed a lot of character in coming back, getting a six-on-five goal which has eluded us for that first part of the year," Backes told the league’s official website. "We need to close that out after a lot of good efforts to come back."

The Blues are 15-2-2 in their last 19 games, tied for the NHL’s most home wins since Oct. 25. They haven’t dropped two in a row in St. Louis since closing the 2013-14 regular season with three straight defeats there.

"I think that’s the best somebody’s played against us in this building for a long time," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I’m disappointed in some aspect, but I think there’s some real good lessons here. This was like a playoff game."

This matchup doesn’t figure to have the same feel given Toronto’s recent efforts. The Maple Leafs are mired in a 3-11-0 funk and have been limited to a combined three goals in dropping all five road games in 2015.

Toronto (22-20-3) suffered back-to-back shutouts at Los Angeles and Anaheim before falling 3-1 at San Jose on Thursday. The Maple Leafs fell behind 2-0 before Roman Polak scored 11:57 into the game for Toronto’s first goal in just over 133 minutes.

"We have to find a way to score, we have to figure it out," star forward Phil Kessel said. "It’s not going in for us right now and that gets frustrating. … We have to find a way to get back in the win column. We’re close, but we’re just not there yet."

Kessel is tied with James van Riemsdyk for the team lead with 19 goals despite scoring twice in the last 14 games. He’s been held pointless over the last five on the road.

The Maple Leafs are in sixth place in the Atlantic Division with 47 points, 10 behind Montreal and Detroit for the second and third playoff spots.

"In this league you can’t go through stretches like this," Kessel said. "We’re not out of it; there’s still quite a bit of hockey left to play. We just have to stay positive and, hopefully, we’ll get some results here."

Kessel has eight points in eight games against the Blues.

St. Louis is 5-0-2 in the past seven meetings behind Backes’ 10 points, including five of the club’s 11 goals in last season’s two-game sweep. Backes has seven goals and four assists over a five-game point streak.

Polak, who spent the previous eight seasons with St. Louis, faces his former team for the first time since getting shipped to Toronto in exchange for fellow defenseman Carl Gunnarsson and a draft pick in June.