Heading to Carolina, Blues have been ‘dead from killing penalties’
St. Louis has lost three straight in regulation for the first time since ending the 2013-14 regular season with six in a row, and the same problem might be to blame.
Carolina has also cooled off, and if it allows the Blues to straighten things out Sunday in Carolina, the Hurricanes will match the regulation skid of Ken Hitchcock’s team.
On the slide two seasons ago, the Blues went on the penalty kill an average of 4.8 times per game and were limited to five goals. Over their last 10 games this season, it’s 4.5 after limiting teams to 3.2 power-play chances over their first 54 games. Opponents are 3 for 12 on the power play in the last three games, but the concern is more on the other end of the ice.
"We’re killing our PK guys," Hitchcock said. "They’ve got no energy to play on offense. So we don’t have the energy to play offensively in the O-zone when we do get it fresh 5-on-5. We’re dead from killing penalties."
The Blues (35-20-9) have scored four goals on the losing streak, and Saturday’s 5-0 loss in Nashville was the team’s first of at least five goals in more than a year. The club is now in danger of losing its 30th game, which last season took 76 contests to reach.
"Anytime something like this happens, it (stinks)," defenseman Jay Bouwmeester told the team’s official website. "It happens to everybody. In the third period, we did some good things. We had some chances. That’s what we were trying to do and just get some momentum."
That’ll have to happen in the second game of a four-game road trip, but the Blues figure to at least have Alex Pietrangelo back in the lineup. The defenseman was activated from injured reserve Saturday after missing nine games because of a right knee injury.
The Hurricanes (28-25-10) started the season series with a 4-1 win in St. Louis on Jan. 14 as part of a 2-0-2 span against the Blues. Jeff Skinner had a goal and an assist and has scored in four of his last five games versus St. Louis.
Carolina has also strained offensively lately with two goals in its last two games, including a 4-1 home defeat to Boston on Friday. The Hurricanes fell to 2-4-0 with four multi-goal losses since a 10-3-3 run ignited their playoff chase.
"We skated tonight, so that was a good sign," coach Bill Peters said. "We haven’t skated in our two games prior to tonight. I just don’t think we got going, and there wasn’t any pace to our game tonight."
Skinner and Victor Rask, two of the team’s top three in points, have both gone three games without a point, while Carolina continues to play without top-scoring defenseman Justin Faulk and forward Andrej Nestrasil.
"We’re not here to make excuses. We’ve never done that around here," captain Eric Staal told the team’s official website. "When you’re missing some key guys, it’s tough sometimes."
It’s resulted in consecutive regulation losses for Cam Ward for the first time since Nov. 27 and 30, though he’s still kept them in games by not allowing more than three goals since Dec. 8. The veteran is 9-6-4 with a 1.97 goals-against average in that time. Eddie Lack played in the first meeting, but Ward is 5-1-3 with a 1.62 GAA in nine career games against the Blues.
Counterpart Jake Allen, who just returned from his own injury layoff on Monday, last won on Dec. 29 and is 0-5-1 with a 3.11 GAA in his last seven games (most of which came before he was injured). He’s 2-0-0 with a 1.54 GAA against the Hurricanes.