Blues get another shot at Jets after tough loss two weeks ago
WINNIPEG, Manitoba — On Nov. 24, Patrik Laine lit up the Blues for five goals in an 8-4 Winnipeg Jets victory in St. Louis. The teams play tonight for the first time since that game, the Blues hoping this time to produce a much different result.
Not much has improved for the Blues over those two weeks, however. They arrive in Winnipeg having lost four of their last five games and sit next to last in the Western Conference with nine wins and 22 points in 26 games.
The most recent defeat, a 3-2 shootout loss in Edmonton, came after the Blues took a 2-0 lead in the first period and gave up a last-minute goal to send it to the extra period.
Interim coach Craig Berube, who took over behind the bench after Mike Yeo was fired last month, told The St. Louis Dispatch that his team is “fragile.”
“Guys are trying to hang on to a lead instead of making it 3-0,” he said. “That’s got to be more of our mindset. We should’ve come out in the second period and pushed the pace right away on them.”
The Blues also are dealing with myriad injuries. Defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Carl Gunnarsson and forwards Robby Fabbri and Jaden Schwartz are on injured reserve. Forward Alexander Steen (concussion) also is out but skated with the team Thursday and is making the trip to Winnipeg. It is unknown whether he will be able to play.
The Jets are hoping to welcome back a pair of defensemen in time for Friday night’s game.
Dustin Byfuglien has missed three games after suffering a concussion following a hard hit against Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Jamie Oleksiak on Nov. 29, while Dmitry Kulikov has been out for a month since being hurt against the Colorado Avalanche.
Nothing has been confirmed by the Jets coaching staff, but the team sent call-up Nelson Nogier back to the Manitoba Moose on Thursday morning, all but indicating that one or both of them will return to the lineup Friday.
They both wore full-contact jerseys at practice Thursday. Byfuglien’s longtime partner, Ben Chiarot, was glad to see the 265-pounder back on the ice taking part in line rushes.
“He’s a big part of our team, a big part of the locker room and one of the best players in the league,” he said in a post-practice scrum. “Any time you add him back, it’s a welcome sight.”
Nobody on the Jets will complain too loudly about getting hit by the injury bug as the team has lost among the fewest player-games in the league. Sami Niku, Cam Schilling and Nogier have all filled in well for the most part, with just a few hiccups.
Despite the sudden rash of injuries, the Jets are riding a four-game winning streak and sit in third place in the Central Division with 36 points.