Streaking Blues pose challenge for struggling Lightning

Ken Hitchcock doesn't want to talk about a couple of problems that have cropped up recently.
Billy Hurst/Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

ST. LOUIS — Goalie Ben Bishop and the Tampa Bay Lightning will be looking to end a couple of long streaks in Thursday night's game against the St. Louis Blues.

Bishop, a St. Louis native, has not won a game in his hometown since joining the Lightning, going 0-2-1 in his three games in St. Louis since the 2013-14 season. His last win in St. Louis actually came when he played for the Blues, on March 7, 2011.

Coach Jon Cooper did not commit to Bishop getting the start, but Bishop did not play in the Lightning's game Tuesday night in Columbus and is expected to be in net.

It's been even longer since the Lightning won a game in St. Louis — Dec. 18, 2009. Overall, the Lightning have lost their last five games against the Blues.

While the Lightning players know that history, they are more concerned with trying to break out of a current slump that has seen them lose their last three games, being outscored by a combined margin of 14-5.

“I'd love to play against us right now in our own end — it's easy,” center Brian Boyle told the Tampa Bay Times after the Lightning lost 5-1 Tuesday night in Columbus. “We've relied on our goalies, they've been phenomenal. They're great teammates because they haven't ripped into us yet for how we're treating them, for how we're defending.

“The worst part is we know how to do it.”

Boyle and the rest of the Lightning know their task of ending their slump won't be easy against the Blues, who have won their last five home games and are 8-0-2 in their last 10 at Scottrade Center. They have lost only once in regulation in 13 home games this season.

In their two most recent games, the Blues have allowed a late goal with the opponent's goalie pulled that tied the game before they rebounded to win, once in a shootout and once in overtime.

That is one problem coach Ken Hitchcock wants his team to correct. He also believes they have taken too many penalties recently, especially in their own offensive zone.

He has a new strategy to try to correct that problem.

“We're not going to talk about that anymore. We're going to use a different approach,” Hitchcock said. “It's the disease that we're not going to speak about. We're just going to go out quietly and find a cure. We're not thrilled by it, but the more we talk about it, the more it seems to manifest itself. … It's in the DNA; we've got to get rid of it. We'll figure out a way.”

The Blues could have one new player in their lineup Thursday night. Defenseman Joel Edmundson has been cleared to play after being sidelined since Nov. 6 with an upper-body injury.

The Lightning also could make a couple of changes to their lineup. The team recalled left winger Michael Bournival and right winger Joel Vermin on Wednesday from the minor leagues.