Avalanche-Blues Preview

St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock is disturbed with his team’s

scoring funk.

Facing the Colorado Avalanche may not be a good way to fix those

problems.

The Blues again try to get their offense on track Thursday night

when they host the Avalanche in the first meeting of the season

between these new Central Division rivals.

Despite being just three points back of first-place Colorado,

St. Louis (11-2-3) isn’t enjoying much offensive success. The Blues

have been held to three goals or fewer in each of their last five

games, and each of their last six in St. Louis.

They had a season-high 39 shots Tuesday against Phoenix but

suffered a 3-2 overtime loss.

“If we want to get to the next level, we’ve got to find a

solution to outwork the goalie,” Hitchcock said. “It doesn’t matter

how you get it done. You’ve just got to get it done. If we want to

go to the top echelon and be there and be part of that, that’s one

of the things we want to see get done.”

Captain David Backes is in the middle of the offensive woes,

going scoreless in nine games after tallying six goals in his first

seven contests. Right wing Vladimir Tarasenko has cooled off

considerably after scoring four goals in the season’s first five

games, notching just one in the last 11.

“It’s the whole focus of finishing, burying it in the back of

the net, not relaxing,” Hitchcock said. “Some guys are struggling

offensively right now. … We’ve got to get them going, but that’s

pretty much it. We had opportunities. … But at the end of the

day, you’ve just got to put it in the net.”

That could be difficult against the Avalanche (14-3-0).

Colorado’s 1.76 goals-against average is one of the best in the

league, and it has surrendered two goals or fewer in nine of its

last 10 games. Starter Semyon Varlamov has a 1.49 GAA in four road

games while backup Jean-Sebastien Giguere has a 1.00 GAA and two

shutouts in going 5-0-0 overall.

Varlamov stopped 26 of 28 shots Tuesday in Carolina, yet it

wasn’t enough as the Avalanche fell 2-1 for their first defeat in

seven road games.

Colorado managed 34 shots, but after scoring four goals in each

of their last four games, only Paul Stastny tallied.

“We just didn’t execute around the net, and I thought that was

the only thing that was missing because we had a lot of chances,”

coach Patrick Roy said.

Stastny’s score was his seventh of the season and gave him six

goals and three assists in his last eight games.

Even though the Blues are sputtering offensively, Alexander

Steen has compiled an 11-game point streak – the longest active

point streak in the NHL. Steen, who has 10 goals and four assists

during his run, has the longest scoring streak for a St. Louis

player since Keith Tkachuk went 12 games in 2002-03.

Steen is pointless in his last four games against the Avalanche

and has gone nine games since his last goal against them.

Stastny hasn’t scored in his last five contests versus St.

Louis, and Matt Duchene, Colorado’s leader with 11 goals and 19

points, has one goal and one assist in his last eight matchups.

Although the Avalanche won two of three against the Blues last

season to improve to 11-3-1 in the series since 2009-10, they’ve

lost their last four contests in St. Louis.