Blues aim to slow down high-flying Avalanche

Two years ago the St Louis Blues were a couple of games from reaching the Stanley Cup Finals. Today, they are near last in the Western Conference standings and dealing with trade rumors ahead of their matchup with the red-hot Colorado Avalanche.

According to TSN Canada, the Blues are interested in trading for Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard, who was in net when the Red Wings beat St. Louis on Wednesday night. It would mean moving away from current No. 1 goalie Jake Allen.

It’s what happens when a team is struggling like the Blues.

St. Louis (8-12-3) has lost two in a row and seven of its last 10. Four of those losses came with captain Alexander Steen out with an injury, but he returned to the lineup against Detroit. He played on the fourth line after spending the first part of the season on the third line.

“It’s always tough sitting out,” Steen told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Wednesday. “I used the time as well as I could to get myself back to a place where I could play.”

St. Louis did make a move Thursday, placing forward Nikita Soshnikov on waivers. Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, who has missed all but five games with a lower-body injury, could be activated.

It might be hard for the Blues to turn things around Friday in Denver. The Avalanche (15-6-4) have won six straight after Wednesday’s 6-3 win over Pittsburgh and the top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabe Landeskog have been nearly unstoppable this season.

The trio combined for eight of Colorado’s 16 points on Wednesday, with Landeskog scoring the game-winning goal late in the third period.

Rantanen (42 points) and MacKinnon (40 points) are 1-2 in scoring in the NHL.

“Obviously, we’ve been finding ways to create some offense here this season and at this point, you just kind of want to keep it going and keep contributing offensively and being reliable defensively,” Landeskog said after Wednesday’s win.

The top line has been producing despite facing every team’s top defensive pairing and top line on a nightly basis. Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said it’s the best line he’s seen this season after it dominated Wednesday night.

“They’re not easy to contain,” he said. “It’s not an easy challenge. That line, they’re three elite players that are all on the same line.”

The Blues will have to slow down the trio if they want to stop their losing streak. Colorado has scored the most goals (95) in the NHL entering Thursday’s slate of games and is a point behind Nashville in the Central Division.

Friday’s game will also serve as a reunion for St. Louis center Ryan O’Reilly. He was a second-round pick of the Avalanche in the 2009 draft and spent his first six seasons in Colorado. He was traded to Buffalo in 2015 and then to St. Louis last summer.

He leads the Blues in goals (12), assists (15) and scoring (27). He’s been a solid addition but the Blues might not be done dealing if TSN’s reporting is accurate.