After the Christmas break and the new year failed to provide a reprieve for the struggling St. Louis Blues, T.J. Oshie handled matters on his own.
Oshie and the Blues look to carry their momentum into Tuesday night’s matchup with the Arizona Coyotes.
St. Louis (23-13-3) had lost six of seven, including five in a row on the road, prior to Sunday’s 7-2 blowout victory in San Jose. Oshie recorded his second career hat trick to give him five goals in three games after scoring five in his first 28.
"He’s been playing probably his best hockey the past six or seven games despite the fact that we haven’t been as successful," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "He’s been playing great. He’s doing the right things. He’s going into the hard areas. He has such a knack for finding the puck out of those scrums and around the net."
Oshie’s re-emergence bodes well for the Blues, whose 2.95 goals per game rank near the top of the league. Vladimir Tarasenko is largely to credit, as the winger’s 22 goals have propped up slowed production from David Backes, Alexander Steen and Paul Stastny – all of whom are on pace to fall short of their goal totals from last season.
Coach Ken Hitchcock hopes some of those offensive issues are in the rear view mirror after Steen had a goal and three assists while Stastny assisted on two scores Saturday.
"This was the reward," Hitchcock said. "We’d been playing pretty well for long stretches the last three or four games. This is the reward we got for doing it. We eliminated some of the big mistakes we’d been making that hurt us badly."
A similar effort from St. Louis could be in the cards as the Coyotes (15-19-4) tout one of the more dire goaltending situations in the NHL.
Devan Dubnyk lost 6-0 in Dallas on Wednesday in his most recent start, and Mike Smith’s 3.46 goals-against average is the worst in the league among goalies with at least 20 starts.
Smith, however, recorded his first win in six appearances Saturday, stopping 23 shots to beat visiting Columbus 6-3.
"I felt good. I felt like I was prepared," Smith said. "Mentally I felt I was ready to get back in there."
Whoever gets the start will be tasked with stopping the league’s most efficient power-play unit. St. Louis has scored on 24.4 percent of its chances and is 3 for 9 in the last two games.
The Blues took advantage of that strength in their previous matchup with Arizona, converting all four of their opportunities against Smith in a 6-1 road win Oct. 18. No team had posted a perfect power-play percentage with at least four power-play goals since San Jose on Oct. 6, 2009.
Arizona’s penalty-kill unit ranks among the worst in the league at 75.2 percent.
St. Louis has outscored Arizona 23-8 in winning the last five road meetings.
Shane Doan has 49 points in 71 career matchups with the Blues but has failed to score in the past six meetings. Doan will likely face Brian Elliott, who has allowed five goals on 67 shots since returning from injury Dec. 30.