Off to a hot start for the Calgary Flames, the next step for Johnny Gaudreau is trying to turn the tide on the franchise’s struggles against the St. Louis Blues.
Gaudreau looks to continue his strong early season play Tuesday night and help the Flames beat the visiting Blues for only the fourth time in the last 14 meetings.
Calgary (1-1-0) was blown out at home by the Canucks 5-1 in Wednesday’s season opener before regrouping for a 3-2 overtime win at Vancouver on Saturday – a tight win fueled by the 22-year-old Gaudreau. The second-year left winger had two assists and scored the overtime winner, giving him a point on each of the Flames’ goals this season.
"You can’t teach to be great in big moments. This guy’s got it," coach Bob Hartley said. "Every time I see that he has the puck on his stick I feel that we have a chance to win. That’s who he is and that’s how he plays."
Gaudreau teams with 21-year-old Sean Monahan and veteran Jiri Hudler on Calgary’s top line, which has combined for nine of the team’s 11 points.
Calgary may need plenty from that group to end its struggles against St. Louis (1-1-0), which has outscored the Flames 45-19 during a 10-3-0 stretch in the series. All three Flames wins came in Calgary, but the Blues have a 9-0 scoring edge in the last two visits.
Last season was especially brutal for Calgary, which lost three against St. Louis by a combined 12-2 score. Gaudreau and Monahan have totaled a goal and an assist in their brief careers against the Blues, while Hudler has five goals and 16 assists in 43 meetings.
Calgary goaltender Jonas Hiller started each game against St. Louis last season and allowed 10 of the 12 goals with the other two coming on empty nets.
Hiller sat out the opener in favor of Karri Ramo, but jumped back in net to earn Saturday’s win with 28 saves. Joni Ortio is Calgary’s third option in net, but Hartley has said he will stay with the hot goalie, meaning the job is likely Hiller’s for now.
Tuesday’s game marks the second of a six-game trip for St. Louis after it opened with a 3-1 home win over Edmonton on Thursday. The Blues began the road swing with a 3-2 loss at Minnesota on Saturday and finish against Edmonton, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Montreal.
The Blues might be without young center Robby Fabbri for much of the trip after he left Saturday’s loss in the first period when he took an elbow to the head.
"It affected us quite a bit," coach Ken Hitchcock said of the injury to Fabbri, who netted his first NHL goal against the Oilers.
David Backes led the Blues’ offensive outburst against Calgary last season with two goals and three assists, while Jori Lehtera and Alexander Steen each scored twice with one helper. Paul Stastny contributed a goal and four assists.
Vladimir Tarasenko had a goal and an assist against the Flames last year, and he leads St. Louis with two goals and an assist this season. In his last five against Calgary, Tarasenko has three goals and three assists.