After opening the season with seven regulation losses in their first 43 games, the St. Louis Blues have failed to pick up a point in four of their last six.
They’ll try to shake off that recent poor stretch Thursday night in a visit to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, where they haven’t lost in regulation in 16 years.
St. Louis (33-11-5) suffered its most lopsided loss of the season Tuesday at New Jersey, a 7-1 defeat that left coach Ken Hitchcock with nothing positive to say about his slumping club.
"We were poor right across the board," Hitchcock said. "Poor with our discipline. Our top players took poor penalties. Poor in every aspect of our game. We’re going to have to regroup. This is on everybody, on me, the players. A total team loss."
New York (27-22-3), meanwhile, let a two-goal lead slip away in its bid for a season-best fourth straight win Tuesday, falling 5-3 at home to the New York Islanders. The second-place Rangers fell to 12-12-3 at home this season while the Blues have been one of the league’s best road teams at 15-6-3.
St. Louis hasn’t played at MSG since November 2010, but it’s gone 6-0-1 on the road against the Rangers since last losing there Jan. 20, 1998.
Hitchcock’s team, however, is likely more concerned with its recent struggles than its past Garden success. The Blues have been held to two goals or fewer in five of their last six, a 2-4-0 stretch.
Brian Elliott allowed three goals on nine shots against the Devils before being replaced in the first period by Jaroslav Halak, who allowed four on 14. Elliott has lost three straight starts while Halak is 3-1-0 with a 1.89 goals-against average since Jan. 9.
Alexander Steen scored the Blues’ only goal, his first in over a month in his third contest back from an 11-game absence due to a concussion. The team’s leading goal scorer has three points in his last two games to match T.J. Oshie for the team lead at 41.
The goal gave Steen a career-high 25 in just 38 games.
Steen paced a 5-3 home win against the Rangers on Oct. 12 with a goal and three assists, giving him six points in his last two games against New York.
Ryan Callahan scored twice for the Rangers in that meeting while Brad Richards added a goal and an assist. Richards has 15 points in his last 10 games against the Blues.
Rick Nash continued his hot streak against the Islanders, scoring two first-period goals for the second straight games to give him five in his last three.
The Rangers, however, weren’t able to hold onto a 3-1 cushion midway through the second with No. 1 goaltender Henrik Lundqvist out due to illness.
"You’re up 3-1 and you think maybe you can get through the period and play a good solid third, but we didn’t," Richards said. "We made some mistakes. Some nights other teams will capitalize, and some nights you get away with it. We didn’t get away with it."
Lundqvist expects to start against the Blues, bringing with him a 5-1-0 record, 1.34 GAA and .958 save percentage in his last six contests. He’s 0-3-0 with a 3.04 GAA in four career games against the Blues.
New York will also have some fresh defensive help after acquiring Kevin Klein on Wednesday from Nashville in exchange for defenseman Michael Del Zotto. Klein had a goal and two assists with a minus-11 rating in 47 games with the Predators.
Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko has missed the past two games with the flu.