Blues-Avalanche Preview

Stalwart defensive play lifted the St. Louis Blues to the best

start in team history. An injury-depleted blue line and shoddy

goaltending have been major factors in slowing down that surge.

The Blues look to avoid a season-high fourth consecutive defeat

when they face the inconsistent Colorado Avalanche on Monday

night.

St. Louis (9-3-3) yielded 17 goals during a 9-1-2 start, but has

given up 16 during its skid. The Blues surrendered a season-high

three power-play goals in a 5-3 loss at Phoenix on Saturday after

killing off all 18 power-play chances in the previous five

games.

“We waited around to see how this game would be defined, instead

of defining play ourselves,” coach Davis Payne said.

St. Louis is missing three of its top six defenseman in Barret

Jackman, Carlo Colaiacovo and Roman Polak. Colaiacovo is the

closest of the three to returning after practicing Thursday.

With the Blues near the bottom of the league with 38 goals, the

club will likely need a better effort than it’s been getting in

net.

Jaroslav Halak is 8-2-2 and among the NHL leaders with a 1.79

goals-against average, but he’s yielded six goals in losing his

last two starts. Backup Ty Conklin has allowed four scores in each

of his last two appearances.

While the Blues try to straighten out their defensive issues,

the Avalanche (8-7-1) are looking for more steady production from

their top lines as they open a three-game homestand.

Colorado has alternated losses and wins in its previous five

games. The Avs are averaging 5.3 goals in their last four victories

while scoring four times in their previous three defeats.

Defenseman John-Michael Liles, tied with Milan Hejduk with a

team-high 12 assists, got his first goal of the season in a 3-1

loss at Detroit on Saturday.

Chris Stewart leads the Avalanche with 10 goals and 18 points,

but has one goal in the last five games. David Jones and Paul

Stastny each have six goals, but have managed three between them in

the team’s eight losses.

While coach Joe Sacco needs more consistency from his top

scorers, Colorado on Saturday got back captain Adam Foote to help

solidify its play in front of goaltender Peter Budaj. The veteran

defenseman had missed eight games due to a concussion.

Budaj, 2-2-0 with a 1.77 GAA in four starts at the Pepsi Center,

went 2-0-0 with a 1.50 GAA versus the Blues last season. He stopped

35 shots in a 4-0 victory at St. Louis on Dec. 7.

The Blues have gone 1 for 27 on the power play in their last

seven games, but the seven teams to visit Denver this season have

converted 35.5 percent (11 of 31) with the man advantage.

St. Louis and Colorado meet three more times in 2010-11.