Blues-Blue Jackets Preview

The St. Louis Blues have been getting plenty of offensive

production throughout their lineup.

The struggling Columbus Blue Jackets are just looking for

someone to step up after trading star forward Rick Nash last

summer.

St. Louis will try to extend its best start in 15 seasons on

Thursday night when the Blue Jackets open their longest homestand

of the season.

Playing six games in the opening nine days of the season was a

daunting task, but the Blues (5-1-0) completed that stretch with

three straight wins following a 3-2 road loss at Chicago on Jan.

22.

Led by Chris Stewart and Vladimir Tarsenko, who each have four

goals, seven Blues have found the back of the net at least twice.

Nine have recorded at least four points in St. Louis’ quickest

start since opening 7-1-0 in 1997-98.

“Everybody’s scoring right now, so it’s working good,”

defenseman Roman Polak told the Blues’ official website after

assisting on Vladimir Sobotka’s game-winner in their last game,

Sunday’s 5-4 overtime victory over Minnesota.

It’s a different story in Columbus, where the Blue Jackets will

play their next six games. They are struggling to score goals

without Nash, who was traded to the New York Rangers in July after

leading the team in goals and points in each of the previous five

seasons.

Center Artem Anisimov, who was acquired in that deal, is tied

with Mark Letestu and Vinny Prospal with a team-high two goals.

That trio has combined for four of the Blue Jackets’ seven goals

during their last five games.

The lack of scoring makes it even more critical for Columbus

(2-4-1) to avoid falling behind. They’ve given up the first goal

five times, been outscored 7-2 in the first period and have fallen

behind 2-0 on three occasions. The Blue Jackets were down by two in

the first period of Tuesday’s 3-2 loss at Minnesota.

“We play our best hockey when we’re playing from behind, but it

seems like we’re always playing from behind,” said defenseman Jack

Johnson, whose third-period power-play goal was the team’s first

score with the man advantage in five games. “It would be nice to

get a lead for a change.”

More shots would also be nice after Columbus had a season-low

19.

The Blues, though, are yielding a league-low 19.5 shots per

contest.

Columbus is hoping a pair of call-ups can generate a spark after

center Jonathan Audy-Marchessault and defenseman Tim Erixon were

recalled Wednesday. Marchessault had 16 goals and a team-high 45

points in 42 games for the Falcons, while Erixon led all

Springfield defensemen with five goals and 24 assists in 40

games.

It’s uncertain if Jaroslav Halak or Brian Elliott will be in net

for Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, the Blue Jackets former coach, but

either one could give Columbus fits.

Halak is 3-0-0 with a 1.69 goals-against average and two

shutouts in four starts, and another clean sheet would tie Glenn

Hall’s franchise record of 16. Halak, though, has allowed six goals

on 34 shots in his two road starts.

Elliott won both of his starts against the Blue Jackets last

season, giving up one goal each time.

First-year Blue Jackets netminder Sergei Bobrovsky has yet to

face St. Louis.

Backup Steve Mason has turned aside 60 of 62 shots while winning

his last two starts against the visiting Blues.

St. Louis won 2-1 in its last visit to Nationwide Arena on March

11, and has won four of five there.