Islanders-Blues Preview

The St. Louis Blues return home after facing a pair of tough

West Coast opponents and losing consecutive games in regulation for

the first time.

The prospects for a quick turnaround seem high Thursday night

when they meet the New York Islanders, one of the NHL’s worst road

teams.

The Blues (18-5-3) lost 3-2 at Los Angeles on Monday after

Friday’s 6-3 defeat in San Jose. They fell behind 3-0 early in the

second period against the Kings and 4-0 in the first versus the

Sharks.

“I think there’s lessons to be learned,” defenseman Jay

Bouwmeester told the team’s official website. “Both games, right

from the start, we got outcompeted. We’re a team that prides

ourselves on our work and being able to grind teams out, and we

kind of got a taste of our own medicine, I guess, the last couple

of games, and we didn’t respond well.”

That hasn’t been the case for the Blues at home. Their 24 points

there tie them for the most in the Western Conference, and they’ve

won four straight at Scottrade Center.

Jaroslav Halak allowed all three goals against the Kings after

giving up four in winning his previous four starts. He will start

again after going 5-1-1 with a 1.41 goals-against average and .955

save percentage in seven games against the Islanders (8-15-5).

Kevin Shattenkirk and Vladimir Tarasenko scored third-period

goals Monday for the Blues, but it wasn’t enough to compensate for

the slow start.

“Outplayed significantly in the first period, outcompeted, not

ready for the tempo,” coach Ken Hitchcock said. “That’s our

responsibility. Players and coaches, we’ve got to get ready for the

tempo of the game. We revved it up halfway through the hockey game.

We can’t play like that.”

The last-place Islanders embark on a daunting five-game road

trip against the West. Already riding an 0-5-2 skid, there’s the

potential for things to get ugly as they face five of the top eight

teams in the West.

The Islanders are 3-9-0 on the road, with those six points

ranking last in the league.

“My frustration is the same as what the players are feeling

because we’ve all been there,” coach Jack Capuano said after

Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime loss to Pittsburgh.

Kyle Okposo scored a pair of first-period goals for the

Islanders, but they were unable to hold a third-period lead for a

second straight game. John Tavares assisted on both, and his 32

points have him among the league leaders.

New York has scored more than two goals once during the

seven-game slide and three times during a 2-10-2 stretch.

The Islanders are 4-2-2 when leading after two periods, and

their 17 third-period goals rank 28th.

“In the third period I didn’t think we had the same jam,” Okposo

told the team’s official website. “We didn’t get at them like we

did in the first two periods. We have to do a better job of closing

out games.”

Doing a better job of closing out opponents’ power plays would

also help. The Islanders allowed two power-play goals against the

Penguins, and their 71.4 penalty-kill percentage is among the worst

in the league.

“It came down to special teams again,” Capuano said.

The Blues’ 23.9 power-play percentage ranks among the best in

the NHL.

They’ve won three of four over the Islanders, including 5-1 in

St. Louis in the last meeting Feb. 16, 2012.