Red Wings-Blues Preview

The Detroit Red Wings’ defensive issues can be partially traced

to their poor penalty-killing unit.

Leaking goals is a more recent problem for the St. Louis Blues,

but both clubs are staring at a potential three-game slide.

The Red Wings and Blues are looking to show improvement

defensively Thursday night when they meet for the third time

already this season.

Detroit (4-4-1) opened the season with a 6-0 loss at St. Louis

(6-3-0) on Jan. 19, allowing the Blues to go 4 for 5 on the power

play. The Red Wings weren’t much better in the latest meeting with

the reigning Central Division champion on Friday, giving up two

more power-play goals in a 5-3 home win.

Of the 28 goals Detroit has surrendered, a league-high 13 have

come on the man-advantage.

They’ve also allowed a league-high two short-handed goals – one

to the Blues in the opener.

The penalty kill did Detroit no favors again Tuesday, giving up

two goals, with one putting the Red Wings behind by two in the

opening period of a 4-1 home defeat to Calgary. That came three

days after they blew an early lead by giving up three straight

goals in a 4-2 loss at last-place Columbus.

“Catch-up hockey is losing hockey,” coach Mike Babcock told the

team’s official website. “You can’t start from behind. You have to

start from ahead; that’s what you want to do and get playing right

from the get-go.”

St. Louis is feeling frustrated since they followed last week’s

defeat to the Red Wings with Tuesday’s 6-1 loss to Nashville to

open this four-game homestand.

“This is a team loss that has been coming for a little while,”

coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We’re allowing the other teams’

competitiveness to frustrate us. And it pushes us into individual

hockey rather than team hockey.”

The Blues haven’t dropped three straight in regulation since a

four-game skid from Feb. 27-March 5, 2011.

Vladimir Tarasenko will try to help keep them from getting

closer to that mark by rebounding from just his second pointless

performance this season. The 21-year-old rookie right wing leads

St. Louis with 10 points, and three of them have come against the

Red Wings, including a two-goal effort in the season opener.

Patrick Berglund is tied with Tarasenko for the team lead with

five goals, but he was kept off the scoresheet by the Predators

after finding the net four times over the previous five games.

The center has scored in both meetings with Detroit, and he’s

managed six goals and two assists in the past nine home

matchups.

It’s unclear if Berglund and Tarasenko will be facing Jimmy

Howard, who is expected to be rested at some point during this

stretch of three games in four days.

After visiting St. Louis, the Red Wings face Edmonton in the

opener of a four-game homestand Saturday before meeting Los Angeles

a day later.

Detroit follows that Wednesday with another meeting versus the

Blues.

Howard has played all nine games, and he’s 1-2 this month,

compiling a 3.67 goals-against average and .857 save

percentage.

“Obviously, he’s been getting too much (work),” Babcock

said.

Howard has lost three of his last four starts at St. Louis, and

allowed five goals on 28 shots in the season opener before being

pulled early in the third period for Jonas Gustavsson.

Since Gustavsson has an injured groin, Petr Mrazek could be in

line for his NHL debut. He went 16-7-3 with a 2.26 GAA in 25 games

with Grand Rapids of the AHL before being recalled Monday.