Blues-Blue Jackets Preview
Ken Hitchcock felt the only way to inspire the St. Louis Blues after back-to-back defeats was to completely rearrange his line combinations.
Now he has to decide if he wants to stick with the new look.
It seems wise to keep intact the new top line of David Backes, Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen heading into Tuesday night's road game against the Columbus Blue Jackets after a solid performance from the trio.
Backes scored twice - including the tiebreaking goal in the second period - and added an assist in Monday's 3-2 win over Winnipeg. Tarasenko scored for the third straight game and had an assist, and Steen assisted on Backes' winner.
The Blues (12-5-1) came in off consecutive games in regulation for the first time this season, prompting Hitchcock's makeover. Backes replaced Jori Lehtera, who had centered the top line for 12 games after Paul Stastny was injured but moved down to the second line with Dmitrij Jaskin and Troy Brouwer.
With Jaskin's promotion, Robby Fabbri played with Scott Gomez and Magnus Paajarvi on the third unit, and Jeremy Welsh made his team debut in place of Ryan Reaves, who was scratched.
Hitchcock also split up the defensive pairing of Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo.
''You don't know what that's going to be like, and then you're out there (and Tarasenko) makes a lot of time and space," Backes said. "(Steen) was fantastic, creating plays and making plays happen and I was the beneficiary of a few of them."
It remains to be seen if the lineup will look the same against the Blue Jackets (6-12-0), who are trying to win three straight for the first time this season.
Columbus earned its first home victory Saturday by beating Arizona 5-2, ending a franchise-worst 0-6-0 home start. William Karlsson scored twice, Boone Jenner had a goal and two assists and Ryan Johansen had one of each.
The Blue Jackets played their straight game without Brandon Dubinsky, who was placed in injured reserve earlier Saturday with an elbow injury that's expected to keep him out for at least a couple weeks.
''It's a monkey off the back,'' Karlsson said. ''Now we know we can win (at home)."
With Dubinsky out, coach John Tortorella had settled on moving Nick Foligno to center for at least this contest. Foligno mostly has played on the wing in his career and had career highs of 31 goals and 73 points there last season.
He has only one goal this year, while Jenner leads the club with nine.
"We talked about a number of different people," Tortorella told the team's official website after practice Monday. "I think Nick can handle the change. I just don't want to screw around with Jenner's game. Nick volunteered. He felt comfortable and that's what we went with."
The Blue Jackets now look to keep rolling. Foligno had two goals and an assist in a 7-1 victory over the Blues on Feb. 6 before Jenner scored and added an assist in a 4-2 victory March 28 to sweep the season series.
"It's going to be a competitive game," Tortorella said. "If we're not ready to compete, it could get ugly really quickly."
Sergei Bobrovsky has stopped 55 of 58 shots while winning the last two. He started both meetings with the Blues last season and could be in net again for this matchup.
Brian Elliott could get the call for St. Louis after Jake Allen won Monday. Elliott hasn't started since giving up four goals on 15 shots in a loss to Chicago on Nov. 4.