Devils-Blues Preview (Dec 15, 2016)

BY AP • December 15, 2016

ST. LOUIS -- Coach Ken Hitchcock and the St. Louis Blues are happy to be back home after a tough road trip.

The Blues saw their four-game trip end with a thud on Tuesday night as they gave up four goals in the third period, part of a string of six unanswered goals, in a 6-3 loss at Nashville in a game they once led 3-0.

The loss capped a 1-3 trip for the Blues which dropped their road record this season to 4-9-1. Only three teams in the NHL have fewer wins away from home.

Hitchcock was upset not only about the latest loss but about defeats earlier in the trip against the Islanders and Wild. The Blues were tied 2-2 after the second period against the Islanders before losing 3-2; they trailed the Wild by a goal, 2-1, going to the third period but lost 3-1.

"We had a 3-2 lead going to the third period, and we had the game taken from us," Hitchcock said following Tuesday night's loss. "That's three games where the game's been taken from us in the third period. Same thing in New York, same thing in Minnesota."

Said defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, "It's always tough being at the end of a road trip. But we can't use that as an excuse. It's a night where we needed everyone to chip in. We can't use that as an excuse."

The Blues' only win on the trip was a 3-1 victory at New Jersey, their opponent on Thursday night when they play the first of three consecutive games at home, where they are 12-1-3 so far this season.

The Devils have lost their last three games by a combined score of 14-3 against the Canadiens, Blues and Rangers. They have not played since they were shut out 5-0 by the Rangers on Sunday.

Center Travis Zajac told the Newark Star-Ledger that the biggest reason for the team's recent struggles is easy to identify.

"It's not a talent thing or anything like that. It's work ethic," Zajac told the newspaper. "We can bring that consistently through the lineup, four lines and six (defenseman). When you don't have it, we're pretty easy to play against.

"It's still going to be on the leaders. We have to do a better job of pushing everyone in the same direction and showing up and giving our best game. It's about consistency, and the good teams that have it are winning games."

Zajac hopes to see that in the game against the Blues, knowing the team needs to find some way to turn around a stretch which has seen them win only two of their last nine games. They have won only once in regulation since Nov. 12.

"There's no easy way to win games," he said. "There's no magic formula or structure or anything like that. It always comes down to compete and work ethic. If you don't have that, you don't give yourself a chance."



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