Blues look to get offense back on track
(AP) — The Vancouver Canucks and St. Louis Blues could meet in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, but both are presently focused on simply improving their play in the final two weeks of the season.
While the visiting Canucks try for a second straight victory, the Blues hope to avoid a third consecutive defeat Tuesday night.
Ryan Kesler scored twice and Derek Roy recorded his first goal with his new team and added an assist as Vancouver (24-12-6) won for the fifth time in six games, 5-2 at Nashville on Monday. The Northwest Division-leading Canucks, who have a five-point lead over Minnesota, have scored 23 goals in that six-game span.
Kesler has three goals and three assists in four games since missing 19 with a broken foot. Roy was held without a point in four straight contests before breaking out Monday. The line of Kesler, Roy and Jannik Hansen combined for three goals with three assists against the Predators and has the potential to be a huge asset during the postseason.
“It was all right,” Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault told the NHL’s official website of that line’s performance. “I thought it had some good moments. … They showed some good offensive abilities.”
The Canucks split their first two meetings this season with seventh-place St. Louis (23-16-2). If the Blues are to earn a postseason berth, Vancouver is one of the teams it could face in the opening round.
St. Louis, however, must find a way to generate some offense after it scored five goals the last five games and was outscored 6-1 in consecutive losses to Columbus and Chicago.
“I think it’s a fine line the whole season at this time. Everybody’s on the fine line,” coach Ken Hitchcock told the Blues’ official website. “You need something positive to happen, somebody to step up and get us to the next level.”
The Blues recorded 30 shots at home Sunday, but seemed to have few prime scoring chances during a 2-0 loss to the Blackhawks.
“I don’t think we can dwell on any of the past games,” said Blues captain David Backes, who has one point in five games. “One of the things about the condensed schedule is if you start to dwell on your past or how good you’ve been, how bad you’ve been, quickly it can bite you.”
Brian Elliott made 24 saves but he allowed his first goal in four starts, snapping a scoreless string of 214 minutes in the second period.
“I’m not concerned about the streak, it’s getting the win,” said Elliott, who is 3-4-1 with a 2.14 goals-against average against the Canucks, but has not faced them in 2013.
St. Louis, which went 0 for 3 on the power play versus Chicago, is 6 for 72 (8.3 percent) with the man advantage over the last 27 contests.
“We’re playing pretty well 5-on-5, our penalty killing really gives us a chance every night, but whether it’s top players scoring or whether it’s a little more contribution from the power play, whatever, that’s the edge,” Hitchcock said. “We have to find that edge.”
St. Louis’ Chris Stewart has a team-leading 16 goals but one in 11 contests. He has one in 21 career games against Vancouver.