Preview: Steen leads Blues against Toronto, his original team
The high-scoring Alexander Steen was once a first-round draft pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who could have used his help in recent games.
The St. Louis Blues winger will instead try for another successful performance against the Maple Leafs on Thursday night.
Toronto (16-13-3) has posted one of the lowest goal-scoring averages in the league (2.09) during its 3-6-2 stretch and has a combined three goals in back-to-back losses. The Leafs outshot visiting Los Angeles 39-23 on Wednesday, but Cody Franson had the only goal in a 3-1 loss.
Toronto gave up two goals in the final 11 minutes and has been outscored 15-3 in the final periods of its last 11 games.
“They’re down because we had so many opportunities, so many offensive chances,” coach Randy Carlyle said. “If we continue to apply that type of work ethic, we’ll win our share of games, but it’s like pushing a snowball. Every time you lose, it gets bigger.”
The Blues (20-6-3), meanwhile, have won two of three after Kevin Shattenkirk scored the tiebreaking goal with 3:02 remaining in Tuesday’s 2-1 victory in Winnipeg.
“We out-fought for three pucks just to get that opportunity, which is what happened for the whole third period, which was really impressive,” coach Ken Hitchcock said. “As the game wore on, our confidence came back to fight for pucks and to battle.”
Steen tallied his 21st goal in the second period and ended a four-game drought. He is now three goals away from matching his career high set in 68 games in 2009-10, his first full season in St. Louis.
Steen, the 24th overall pick in the 2002 draft, had 50 goals and 76 assists in 253 games for Toronto before being dealt to the Blues along with defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo on Nov. 24, 2008. Steen has totaled 94 goals and 116 assists in the 313 games since, but this is shaping up to be easily his most productive campaign.
Steen will next try to add to his two goals in three career matchups with the Maple Leafs. He and the Blues are facing Toronto for the first time since a 3-2 shootout loss in St. Louis on Nov. 10, 2011.
Toronto has won the past two meetings in shootouts after losing eight of 10, and Phil Kessel tallied a combined three goals in those games. Kessel, who had the shootout winner in the most recent meeting, had four goals and four assists during a six-game point streak that was snapped in a 5-2 loss to Boston on Sunday, and he was credited with an assist in Wednesday’s defeat.
Before earning its victory in Winnipeg, St. Louis had a season-high five-game home win streak end with a 5-2 loss to Anaheim on Saturday. The Blues are 12-2-2 at home this season and 8-1-1 in their last 10 games there.
Steen has registered 22 of his 33 points at home (12 goals, 10 assists), and T.J. Oshie has two goals and nine assists during a six-game point streak at the Scottrade Center.
Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf will be wrapping up his two-game suspension Thursday for a boarding penalty in Sunday’s loss to Boston.