Blues-Maple Leafs Preview
The St. Louis Blues ended 2015 with some offensive shortcomings, but trips to Toronto tend to fix that.
Ken Hitchcock's team heads north to face the Maple Leafs on Saturday night, looking to extend a run of success in Canada's largest city that dates back 18 years.
The Blues (23-13-4) last lost in regulation in Toronto on Feb. 4, 1998, going 9-0-1 with one tie since while scoring an average of 4.36 goals, but Thursday's 3-1 home loss to Minnesota and this season's scoring issues are what's fresh in their minds.
St. Louis has five goals in a 1-2-0 span - four coming in the win - and it sounded like Hitchcock was considering line changes after his forwards failed to score for the second time in those three games. Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk scored for a second straight contest.
"I think that's something we've got to have an honest look here in the next 24 hours and what we're doing offensively and see if we can get some more juice by possibly blowing some of this up," Hitchcock told the team's official website. "We're not scoring, we're not scoring five-on-five."
It's not just a recent trend. The Blues averaged 2.91 goals last season, fifth in the NHL, but they're down to 22nd at 2.45 this season and have scored more than two five-on-five goals once in the last five games.
"We're living on the fine line of scoring one goal, and it wasn't five-on-five either," Hitchcock said. "We just can't keep living on the fine line that we're living on right now scoring one and two goals and still getting points. Today was a game where we had a great start, probably from five minutes left in the first period, the balance of the game was probably even.
"We were better the first 15 minutes, but if you're playing even or a little bit better, you've got to get points. But it's hard living with one goal."
The scoring could get a boost with Patrik Berglund expected to make his season debut after being shelved by offseason shoulder surgery.
The season series started with the Maple Leafs' 4-1 road win Dec. 5 that ended a four-game skid against the Blues. Nazem Kadri had two goals.
St. Louis' Vladimir Tarasenko scored for the second straight game against the Maple Leafs, but he's in danger of going goalless in four straight contests for the first time this season. Despite that, Tarasenko is two off the league lead with 22.
Toronto (14-15-7) returns home after Wednesday's 3-2 shootout win at Pittsburgh. Since the victory over the Blues, the Maple Leafs have gone 6-2-2 and averaging 3.60 goals per game.
Team points leader James van Riemsdyk has three goals and four assists in a five-game point streak.
James Reimer won't dress because of a groin injury, so Jonathan Bernier will again be in goal after making 39 saves against the Penguins.
"I thought Bernier was real good," coach Mike Babcock told the team's official website. "He was mentally strong and he came out and played real well."
Bernier, though, has gone 3-2-0 with a 3.40 goals-against average since shutting out Los Angeles on Dec. 19. He's 1-4-2 with a 3.71 GAA at home, and 2-5-0 with a 3.46 GAA in eight games against the Blues.
Jake Allen saw his three-game winning streak come to an end against the Wild, but he's posted a 1.70 GAA in a four-game span. The loss to the Maple Leafs was his first game against them.