Originally posted on Fox Sports Midwest  |  Last updated 12/2/11
The St. Louis Blues' offensive production hasn't changed much since coach Ken Hitchcock took over last month. The difference since Davis Payne was fired is on defense. St. Louis looks to extend its season-best winning streak to five Friday night when it faces a Colorado Avalanche team trying to record consecutive home wins for the first time since January. The Blues (14-8-2), who averaged 2.46 goals during a 6-7-0 start under Payne, are scoring 2.45 per contest since Hitchcock took over Nov. 6. However, St. Louis has allowed just 13 goals while going 8-1-2 under Hitchcock. The club surrendered 32 goals in its first 13 games. With Jaroslav Halak stopping 18 shots in Tuesday's 2-1 victory at Washington, the Blues lead the league in goals allowed per game (2.00) and are facing the fewest shots per contest at 25.6. "We're starting to dial in the way we need to play to win hockey games," Hitchcock said. "When you play this well, it's a good feeling." The Blues now enter their season series opener with Colorado looking to win five straight games for the first time since last December. "The first three games, everyone's playing in front of a new coach, you're trying to make a good first impression," forward T.J. Oshie said. "Everyone's playing hard, and it seems like we haven't taken our foot off the gas since then." Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Stewart are hoping that momentum continues as they return to Denver for the first time since being traded to St. Louis for former No. 1 pick Erik Johnson and Jay McClement on Feb. 19. Stewart scored twice in a 4-3 loss to the Avalanche three days later, then Shattenkirk helped the Blues end a seven-game skid in the series with a goal and an assist in a 3-1 victory April 5. Halak stopped 26 shots in that matchup and has a 1.47 goals-against average since the coaching change - compared to 3.35 under Payne - but it might be hard for Hitchcock to keep Brian Elliott on the bench for a second straight game. Elliott is 10-1-0 with a league-best 1.31 GAA after going 6-0-0 with two shutouts and a 0.99 GAA in six November starts. Elliott was 2-8-1 with a 3.83 GAA in 12 starts for the Avs last season after being acquired from Ottawa in a Feb. 18 goaltender swap for Craig Anderson. Whoever starts in net for the Blues will face an Avs team coming off its highest-scoring home game of the season, Wednesday's 6-1 victory over New Jersey. Colorado (11-13-1) had scored no more than one goal in four of its previous six contests, and its home scoring average of 2.14 is among the lowest in the NHL. However, coach Joe Sacco is confident the club can improve after opening 5-9-0 at the Pepsi Center. "This is a tough building to come into," he said after the Avs improved to 3-3-0 on an eight-game homestand. "Sometimes it takes teams a little bit to get going in this building and we want to take advantage of that." Colorado hasn't won two in a row at home since Jan. 10 and 18. The Blues have been outscored 22-11 while losing four straight in Denver, but they're trying to win four consecutive road games for the first time since Feb. 19-March 6, 2009.
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