Ducks-Blues Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated February 09, 2013
St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock is wondering where the team effort that helped his club get off to a solid start has gone in the last few games. Looking back on their recent home matchups with the Anaheim Ducks may provide some inspiration. St. Louis looks to end a three-game losing streak Saturday night by earning a sixth straight home victory over Anaheim, which is coming off its first regulation road loss. The Blues (6-4-0) won six of their first seven games, though Hitchcock said his team has fallen into "individual agendas" before storming out of his postgame press conference after Thursday's 5-1 loss to Detroit. St. Louis' skid began with a 5-3 defeat at Detroit on Feb. 1 before it fell 6-1 at home to Nashville on Tuesday. Only one of the Blues' goals during their skid has come at even strength. "We're cheating all over the ice. We're cheating each other, we're cheating the game and we're paying the price for it," Hitchcock said. "You hope that sooner or later the players have had enough and they're willing to make the changes necessary." Rookie Vladimir Tarasenko had five goals and five assists in his first eight games, though he hasn't recorded a point while posting a minus-3 rating over the last two. "When you have players playing under the bar, it's hard to win hockey games,'' Hitchcock said. "Our team game is not good right now.'' Brian Elliott hasn't been very good in goal, either, compiling a 4.99 goals-against average during the losing streak. He replaced Jaroslav Halak in the first period Feb. 1 after Halak sustained a groin injury that landed him in injured reserve. Elliott, who is 1-2-1 with a 3.62 GAA in four career starts versus Anaheim, will get the nod again Saturday. "Goals are going to go in. The best goaltenders in the world let in goals,'' Elliott said. "You can't be too hard on yourself. We'll figure it out. It's just a matter of time.'' The Blues have won five straight home meetings with a 27-10 scoring advantage over the Ducks (7-2-1), who may be dealing with an injured goaltender of their own. Jonas Hiller allowed two goals on 14 shots and suffered a lower-body injury in the first period of Friday's 3-1 loss to Dallas - the team's second stop on a six-game road trip. Viktor Fasth, who has won each of his four starts with a 0.98 GAA, made 11 saves in relief and could get the start Saturday. Coach Bruce Boudreau said Hiller will be evaluated further in St. Louis. Anaheim's loss ended a four-game winning streak and marked its first regulation defeat on the road after starting 3-0-1. "I want them to know that they didn't come ready to play and that's what happens when you play good hockey clubs and you're not ready to play,'' Boudreau said. "You can't win hockey games playing 40 minutes. It's a 60-minute game.'' Despite Friday's loss, the Ducks appear to be a much-improved team from last season, when it took them 24 games to earn their seventh victory. They didn't win their third road contest until their 18th try. The home team has won the last nine matchups in this series.
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