ST. LOUIS, MO. (KMOV) - The Blues won their third straight game on Friday, putting them that much closer to their second consecutive playoff berth. However, the Blues’ fatigue was very apparent. The team was able to hold out for the 2-1 victory over the hungry Dallas Stars, but head coach Ken Hitchcock has seen enough the past two games to know it is time for a change.
The Blues have been surviving on defense and goaltending. In fact, according to Hitchcock, that has been the story of April. Brian Elliott has an 8-1-0 record in April, while the Blues’ defense is much improved due to some trade deadline acquisitions. The Blues’ scoring has disappeared at an inopportune time, and that is where Hitchcock will make some changes for Sunday’s game against the Avalanche.
“If we keep trotting this out, we are going to just go sideways or backwards,” said Hitchcock. “We have run the well dry. The guys have done a good job, but some of them are going to need some rest. We are going to se e if we can re-energize our front.”
“We’ve got to find a way to create more. We’ve got to find a way to win more dots-to-board battles in the offensive zone. We need more compete. I can tell when we can’t get into the holes (spaces) offensively. We had no foot speed on Friday.”
The Blues have gone with the same lineup for their past few games. The Blues have had some injury troubles at the forward position with T.J. Oshie and Scott Nichol battling injuries of late. Nichol has been skating and could be close to returning. T.J. Oshie is not. The Blues also have recently recalled forward Andrew Murray from the Peoria Rivermen, so he is available to use as well. Recently-signed forward Dmitrij Jaskin got his first taste of National Hockey League action on Tuesday, and despite only playing 6 minutes, 32 seconds, Hitchcock really liked his play, making him a prime candidate to be inserted into the lineup.
Another candidate to make his return to the lineup is Kris Russell. Russell, who is normally a defenseman, was inserted at the forward position on April 7 in relief of an injury-decimated forward group. Russell played just 5 minutes, 11 seconds in that game and has not played since. Hitchcock mentioned Russell’s ability to contribute after Friday’s game, and said that he is a player that needs to come into the lineup to “help us.” Look for Russell to find his way into the lineup in at least one of the next few games as the Blues look to find their offensive touch once again.
The Blues scored two goals for just the second time in their last eight games. With a lack scoring, Hitchcock views Sunday as an opportune time to switch things up a bit and give some players a bit of rest. The changes will not be permanent, however.
“I’m talking one or two guys for just a couple of games here. We will figure it out and see if we can come up with some good ideas to give us a little better jump.”
The Blues game has completely flip-flopped from the beginning of the season. The Blues are now rarely scoring more than one goal a game, while their defense and goaltending has been top-notch. At the beginning of the season, the scoring was there while the defense was lacking. Hitchcock was fascinated by the thought of how good his team can be if they can get their forwards clicking. But he also understands that with the playoffs fast-approaching he needs to rest his forwards.
“I think we’ve got to find new energy. Some other guys have got to get in and contribute. We’ve got some guys with real foot speed, some guys that are real hungry to play. We’ve got to use them to find new energy.”
Sunday’s game will be the last road game of the season for the Blues. It could turn out to be a playoff-clinching game for the team as well. With just four games remaining for the Blues, their eyes are set on the postseason, hence the need for rest. The depth of the Blues at the forward position gives the Blues a lot of possibilities in the coming games. Hopefully the changes spark some offense as the season comes to a close.