St. Louis Blues Look to End Slump in Visit to Buffalo Sabres


The Blues will look to be more aggressive against an emergent Sabres team that made things too close for comfort in the clubs’ Thursday meeting at Scottrade Center.

St. Louis Blues Game 22/82: Monday, November 23, 6:00 PM at Buffalo Sabres

After starting the season at a torrid pace, even as injuries to key pieces like Paul Stastny, Jaden Schwartz, and Kevin Shattenkirk occurred, the St. Louis Blues seem to have returned to earth in the past two weeks. While it would normally be OK for a team to slump a bit during the season’s second month, that type of drop-off could be extremely risky in a Central Division that is by far the league’s best this year.

Despite losing four of their past six and backing into close wins over Winnipeg Jets and Buffalo Sabres teams that have struggled significantly, the Blues still sit in second place in the ultra-competitive Central Division. To present a clearer picture of how crucial every win is in the Central, though, consider this: the Chicago Blackhawks, who are in fifth place in the division, would be in playoff position if they played in any other division in the NHL, as their 24 points would guarantee them third place anywhere else. The Blues have some good cushion with 28 points through their first 21 games, but the Minnesota Wild and Nashville Predators are both within three points of second place, and the Blackhawks are just four away.

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To get back on the winning track, the Blues definitely need to start creating more offense. After getting off to a scorching start offensively, the Blues haven’t scored more than three goals in any of their past seven games. There’s been little chemistry among the forward lines with frequent lineup changes occurring, and the recent injury to defenseman Colton Parayko also lessened the ability of the blueline corps to contribute offensively.

On Monday, the Blues will attempt to be more forceful against an 8-10-2 Sabres team that took them to a shootout this past Thursday at Scottrade Center. Despite a very steady performance from Jake Allen in net, the Blues didn’t get much offensive help at all outside of goals from their two really steady offensive contributors as of late, forward Vladimir Tarasenko and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. Two second-period Buffalo goals led to a tie, and after there was little offensive traction created on either side during the five-minute 3-on-3 period, the teams had to go to a shootout, where Alexander Steen’s game-winning goal in the third round was the only successful attempt.

The Blues might be able to get center Paul Stastny back for Monday’s game. Stastny, who has missed the team’s past 16 games with a broken foot, has been skating for nearly two weeks and rejoined the team for practice last week. If he’s feeling right Monday morning, he’ll get back in the lineup, but the Blues won’t want to insert him unless they’re absolutely sure that he’s ready, for fear that he could be at risk to re-injure the foot.

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It’s unknown who Stastny would displace from the lineup, though center Scott Gomez might be a possibility, as his removal would open up a center position for Stastny without David Backes or Jori Lehtera having to move to a wing. Though the 35-year-old Gomez has been very good this season while playing a much larger role than anyone expected him to going into the season, he’s struggled a bit lately, being held pointless in his last five games while playing a team-low 9:35 of ice time in Saturday’s game and earning a minus-2 rating.

Though he hasn’t been as spectacular over his past few games as he was on his mega-hot streak a couple weeks ago, Jake Allen has still been steady in net and will almost certainly get the start again versus Buffalo on Monday. Allen earned the first star in Thursday’s meeting with the Sabres for his 32 saves on 34 shots and his shutdown of Buffalo during the Blues’ first shootout of the season.

Here’s how the lineup could look on Monday if Stastny returns:

Alexander Steen-Paul StastnyVladimir Tarasenko

Robby FabbriDavid BackesTroy Brouwer

Magnus PaajarviJori LehteraScottie Upshall

Steve OttKyle BrodziakDmitrij Jaskin

Jay BouwmeesterAlex Pietrangelo

Carl GunnarssonColton Parayko

Joel EdmundsonKevin Shattenkirk

Jake Allen

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