The Columbus Blue Jackets will try to end an extended slump when they host the St. Louis Blues on Friday night.
But the Blue Jackets, 1-5-2 in their last eight games, must do it against one of the NHL’s hottest teams.
The Blues carry an eight-game point streak (7-0-1) into the game. They fell to the Arizona Coyotes 3-2 in a shootout Tuesday night.
Columbus is also coming off a 3-2 shootout loss Tuesday night against the Montreal Canadiens. They put 35 shots on goaltender Carey Price but only beat him twice.
“That’s the way it’s going for us right now,” Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski said afterward.
Most of the top Columbus players are struggling, including defenseman Seth Jones (one goal in 18 games) and forwards Cam Atkinson (three goals), Gustav Nyquist (three goals) and Josh Anderson (one goal in 12 games).
“It’s the law of averages, right?” Atkinson, a 41-goal scorer last season, told the Columbus Dispatch. “Hopefully, it breaks. I mean, it’s a long season. It’s bound to go our way, and I think it’s good that we’re facing this at the beginning of the season, not toward the middle or the end, going into playoffs.”
The Blue Jackets are averaging just 2.33 goals per game, fewest in the NHL, but they rank eighth in shots on goal per game (33.7).
“It’s not something you expect,” Jones said. “I don’t know how to answer that question, I guess. I don’t know what the right word is.”
On the other hand, goaltenders Elvis Merzlikins (.919 save percentage in his last four games) and Joonas Korpisalo (.917 in his last four) have played better lately.
The Blue Jackets will play without forward Nick Foligno, who is serving a three-game NHL suspension for his high hit on Colorado Avalanche forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare on Saturday night.
Like the Blue Jackets, the Blues have been playing lots of close games lately. But they won five overtime games during their seven-game winning streak.
“We’ve had a lot of overtimes, but the bottom line is we’re getting points in all of these games,” defenseman Colton Parayko said. “Maybe we could play some better, possibly. But at the same time we are getting the points and that’s obviously the greatest thing.”
The tandem of Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron have been driving the Blues offense. O’Reilly has four goals and seven assists in his last eight games and Perron has three goals and seven assists during that span.
With veteran forwards Vladimir Tarasenko (shoulder surgery) and Alexander Steen (sprained ankle) sidelined, the Blues are looking at veteran forwards Troy Brouwer and Jamie McGinn. Both agreed to tryouts and they are practicing with the team.
But with neither ready to play Friday and the Blues set to play on back-to-back nights, the team recalled power forward prospect Klim Kostin from San Antonio of the American Hockey League to provide insurance.
“It looks like (Kostin) is coming along and (he is) certainly someone who’s on our radar screen when we need a player,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. “He would like to get right into the sprint and we’re trying to slow him down a bit.”
–Field Level Media