Columbus will try to snap out of its recent funk when they host the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night.
While the Blue Jackets are 10-5-1 at home under new coach Ken Hitchcock since he was hired Nov. 22, the team has gone just 1-2-0 so far on a six-game homestand and has lost four of its past five games. That slump has moved them to the bottom of the Central Division and just two points ahead of Los Angeles, which has a Western Conference-worst 47 points.
St. Louis (22-26-9) hasn't played much better lately but is four points ahead of the Blue Jackets in the division. After a 6-5 loss to San Jose on Tuesday, the Blues have lost six of eight.
The Blue Jackets (22-29-5) are hoping to turn things around after a 5-4 loss to Chicago on Sunday, but it may be tough against St. Louis. The teams have played four times this season, with each club winning twice on the road. Both of the Blues' victories in Columbus have come by shootout, including a 4-3 win on Jan. 9.
The Blue Jackets are looking for a more consistent effort after facing a three-goal deficit three times against the Blackhawks. Columbus allowed three goals in a 3:38 span in the first period to fall behind quickly and only a furious rally in the third period made the final score look closer.
"We had players who gave great effort today, and we had players who gave us nothing - as a matter of fact, took away from the team," Hitchcock said. "We have to deal with those individuals in a direct manner."
Nikolai Zherdev, who was one of the team's bright spots last season, returned to practice Tuesday after being asked to leave Monday's practice. Zherdev had 37 points in his final 39 games in 2005-06 and finished with 27 goals, but has struggled offensively this season, with only seven goals and 21 points in 46 games.
Columbus finishes the homestand against San Jose and Montreal before visiting St. Louis next Tuesday.
St. Louis is looking to recover from Tuesday's defeat in which they fell behind 5-1 before scoring two goals in the third period to make it close.
Bill Guerin had his seventh career hat trick - and first since March 3, 2004 - to give him a team-high 25 goals. But Manny Legace allowed a goal on San Jose's first shot and gave up four goals on 18 shots before being pulled for Curtis Sanford.
"Scoring goals is nice, but they're a lot nicer in a winning effort," Guerin said. "We just got behind the 8-ball a little too early."
Guerin, whose last hat trick came against Columbus when he played for Dallas, has scored a goal in three of the four meetings with the Blue Jackets this season, and has 15 goals and 23 points in 19 games against them.
- Associated Press