OTTAWA - Looking for an offensive spark, the Blues are primarily focused right now on getting back to a solid defensive game.
The belief is that if you start there, the offense will come.
“The last couple games, we’ve given up a few too many odd-man rushes and maybe forced the offense a little bit too much,” said defenseman Barret Jackman. “We know that our team is defense-first. We create a lot of chances off of our checking.”
The Blues, typically a very strong defensive team, have lost two consecutive games after winning 10 of the previous 11. They’ve scored only one goal in the first two games of this four-game road trip.
“To me, unless we clean up our own end, it doesn't matter how many goals we score," Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said after Thursday’s 4-1 loss in Montreal. "We made some mistakes on our half of the red line.”
Cleaning up those mistakes starts this afternoon at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, where the Blues will meet the Senators at 2 p.m. CT (FSMW, KMOX).
The Senators are coming off of a 3-2 win against the Nashville Predators on Thursday, a game in which Ottawa scored three times in the second period. Overall, the Senators are 9-5-4 and have just one regulation loss at home (5-1-3).
A key to beating the Senators would be keeping defenseman Erik Karlsson in check. The 24-year-old Swede is one of Ottawa’s biggest offensive weapons and has 13 points in 18 games this season.
“(He’s) one of the best offensive defensemen in the league,” Jackman said. “We make him play defense, turn to get the puck and we kind of neutralize his ability to affect the game.”
When asked if he thought the team was frustrated offensively, Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said he didn’t think so.
“I don’t know if frustration is the right word,” Pietrangelo said. “We’ve got a pretty positive group here. We’re more determined about finding ways to generate more offense.”
The success of the ‘STL Line’ of Jaden Schwartz, Jori Lehtera and Vladimir Tarasenko is well-documented, but the Blues are looking for more production out of the rest of the forward group.
“To be honest, I think we could be generating a lot more chances and more offense,” Blues forward Alexander Steen said of his line. “I think recently we’ve been doing a lot better job of finding each other and finding that chemistry and getting a lot of chances, but I think there’s a few notches still there. We need to find those rather quickly.
“At a time when our team is looking for offense, we’re part of that group that needs to generate a lot more, so we take a lot of responsibility in that part.”
Brian Elliott is expected to start today against the Senators. He was drafted by Ottawa in the ninth round (No. 291 overall) at the 2003 NHL Draft.
The Blues have had just six power-play opportunities over the last four games. “A lot of power plays are generated off your offensive zone time, the way that you play offense,” Steen said. “We need to find a little more inspiration in our offensive game, a little more creativity.”