DENVER - Paul Stastny might be playing the best hockey of his nearly two-year stint with the St. Louis Blues.
Entering tonight’s 7 p.m. game against the Colorado Avalanche (NBCSN, KMOX), Stastny has scored four goals and 12 assists over the last 11 games - those 16 points are the best in the League since March 9. The stretch includes six multi-point games in the last nine and points in four straight.
It helps that the 30-year-old center has also developed some real chemistry with linemates Troy Brouwer and Robby Fabbri, although Fabbri (lower-body) will miss his second consecutive game tonight.
“I think it’s a mix of hard work and when things are going well, you’re playing with confidence,” Stastny said. “Everything seems to be a little easier, everything slows down a little bit. To be the best I can be, I’ve got to try to be positive all the time, even when things aren’t going well. Just be a good player all around, because we all rely on each other in this game. There are not too many individuals that can just do it all by themselves.”
During the Blues’ recent five-game winning streak, Stastny contributed seven assists. In Fridays’ 6-5 loss to the Bruins, he contributed a goal and an assist. His increased production is coming at the best time - right as the Blues will need some big performances as the club seeks home-ice advantage and a division title before the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin.
“I know what kind of player I am, I know what I can bring to the table. I set high standards for myself,” Stastny said after Saturday’s practice. “I’ve always done well in the second half of the season. I don’t know why, but it’s always been like that. It’s all about feeling the most comfortable you can and playing the right way, especially this time of year as you go into playoffs.”
“(He) has really elevated his game to another level,” Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said of Stastny. “His overall conscience, his positioning, his angling, his strength on the puck, his competitiveness. The whole thing… It’s really impressive the way Paul is playing right now.”
WINNING STEAK ENDS
The Blues’ five-game winning streak was ended with Friday night’s loss to the Bruins. Hitchcock said that the Blues weren’t ready for Boston’s desperation - the Bruins had just a one point lead over Detroit in the battle for playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference.
"We weren't ready to go,” Hitchcock said. “We got going at periods of time... But we weren't sharp, and saying that we scored five goals.”
The Blues will need to be ready to go tonight. The Avalanche are an extremely desperate club - they trail Minnesota by five points for the final Wild Card spot in the West, and could be eliminated from playoff contention if the Wild beat the Winnipeg Jets and the Avalanche lose in regulation to the Blues.
Stastny said the Blues would be fine if they just stick to their game.
“That’s what we’re preaching to all the guys,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, whether we’re playing a team ahead of us or a team behind us in the standings. We’ve got to keep playing the way we want to play, especially coming to the playoffs. We’ve got a certain structure that we play, a certain style, and when we stick to that, that’s when we’re successful.”
The Blues did not hold a morning skate today, but after Saturday’s practice, Hitchcock hinted that he might move Jaden Schwartz to Stastny’s line, while also putting Dmitrij Jaskin with Patrik Berglund and David Backes.
Fabbri and Jay Bouwmeester won’t play tonight, but Carl Gunnarsson (lower-body) will return after missing three games.
Petteri Lindbohm will sit out.
The Blues are 1-1-2 against the Avalanche this season but won in last week’s meeting at Scottrade Center (3-1).
Since the All-Star break, the Blues are averaging 3.08 goals per game, which is fourth best in the League. Before the break, the Blues were averaging 2.22 (22nd). Since the beginning of March, the Blues are scoring 3.62 goals per game, which is second-best overall behind Pittsburgh.
Jake Allen is 7-1-0 in his last nine starts and will be between the pipes tonight. Brian Elliott was given the day off and did not make the trip. Anders Nilsson will back up tonight.
If the Blues hope to win the division, they need to win tonight against the Avalanche. The Stars can win the Central with a win against Anaheim and a Blues’ regulation loss tonight.