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At the Rink: Blues at Ducks

by Abbey Mastracco

ANAHEIM -- After back-to-back shootout losses, the St. Louis Blues are struggling to understand where they're doing wrong. They say they're playing well, but they've lost four straight (0-2-2).

Friday against the Anaheim Ducks (10 p.m. ET; SN, FS-MW, PRIME, FS-SD), the Blues are hoping a win will be the first step in pushing past this skid.

"We're kind of in a little bit of a rut right now," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "We're a little bit behind the 8-ball right now as far as getting a full, complete game out there. I think we're trending in the right way, the last few games have been losses, but we've done a lot of good things."

It's been a similar battle for St. Louis against Anaheim in recent seasons. Honda Center is a place where the Blues have struggled to win (15-22-3 all-time) despite some strong play.

"I think we've played some of our best hockey here and still not won," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We've left the building happy with our effort, but they've just played with more tempo than us, and it's been a little edge."

Hitchcock said the ability to match the Ducks' pace will be key.

"They really play with tempo, and if you're not going to match that, you're going to always be chasing it," Hitchcock said. "I found that their tempo has given us trouble at times, and at times we've been able to play really well. We've got to get our pace up right away."

Anaheim is looking to stay disciplined and stay out of the penalty box.

The Ducks realize they let their emotions boil over in a 4-0 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday. Anaheim ended the game with 31 penalty minutes. Although the Ducks are the top penalty-killing team in the NHL, the Blues boast the third-best power play overall and the best on the road, and Anaheim wants to limit St. Louis' chances with the man-advantage.

"The way we play, we're an aggressive team and we're going to get penalties, but the last game there was a couple penalties that we can't take," Ducks defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. "I think we realize that even though our penalty kill is rolling and we're killing these penalties, it's taking us out of our rhythm, it's taking guys off the ice, and you can't do that too often because you're going to get hurt eventually."

The Ducks held an optional morning skate Friday. Goaltender John Gibson, listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury after a collision with Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri on Wednesday, was the first goalie off the ice.

Here are the projected lineups:

BLUES

Alexander Steen - Paul Stastny - Troy Brouwer

Robby Fabbri - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko

Patrik Berglund - David Backes - Magnus Paajarvi

Dmitrij Jaskin - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Joel Edmundson - Kevin Shattenkirk

Colton Parayko - Carl Gunnarsson

Brian Elliott

Jake Allen

Injured: Jaden Schwartz (ankle), Steve Ott (hamstring)

Scratched: Scottie Upshall, Robert Bortuzzo

DUCKS

Rickard Rakell - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry

Carl Hagelin - Ryan Kesler - Jakob Silfverberg

Jiri Sekac - Shawn Horcoff - Andrew Cogliano

Patrick Maroon - Nate Thompson - Chris Stewart

Hampus Lindholm - Josh Manson

Sami Vatanen - Kevin Bieksa

Shea Theodore - Korbinian Holzer

John Gibson

Frederik Andersen

Injured: Simon Despres (concussion symptoms), Cam Fowler (knee), Clayton Stoner (lower-body)

Scratched: Mike Santorelli

Status report: Sekac will take the spot of Santorelli on the third line. Boudreau said it was not injury-related after Santorelli was sent into the boards by Roman Polak against the Maple Leafs; Santorelli is a healthy scratch. … Goalie Dustin Tokarski, who the Ducks acquired from the Montreal Canadiens Thursday for left wing Max Friberg, has reported to San Diego of the American Hockey League.

Who's hot: Shattenkirk has scored a goal in three of the past five games. … Stastny has an assist in each of the past five games. … Tarasenko has four points in the past three games.

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