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Blues continue homestand against Leafs

by Pete Jensen
MAPLE LEAFS (9-5-1) at BLUES (7-7-0)


Last 10: Toronto 5-5-0; St. Louis 5-5-0.

Season Series: Thursday is the lone meeting of the season between the Leafs and Blues. The two teams met once last season, with Toronto claiming a 6-5 shootout victory on Jan. 6.

Big Story: The Blues opened up a five-game homestand on Tuesday by welcoming new coach Ken Hitchcock to town with a 3-0 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Now, St. Louis looks for only its second win streak of the season on Thursday against the Maple Leafs, who have been outscored 12-1 in their current two-game losing skid.

Team Scope:

Maple Leafs: Toronto opened eyes around the League by tallying 19 points in its first 13 games, but the Northeast division leaders are suddenly searching for answers after back-to-back home defeats at the hands of the Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers,

With starting goaltender James Reimer still nursing a head injury, the goaltending combo of Jonas Gustavsson and rookie Ben Scrivens has been off the mark during the team's recent skid. Toronto's offense has mustered only one goal in two games, but the Gustavsson-Scrivens duo has not helped the matter, stopping only 36 of 48 shots combined in that span.

"I know those guys probably aren't happy with the way they played, but a lot of us aren't," Joffrey Lupul said. "You win as a team and lose as a team. So it kind of goes hand in hand. We all count on each other and we're not scoring enough goals for them right now."

Blues: St. Louis dropped three of four games following a three-game win streak, and former coach Davis Payne was fired on Sunday evening. Hitchcock took over the position immediately, and was greeted with a playoff-type atmosphere in his first game with the Blues on Tuesday.

His new team responded in a big way.

The Blues, who sport the third-worst power-play conversion percentage in the League (9.5), got a power-play goal from Chris Stewart in the second period and a 29-save shutout from Jaroslav Halak in their 3-0 victory over the Blackhawks at Scottrade Center.

"Guys were buying in all over the ice making plays," David Backes said. "Jaro was outstanding and bailed us out with a few chances. We really needed him at critical times in the game."

Who’s Hot: T.J. Oshie, who scored in Tuesday's win over Chicago, has compiled three goals and two assists in his last three games. … Lupul has registered three goals and three assists in his last four games.

Injury Report: Reimer (head) and Colby Armstrong (ankle) are listed on Injured Reserve for Toronto and will miss Thursday's game. Tim Connolly (upper body) is also expected to miss the game. … David Perron (post-concussion syndrome) has resumed skating but remains out indefinitely for the Blues. Kent Huskins (ankle), Andy McDonald (concussion) and B.J. Crombeen (shoulder) are listed on IR and will miss Thursday's game as well. Scott Nichol (upper body) was injured in Tuesday's game against the Blackhawks, and remains questionable for Thursday.

Stat Pack: When the Blues knocked off the Blackhawks on Tuesday, Hitchcock won his opening game as the head coach of an NHL team for the first time of his career. Hitchcock had either lost or tied his first game at the helm of each of his previous three teams, Dallas (loss in January 1996), Philadelphia (tie in October 2002) and Columbus (loss in November 2006).

Puck Drop: After a 6-7-0 start to the season, the Blues' organization opted for a coaching change. Halak, who had his best outing of the season in Hitchcock’s first game, sensed the urgency in the matter.

"When the coaching change happened, we just needed to look in the mirror and ask yourself if that was the best you had," Halak said after Tuesday's win against the Blackhawks. "If you look at the guys, everybody did their best. Hopefully, we can start again where we left off."

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