David Backes thinks the reason for the St. Louis Blues' recent slump is a lack of focus over an entire game. Keeping their experienced goaltenders healthy is likely a bigger reason.
The sputtering Blues kick off a five-game road trip with the first of three straight in California on Wednesday night against the Anaheim Ducks.
The Blues (5-5-0) opened the season in surprising fashion with four wins in their first five games, but followed by losing four of five, including two defeats by shutout at home.
Heading into 2008-09, St. Louis envisioned veteran Manny Legace and former Nashville starter Chris Mason in net. Legace, though, has been on injured reserve since Oct. 25 (hip flexor), and Mason missed nearly three weeks following an emergency appendectomy before returning on Thursday.
In their absence, coach Andy Murray was forced to go with rookies Ben Bishop and Marek Schwarz. The Blues also recently added Chris Holt, whose NHL career consists of a 10-minute stint over one game with the New York Rangers in 2005.
With Legace still out, Mason will almost certainly start in goal versus the Ducks, and try again for his first win in a Blues uniform.
Mason is 0-3-0 with a 3.42 goals-against average. On Saturday, he made his second start after surgery, and stopped 22 of 27 shots in a 6-3 loss to Pittsburgh.
He has a respectable 2.78 GAA in four career starts against the Ducks, but is 1-3-0 and has never won in Anaheim.
Patrik Berglund scored the 10,000th goal in team history for St. Louis, which also got tallies from Barret Jackman and T.J. Oshie.
Backes - who has one goal so far after scoring 13 last season - didn't hide his frustration.
"To win in this league, you need 20 guys on edge, being intense, being urgent for 60 minutes a night," he said. "We probably have about 12 (players) for 40 minutes a night. When you have not everyone going for the whole game, you get ugly losses."
St. Louis went 2-1-1 against the Ducks last season, losing twice on the road. Overall, St. Louis is 1-7-1 with one tie in its last 10 visits to Anaheim since December 2002.
Former Duck Paul Kariya had eight assists for St. Louis during its surprising start, but has had only four in the last five games. Kariya's 377 career points at the Honda Center are second-most all time behind Teemu Selanne (386), who has surged after a slow start this season with Anaheim (8-5-1).
Selanne assisted on Chris Pronger's goal 40 seconds into overtime on Wednesday, lifting the Ducks to a 1-0 win over the Kings. It was Pronger's third goal in as many games, and fourth of the season.
After recording one goal in his first seven games, Selanne has notched seven goals - all on the power play - and five assists in a seven-game point streak.
The 38-year-old Finn has had success against the Blues since rejoining Anaheim in 2005 following one season in Colorado. Selanne has seven goals and six assists during a 10-game point streak at home against St. Louis, leading the Ducks to an 8-2-0 record.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere stopped 35 Kings shots for his second shutout of the season, leaving him two wins short of 200 for his career.
"It wasn't perfect," Giguere told the Ducks' official Web site. "We'd like to be better, but it's a step in the right direction. We know we can be better."
Giguere dropped his first two home starts against the Blues late in the 2001-02 season, but has yet to lose to them since in Anaheim. In his last nine appearances, Giguere is 8-0-0 with a tie, a 1.87 GAA and one shutout.