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Blues at Jets Preview

Blues begin their three game road trip when they take on the Winnipeg Jets

NHL: St. Louis Blues at Winnipeg Jets Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

The Blues kickoff their three game road trip when they take on the Winnipeg Jets today at two o’clock.

This last week has not turned out exactly how the Blues had planned. After returning from a surprisingly successful three game west coast trip, in which the Blues were able to rebound nicely after a poor first game against the L.A. Kings with wins against the San Jose and Anaheim Ducks, they returned home to drop the next two in rather underwhelming fashion.

The Blues have had an array of problems ranging from bad defense to star players that have been unable to make an impact but the most glaring disappointment has been in net. Whether you pin all the blame on the team’s two goaltenders or the play in front of them one thing is painfully obvious, the Blues goaltending has been down right horrible.

The combined save percentage of Jake Allen and Carter Hutton now sits at .888. That’s good enough for dead last in NHL. The Blues goal differential is currently at -11 which makes them only one of three teams currently holding a playoff spot with a negative goal differential and in danger of slipping out of a playoff spot all together.

In an effort to turn around the teams goaltending problems Doug Armstrong decided Friday to recall the clubs AHL affiliate Chicago Wolves starting goalie Phoenix Copley, who will go with the club to Winnipeg while Jake Allen stays in St. Louis. At this point in the season and with the Blues heading in the wrong direction the team is looking for some kind of spark to help get them back on track and one option might be putting Copley in net.

"We've got to consider it. We've got to look at every angle," Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said after Friday's team practice in St. Louis. "I don't know. I'll talk it over with Doug (Armstrong) and talk it over with the coaches, but we'll look at every angle right now." [NHL.com]

Also in an attempt to inject some energy into his struggling team, coach Ken Hitchcock decided to move surging center Patrik Berglund between wingers Vladimir Tarasenko and young Robby Fabbri while dropping the struggling Jori Lehtera to a more suitable third line role.

I know most Blues fans would consider a pairing of fan favorite Tarasenko and fan whipping boy Berglund to be the first sign of the apocalypse but at this point in the season I say go for it. Things can’t get a whole lot worse and quite frankly Berglund is the only Blue playing with any semblance of confidence. Tarasenko has two assists and nine shots on goal in his last five games. He needs help and I don’t mean Jaskin or Nail Yakupov.

However, despite the Blues troubles, its safe to say that the Jets have preformed worse this season.

With a record of 21-23-4 the Jets are in sixth place in the central division and three points out of a wild card spot. They are 1-4 in their last five games with the only win coming against the last place Arizona Coyotes.

Like the Blues, the Jet’s main problem this season has been their goaltending. Second year goaltender Connor Hellebuyck has not performed up to expectations with .907 save percentage and a 2.82 goals against average. Hellebuyck’s performance coupled with the even worse play of his backup Michael Hutchinson led to the call up of the Jets AHL goalie Ondrej Pavelec who is expected to start in today’s game.

While goaltending has been an issue, unlike the Blues, the Jets have also had just as much problems scoring goals as they’ve had stopping them. Their CF60 (shots taken per 60 min) sits at 25th in the league and their GF% at 23rd, all while having played the second most games in the NHL.

To add injury to insult, the Jets star player Patrik Laine hasn’t played since suffer a concussion after an on ice collision in a game on Jan. 7. Although he did skate in practice on Friday he was wearing a non-contact jersey and not expected to return to the lineup anytime soon.

The last time these two teams met was on Dec. 3rd in St. Louis. The Jets won 3-2 in OT. Laine had a goal in regulation and an assist in overtime. Alexander Steen and Dmitrij Jaskin scored the Blues two goals. Carter Hutton was in net.

Due to the early start time the Blues did not hold a morning skate so here are the lines from Friday’s practice.

Projected Lineup

Forwards

Schwartz - Stastney - Steen

Fabbri - Berglund - Tarasenko

Jaskin - Lehtera - Perron

Upshall - Brodziak - Reaves

Defense

Bouwmeester - Pietrangelo

Bortuzzo - Shattenkirk

Edmundson - Parayko

Goalie

Hutton

Copley

Jet’s Projected Lineup

Forwards

Ehlers - Scheifele - Wheeler

Perreault - Little - Armia

Matthias - Lowry - Stafford

Copp - Petan - Thorburn

Defense

Morrissey - Byfuglien

Enstrom - Trouba

Stuart - Postma

Goalie

Pavelec

Hellebuyck