The Blues had four goals in the second period against Detroit Tuesday. They would like to score just one against Columbus this season. Theyâ€™ve been shut out twice by goaltender Pascal Leclaire and havenâ€™t scored a goal against the Blue Jackets since last March.
â€œThey play a good team defense,â€ Brad Boyes said. â€œTheyâ€™ve got the forwards that come back hard, they clog up the middle of the ice pretty well. They donâ€™t give you too many second chances. Weâ€™ve got to start going right down the middle, going to the net and getting the second chances that are there. Again, the first couple of games we played against them, theyâ€™re clearing them away pretty well on us.â€
The Blues had 36 shots in their first loss at Columbus on Oct. 25 and 21 shots in the second loss on Nov. 4
â€œI think we just need to get more pucks on net,â€ Jay McClement said. â€They played well against us and we havenâ€™t had a full game yet against them. Weâ€™ve had some good periods here and there. Weâ€™ve got to try and get that out of our heads . . .that we havenâ€™t scored against them. We just have to play like we played the other night against Detroit and get pucks to the net. We havenâ€™t logged a lot of puck time in Columbusâ€™ zone, so weâ€™ve got to try and change that.â€
Leclaire remains first in the NHL in shutouts with five. Heâ€™s third in goals-against average (1.59) and fourth in save percentage (.940).
â€œLeclaire has played well,â€ Boyes said. â€œThatâ€™s another thing . . weâ€™ve got to get to him. Again, though, heâ€™s making the first saves. Itâ€™s about getting the second chances. A lot of goals are just sitting there . . . scrambles . . . weâ€™ve got to get into those areas.â€
In practice this week, the Blues have worked on funneling their offense in front of the goaltender and getting second and third attempts.
â€œI think in terms of generating offense against Columbus, thereâ€™s no secret,â€ Andy Murray said. â€Their defense has played pretty solid, kept our second and third guys away from the net in terms of creating rebound opportunities. We need to be stronger, we need to win the one-on-one confrontations and battle them in front of the net. The other thing that you have against any goaltender, if he canâ€™t see the puck, itâ€™s tough to stop it. Weâ€™ve got to make sure that weâ€™ve got bodies parked in front of him, taking away his sightlines.â€
This morning Murray was still deciding which forwards would play tonight. This much is fact:
Stempniak said he felt great playing with Weight and Perron Tuesday.
â€œItâ€™s good . . . theyâ€™re two offensive guys and theyâ€™ve been playing well,â€ he said. â€œI think right now, a change of scenery is probably pretty good for both Jay (McClement) and I. Iâ€™m just trying to be focused on being stronger on the puck, just getting to the front of the net more. A lot of that just hinges on how I play and not other people.â€
Murray liked Mike Johnsonâ€™s game against Detroit.
â€œI thought Mike was much more involved than the previous four games heâ€™s played,â€ Murray said. â€œI thought he was engaged in the game. He was involved physically and skated well.â€
Mike Johnson: â€œI got a little more involved physically, around the puck more. For me to be successful, Iâ€™ve got to skate and if Iâ€™m not skating, everything else falls by the wayside. When I am, everything else comes together. If he said I did a good job, it was probably because I was skating. That was the first time I played in four weeks or whatever. I know thereâ€™s other aspects of my game that I can bring to the table. Hopefully as I continue to play a little more often, and get a little more comfortable, those things will come out.â€
Johnson, though, might not because in the lineup tonight. Jody Shelley is now a regular in the Columbus lineup, and so Murray will likely put D.J. King back in.
This is what you could see tonight if King plays:
Quick note: On that long Wagner pass to Perron Tuesday, setting up the goal, Wagner said Perron gave him the old â€œWhoo-hooâ€ on the ice so that he could see he was about to split the defenders.
Jay McKee is a healthy scratch for the second straight game. Murray wants to see better puck skills from McKee, moving the puck out of the zone especially. I asked Murray if the defensemen played so well Tuesday against Detroit that it was too difficult to put McKee back in tonight.
â€œI think there were players that didnâ€™t play as well as they needed to play,â€ Murray said. â€œBut I donâ€™t have a strong enough reason to take guys out. I talked to Jay about that this morning. What I told Jay this morning is how much I appreciated his professionalism, how hard heâ€™s worked in practice the last few days, how heâ€™s spent extra time watching video. I know he isnâ€™t pleased. I wanted to let him know how I felt about how he was conducting himself. I said, â€˜That doesnâ€™t make you feel any better, but it makes me feel better to be able to tell you that.â€™â€
McKee is very disappointed. â€œIt wasnâ€™t something that I was expecting. Itâ€™s tough to accept. I know I havenâ€™t played the best hockey that I can play, but I mentioned to Andy that I didnâ€™t feel that my play warranted being out of the lineup. Heâ€™s expressed to me that we have eight healthy defensemen and he wants to be fair to everybody. Heâ€™s the coach, thatâ€™s his decision, and Iâ€™ll just do my job and work hard.â€
I asked J.D. about the rumor of the Blues sending McKee back to Buffalo for Maxim Afinogenov and he said: â€œAbsolute fabrication.â€
The Blues may not be working on a trade at this time, but Murray did say something interesting after Thursdayâ€™s practice that caught the ear of some.
Murray said: â€œLarry Pleau and John Davidson and I had some serious discussions about our team and where weâ€™re going . . . that type of thing.â€
When asked to elaborate, Murray said: â€œJohn and Larry and Al and myself, we have serious discussions every day. Weâ€™re always talking about how we can improve the team. In most cases, itâ€™s how we maximize the personnel that we already have, rather than looking outside for changes. Weâ€™re looking at the players weâ€™ve got, what can we do to make them better, what can they do to support us . . . so itâ€™s more a discussion of how we deal with the team weâ€™ve got.â€
Miscellaneous: David Backesâ€™ knee is healing nicely and he should be back in about two weeks . . . Murray was asked if he told Perron to pack his bags for Nashville tomorrow (which would be Perronsâ€™ 10th game). Murray laughed and said â€œNo, but go ahead and say you heard that. Start the rumor.â€ Perron will be with the team in Nashville and will stay with the Blues.