The St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks both had lengthy winning streaks snapped against sub.-500 teams on Friday night.
The defending Stanley Cup champion Blues saw their eight-game streak end with a 4-2 loss at New Jersey, while the playoff-hopeful Blackhawks sputtered to a 2-1 defeat in Detroit to stop a four-game run.
Sunday’s meeting in Chicago gives one Central Division rival the chance to begin a new streak as the Blues and Blackhawks conclude the season series.
St. Louis leads the Western Conference with 90 points, however it was unable to extend that advantage by topping the Devils, whom the Blues blanked on Feb. 18 to begin their spurt.
“It was a good little run, but it’s over now,” forward Zach Sanford said. “We’ll come into Sunday prepared and start a new one.”
While Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo agreed with that assessment — “We put ourselves in a good spot; it’s one game,” he said — the defenseman nonetheless pinpointed a deficiency on which the club should focus.
“We’re not aggressive enough on the forecheck, not making plays out of their D zone, just giving the puck away,” Pietrangelo said. “We’re just chasing the game.”
St. Louis also figures to try to put more traffic in front of the net against the Blackhawks after struggling to jam the view of Devils goaltender Cory Schneider.
“If you’re not in front of the goalie’s eyes, he’s going to catch 10 out of 10, so we need to take his eyes away and get some bodies in front of him,” Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist said.
The Blackhawks endured offensive struggles of their own against Detroit, managing only Patrick Kane’s team-leading 31st goal of the season late in the second period.
The Red Wings entered Friday with a league-low 35 points, half as many as the Blackhawks.
“We talked about them coming at us hard … and they did, and I don’t think our skating was there early,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “We couldn’t quite get through the neutral zone, get pucks back in their zone and sustain any sort of pressure.”
Chicago is dealing with various bruises on its blue line. Defensemen Adam Boqvist (right wrist) and Lucas Carlsson (concussion) were scratched from the lineup against Detroit, while fellow blue-liner Connor Murphy sustained an apparent injury to his right leg in the waning seconds.
Murphy made heavy impact with the right post when scrambling to stop a potential empty-net goal. Chicago coach Jeremy Colliton said Murphy looked to be all right.
“Our guys are battling to the end, no question,” Colliton said.
St. Louis defenseman Justin Faulk was out Friday with an upper-body injury, the first time he has missed action this season.
Center Jordan Kyrou, meanwhile, returned to the lineup after missing two games with an illness.
St. Louis is eyeing a sweep of the season series. The Blues downed the Blackhawks at United Center 4-0 on Dec. 2 before earning a pair of narrow home wins — 4-3 on Dec. 14 and 6-5 on Feb. 25.
–Field Level Media