Riding 5-game win streak, Blues battle undermanned Jackets
Posted on: 29 Jan, 2024 at 11:41 PM
Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
The St. Louis Blues put their season-best five-game winning streak on the line Tuesday when they host the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets, the last game before the all-star break for both squads.
Thanks to Sunday's 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings, their third consecutive overtime victory by the same score, the Blues have put themselves solidly in the mix for a Western Conference wild-card spot.
"We're playing really strong as a team," said forward Jordan Kyrou, who posted a one-goal, three-point game against the Kings. "We always have each other's backs out there. We're playing together on the ice. That builds character, and we've shown a lot of resiliency these past couple games."
In a huge turnaround, the Blues are 13-6-1 since Drew Bannister took over as interim coach on Dec. 14 following the firing of Craig Berube.
"Five in a row, it's nice to get that in here," defenseman Colton Parayko told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "A lot of work to be done, a lot of season, obviously, but to put ourselves in this position going into the break has been huge."
The Blues are receiving strong play throughout the lineup, with Kyrou netting 20 points in 20 games, Pavel Buchnevich having netted four goals in a three-game streak and both Robert Thomas and Brayden Schenn on five-game point streaks.
The victory over Los Angeles came at a cost, however, with defenseman Scott Perunovich sustaining a lower-body injury midway through the third period. With Perunovich ruled out, Tyler Tucker will step into the lineup Tuesday.
The Blue Jackets are limping to the end of a dispiriting five-game road trip.
Thanks to a 4-2 loss to the Seattle Kraken on Sunday. Columbus has only one win in its last five games and two victories in its last nine outings (2-5-2).
Those struggles are only part of the team's woes. Only a few hours after announcing key forward Patrik Laine left the team indefinitely to enter the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program, highly touted rookie forward Adam Fantilli was injured against the Kraken.
Nearing the game's midway point, Fantilli appeared to have his left leg accidentally cut by the skate of Seattle's Jared McCann during a collision. Fantilli, the third pick in the 2023 draft who has collected 12 goals and 27 points in 49 games, reportedly left the arena using crutches.
"Questionable for the next game I believe," coach Pascal Vincent said.
It's the latest hit for the Blue Jackets, who sit last in the Metropolitan Division.
Fortunately, there has been some good news for the Blue Jackets. Forward Yegor Chinakhov continues to flourish in his breakout third NHL season. He scored both goals against the Kraken and has 14 goals and 24 points in 38 games.
"This guy can shoot the puck. He can skate, he's a strong young man," Vincent said. "We saw a glimpse of what he can do, and his growth has been consistent."
For his part, Chinakhov, Columbus' 2020 first-round draft choice, did not see his tallies as a huge deal.
"Great pass from (Damon Severson) on the first goal, and I just hit the net," Chinakhov said. "And second, just in the middle, just see the opening. Nothing more."
--Field Level Media