After allowing nine goals in their last two games, the St. Louis Blues will try to tighten their team defense while hosting the Washington Capitals Friday.

The Blues are coming off a 5-3 loss at Pittsburgh, which was just their third regulation loss in their last 15 games.

“What we’ve got to take out of this game is that’s not the way we play,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “That wasn’t a good outing by us … We can’t come to play that type of hockey. We can’t.

“We didn’t pressure very well tonight. Our forecheck was not very good. That’s where it starts for me. We didn’t skate that well tonight and we weren’t heavy enough.”

The Capitals are 2-0-1 since the NHL’s extended holiday break. They fell to the New Jersey Devils 4-3 in overtime Sunday in their previous game, so coach Peter Laviolette will also seek defensive improvement on Friday.

“We were chasing the game and not clean,” Laviolette said. “We gave up too much, too much defensively, too many chances. Give up 20-plus chances and you are not going to win a game.”

The Blues will have to shuffle their lineup again with winger Vladimir Tarasenko and defensemen Scott Perunovich and Jake Walman landing in COVID-19 protocol Thursday. On the plus side, defenseman Robert Bortuzzo came out of protocol and should be ready to face the Capitals.

Tarasenko is the Blues’ leading scorer with 34 points (14 goals, 20 assists) in 34 games.

“He doesn’t have any symptoms, I don’t think, that I’ve heard,” Berube said. “We’ll just see going forward.”

Capitals forwards T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom missed practice time this week due to non-COVID illness, so they are questionable for this game.

Defenseman Dmitry Orlov missed practice time with an upper-body injury, but Laviolette indicated he could be ready to face the Blues.

“It’s been, ‘Ready, go, stop; ready, go, stop,'” forward Tom Wilson said. “Guys that are ready go and then (are) put back on the shelf — individually, as a team, that’s kind of been the theme. There’s been some adversity, but we handled it pretty well. It’s tough when it’s going that way.”

Backstrom missed the first two months of the season while recovering from a hip injury and spending time in COVID protocol. He returned from that setback, then got sick. He’s played in only three games thus far.

So getting Backstrom back up to speed has been a challenge.

“He’s going to be able to contribute because he’s a skilled player, but to gauge where he’s at from his conditioning and where he wants to be with the stop-and-go part of it, it’s been a little bit more difficult,” Laviolette said. “He’s been back for a month and he’s played in three games so that’s not ideal. That’s why this week (of practice) would have been good for him.”

Laviolette said the same applied to Oshie, who has played just 16 of Washington’s 34 games this season and scored just four goals.

–Field Level Media