The banged-up St. Louis Blues are off to a positive start in 2023.
Meanwhile, the New Jersey Devils might be in the process of rebounding from a rough December.
On Thursday night in Newark, N.J., the Blues look to win back-to-back games for the first time in more than two weeks when they face the Devils, who have gone even longer without consecutive victories.
St. Louis concluded 2022 amid a 1-2-2 rut but opened the 2023 calendar year with a 6-5 shootout victory at Toronto on Tuesday. The Blues failed to hold a two-goal lead against the Maple Leafs but scored three times in the shootout to record their first road win since Dec. 19 at Vancouver.
The triumph over the Canucks concluded the Blues’ four-game winning streak, marking St. Louis’ last consecutive victories. The Blues are trying to get by without injured key contributors Ryan O’Reilly (foot), Vladimir Tarasenko (hand) and Torey Krug (lower body).
“Guys stepped up, and that’s what we need to do looking forward,” said Blues forward Jordan Kyrou, who has eight goals and seven assists in his past eight games. “We just have to focus on what we have in the room right now and what we can do to step up and win. We just have to work and compete.”
Though the Blues enjoyed a solid offensive night at Toronto, they have yielded five goals in five of the past six games. St. Louis ranks near the bottom of the NHL with an average of 3.66 goals allowed.
St. Louis’ Jordan Binnington stopped just 20 of the 25 shots he faced on Tuesday, and he has a 3.65 goals-against average in his past five starts, well above his season mark of 3.21. Backup Thomas Greiss, who last started on Dec. 20, has allowed fewer than four goals just twice in his nine starts this season.
The Blues have dropped their past three meetings with New Jersey, which is 2-0-1 following a 1-7-1 rut during a roughly three-week stretch of December. Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Dougie Hamilton and Alexander Holtz each had a goal with an assist as the Devils rolled to a 5-1 road win over the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday.
“Guys stepped up, and that’s what good teams do,” said Hischier, who has scored a goal in four straight games. “It’s important we got the two points, and we’re already looking forward to (Thursday).”
Though New Jersey is second in the Metropolitan Division, it hasn’t won consecutive games since Dec. 3 and Dec. 6. The Devils, though, have scored at least four goals in each of the past three games after doing so twice in the previous 12 contests.
With 22 goals, Hughes is four shy of matching his career high from last season. He has four during a three-game goal streak, but none in three career games vs. St. Louis. Hamilton, meanwhile, has three goals and 14 assists in his past 13 contests.
After New Jersey’s Vitek Vanecek (2.31 GAA) stopped 32 shots on Wednesday for his second straight win, Mackenzie Blackwood, who yielded four goals each time while losing his past two outings, could start in the back-to-back scenario.
Kyrou had a goal and an assist during the Blues’ 3-2 overtime loss at New Jersey last March. Teammate Brandon Saad, who has three goals in the past three games, was blanked the past three times he opposed the Devils.
–Field Level Media