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Stagnant Blues limp into meeting with Canadiens

Sportsnaut
Oct 25, 2022; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens defenseman Kaiden Guhle (21) plays the puck during the second period of the game against the Minnesota Wild at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The struggling St. Louis Blues will try to snap a three-game losing streak when they host the rebuilding Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.

The Blues have been outscored 13-3 during their downturn, which followed an encouraging 3-0-0 start.

“We have a veteran group in this locker room, and we’ve got to find a way to overcome it and it falls on the leadership group to pull ourselves out of it,” defenseman Torey Krug said, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “So we have to do a better job.”

The Blues’ special teams have been fine, with a 26.7 percent power-play conversion rate and 92.3 percent success killing penalties. But they are seeking improvement in their 5-on-5 play heading into a meeting with the Canadiens, who have won three of their last five games.

“Yeah, we’re forcing it, and I think whether it’s early in the season or not, I think we feel the pressure to score goals, 5-on-5,” Krug said. “I think we’re just trying to make something out of nothing rather than sticking with a game plan and letting our process dictate the game. So we have a lot of work to do.”

The Blues have been playing without key wingers Pavel Buchnevich, who is on injured reserve with a lower-body injury, and Brandon Saad, who is sidelined on a day-to-day basis with an upper-body injury.

In their last four games the Blues have scored three power-play goals, one empty-net goal and just one 5-on-5 goal.

“Our guys were getting some good looks and just not burying it right now, probably gripping your sticks a little bit,” Blues forward Brayden Schenn said. “We’re not scoring a lot of goals and you have to try and bear down on the chances you do get. Sometimes it only makes it worse.”

The Canadiens opened their current four-game road trip Thursday with a 3-2 victory at Buffalo, which was highlighted by rookie defenseman Kaiden Guhle’s first NHL goal.

Guhle, the 16th overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, is one of Montreal’s key building blocks. The 20-year-old scored 56 points in 61 Western Hockey League regular-season and playoff games last season.

Canadiens captain Nick Suzuki told Guhle that he felt that first goal coming.

“I had a good feeling about him,” Suzuki said. “He’s been playing pretty good lately and I know he wanted his first one, so just giving him an extra boost of confidence.”

Guhle and fellow rookies Arber Xhekaj and Jordan Harris are playing larger-than-expected roles with veterans Mike Matheson and Joel Edmundson injured.

“The win’s obviously the most important part,” Guhle said. “I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help the team win. So it was nice to see that one go in, but it was obviously a big win for us tonight and a good way to start the road trip.”

Another key Canadiens building block is Juraj Slafkovsky, the first overall draft pick in 2022 who has been sidelined with an upper-body injury. He is with the team and he could return at some point on the road trip.

–Field Level Media