The St. Louis Blues hope to continue their defensive turnaround when they host the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night.
The Western Conference-leading Blues have allowed just two goals while winning four consecutive games.
“We’re a good team, we know that, but there’s still a lot of hockey left,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “We have to keep trying to get better. I think we’re doing that. I think our guys are dialed in to doing that.”
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks have stumbled in the playoff race while going 2-6-2 in their last 10 games as rumors swirled ahead of the NHL trade deadline.
“It sucks, but it’s part of the business,” Blackhawks winger Alex DeBrincat told The Athletic. “We have to go out there and do our job, and they have to do theirs. For us, we just need to go out there and play our game and not really worry about it.”
The Blackhawks are in rebuilding mode, as general manager Stan Bowman underscored Monday while trading defenseman Erik Gustafsson to the Calgary Flames and goaltender Robin Lehner to the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Blues allowed 33 shots Sunday night during a 4-1 victory at Minnesota, but goaltender Jordan Binnington held the fort against the Wild. After allowing just 50 shots in their previous three victories, the Blues failed to tilt the ice against the Wild.
“I don’t think we were up to our standards tonight,” Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist said. “At the same time, we scored four goals. Before, we were playing good, but we couldn’t score. Today was kind of the opposite. We felt a little bit slow. I don’t know why. But we played tight defense still and helped (Binnington) out with the rebounds.”
Newcomer Marco Scandella has fit in nicely in the defensive corps after arriving in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens.
“I felt like in the East, it was a little bit different,” Scandella, who spent seven years with Minnesota to start his career, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “But I played this style of game, the Central game — tight, physical game — for many years. So it wasn’t too tough of a transition for me.”
The Blues won the previous two games against the Blackhawks this season. Jake Allen blanked the Blackhawks 4-0 on Dec. 2, making 38 saves, and Binnington was in goal for a 4-3 victory on Dec. 14.
Binnington, who has allowed just one goal during his three-game winning streak, figures to get the start Tuesday.
Chicago’s Corey Crawford suffered both losses to the Blues, but he has been outstanding this month (2.26 goals-against average, .934 save percentage) while alternating with Lehner.
Crawford will likely start against the Blues ahead of newcomer Malcolm Subban, who arrived with a second-round pick from the Golden Knights in the Lehner trade.
“We’ve been getting great goaltending all year, and can’t complain at all about the performance night in and night out from both the guys,” Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. “I think Corey, particularly, as the season has gone on, it feels like he’s gotten sharper and sharper, and this last stretch of games he’s been excellent.”
The Blues are 20-6-5 at Enterprise Center this season, while the Blackhawks are 14-14-4 on the road.
–Field Level Media