ST. LOUIS — A return to a healthy lineup has also helped strengthen the St. Louis Blues' third and fourth lines.
As currently constructed, the third line has Vladimir Sobotka centering David Perron and rookie Vladimir Tarasenko, with Scott Nichol in the middle of the fourth line with Jaden Schwartz and Chris Porter.
Those lines were jumbled a bit after the Blues fell behind 3-0 to Edmonton on Tuesday.
"Our third and fourth lines are playing as well as anybody in the NHL," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We're getting a lot out of those third and fourth lines."
Hitchcock likes many things about these groupings, which also provide energy and a checking deterrent.
"I just think they're ability to read off each other, support each other, offer information to each other," Hitchcock said.
Hitchcock said Sobotka's line generated an extremely high 10 scoring chances against Edmonton.
"That's more than hard work," Hitchcock said. "They've got great communication going. We're getting a lot of effort and a lot of communication from both those lines right now."
Heading into Tuesday's game, one thing the Blues weren't getting was production from their power play units. They were 4-for-49 on the power play over the previous 17 games, which seems strange for a team that spent much of the first portion of the season with the league's best power play.
The Blues were 4-for-5 with the man advantage in the season-opening win over Detroit and had 19 power-play goals in their first 54 opportunities (35 percent) through 14 games.
What's lacking now?
"I would say sense of urgency as a five-man group," Hitchcock said. "We seem to have periods of time during the power play where we let the opposition off the hook. We don't keep a puck in or we don't have quick enough puck support on board battles, little things that go on that make you look like a one-and-done."
Hitchcock knows special teams success leads to victories.
"You look at teams that are winning on an ongoing basis right now, it's all on their special teams," Hitchcock said. "Their penalty killing's keeping it out of the net and their power-play's scoring right now --and that's the small difference in the game."
Hitchcock loses a friend
One of Ken Hitchcock's best friends in the hockey business, Tampa Bay Lightning assistant coach Wayne Fleming, died this week after a battle with brain cancer.
Fleming was on Hitchcock's coaching staff in Philadelphia for four years and the pair also worked together on Team Canada's gold-medal squad in 2002.
Hitchcock dedicated his NHL Coach of the Year award to Fleming last summer during Hitchcock's acceptance speech at the NHL Awards Show.
Fleming also coached with Calgary, Edmonton, Phoenix and the New York Islanders. He was 62.