ST. LOUIS — As currently constructed, the St. Louis Blues have the capability to make a deep playoff run.
However, there's still that unfinished business of actually qualifying for the playoffs. With seven games remaining, the Blues need to return to the same all-in formula that helped them win five in a row before the current two-game losing skid.
Scoring a few more goals would also help since they have five in their last five games heading into a home contest Tuesday against Vancouver.
"When we're playing our best, we're playing together as a team and we're doing the little things that it takes to win very well," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said Monday. "We look like the best team in the league when we do that. We're the best team in the league when we play as a team. It's the way we were last year, it's the way we are this year."
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock changed his lines up a bit Monday, most notably switching centers Patrik Berglund and Chris Porter and using untested rookie Dmitrij Jaskin on the top line a bit.
"I wouldn't read anything into anything today," cautioned Hitchcock, who is seeking his 600th career win. "I'd be careful with that. I wanted to see what a couple of lines looked like; this was a time to experiment but don't read too much into that right now."
Hitchcock is taking more of a hands-on approach trying to develop an offensive spark from a team with numerous underachieving scorers.
"I think it's a big mistake we all make as coaches," he said. "We think it's going to change and we don't become proactive. I've learned hard lessons over time that close, close usually ends up in nothing but loss, loss.
"It's up to me to get people to change, whether it's with conversations, whether it's with (line) combinations or whatever. For me to expect a different result from the same situation in the last two games would be unrealistic. I think I've got to be proactive here."
Even a five-game winning streak didn't help the Blues (23-16-2; 48 points) gain much separation from other playoff hopefuls.
They began Monday with the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference playoff race, four points behind No. 4 Los Angeles but only five ahead of No. 11 Phoenix.
"Everybody's playing the same way, desperate hockey trying to get into the playoffs," Blues defenseman Barret Jackman said. "There's really only a couple teams that don't have a shot at making it, so every game's tough. It's playoff hockey now; you're not going to win every game but you have to give yourself a chance by playing well and playing hard."
Jackman said the lockout-shortened 48-game season magnifies highs and lows even more.
"We're looking at the last seven games as a seven-game series," he said. "There's no guarantees, we still have to earn our way. But we definitely feel confident that if we're going to play the right way, we're going to make it.."
Hitchcock had his team spend time working on the power-play Monday, an obvious area of concern at 6-for-72 over the last 27 games.
"You work on the power play every day, but if the power play becomes your focal point it doesn't matter," Hitchcock said. "If you're not good 5-on-5 or killing penalties you're not going to win at this time of year."
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"They know everything about you," Hitchcock said. "You're not going to surprise anybody, so you're going to have to get the dirty, ugly goals on the power play just like you are 5-on-5."
Shattenkirk said the Blues have several areas they need to improve on the power play. More shots from the point, more bodies in front and quickly sniffing out rebounds are among them.
"Our first problem is we don't have the possession entries that we need coming into the zone," Shattenkirk explained. "We're battling for pucks and when you lose those battles, you're chasing the puck down behind your net and have to pick it up again."
The Blues have talked about letting their power play become too "static," and predictable.
"I think we're just a little too slow with our execution right now," Shattenkirk said. "It's got to be hard skating once you get the puck and set up. It's not a time to just sit back and assume everything's going to open up."
While the power play remains a mystery, the Blues have killed off 23 straight penalties over 10 games and haven't allowed a power-play goal since March 24 against Calgary.