Blues looking to cash in more opportunities against the Avalanche

News-DemocratNovember 13, 2013 

— Pining over missed opportunities had mostly become a thing of the past for the St. Louis Blues this season, but that's where they found themselves again Tuesday.

While they played well in spurts during a 3-2 overtime loss to Phoenix, they lacked the complete-game effort they turned in Saturday against Pittsburgh and at other times.

They also lacked an ability to beat Coyotes goalie Mike Smith, who turned away 37 of the Blues' season-high 39 shots. Scoring may not be any easier Thursday night when the high-flying Colorado Avalanche (14-3) visit Scottrade Center.

"It's the whole focus of finishing, burying it in the back of the net," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Not relaxing. Some guys are struggling offensively right now, we've got to get them going. We did a lot of good things in the second and third period, but we've got to outwork the goalie."

Among those on the "struggling" list are Patrik Berglund (no goals in 14 straight games, one goal this season), Chris Stewart (two goals) and T.J. Oshie (two goals this season, one in his last 14 games).

"We created a number of offensive opportunities off our work," Hitchcock said. "We really started to skate in the second and third period and really gave them trouble. At the end of the day you've just got to put it in the back of the net."

The stingy Blues got a little taste of what life is like on the opponents' side of the ice.

"We probably could have made it a little more difficult for their goalie," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "We had a lot of shots and a lot of opportunities, but we got stuck on the outside a lot."

Still tied for the best record in franchise history after 16 games at 11-2-3, the Blues are trying to win 12 of their first 17 games for the first time.

They are 3-0-1 in their last four at home and winger Alexander Steen (14 goals, 22 points in 16 games) shows no signs of slowing down with a career-high 11-game points streak.

Hitchcock has been pleased with the play of his fourth line, especially center Maxim Lapierre and right winger Ryan Reaves.

"It doesn't matter who plays with Lappy and Reavo, we get great effort every night," Hitchcock said. "Reaves is really becoming a good player. You can see it in his game, he's going to start scoring pretty soon."

Hitchcock needs one more win to reach 617, which would tie him with Jacques Lemaire for ninth in NHL history.

Scouting Colorado

After spending eight years coaching in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy is off to a phenomenal start as an NHL head coach with Colorado..

Roy won 12 of his first 13 games behind the bench, which may not seem overly strange for a former goalie that won four Stanley Cups as a player.

The Denver Post reported veteran J.S. Giguere (5-0, 1.00 goals-against, two shutouts) will start in goal against the Blues.

Colorado had won its first six road games before losing 2-1 Tuesday at Carolina.

Avs center Matt Duchene is blossoming into an elite force with 11 goals and 19 points, while center Paul Stastny has seven goals and 14 points. Winger Gabriel Landeskog has six goals and 14 points.

The Blues have won their last four at home against Colorado, outscoring the Avalanche 13-4.

Bishop firing up the Lightning

Once the Blues' top goaltending prospect, St. Louisan Ben Bishop has found a home with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Bishop is 12-2 with a 2.02 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage.

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or on Twitter @NormSanders

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