|Despite skid, Blues ready for Lightning|
The NHL's biggest 2019 playoff surprise meets the largest '19 postseason disappointment Tuesday when the St. Louis Blues host the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Lightning were favored to win the Stanley Cup last season after finishing the regular season with 128 points. Then they failed to win a single playoff game.
Meanwhile, the Blues rallied improbably from dead last in the NHL to reach postseason play and win the Cup.
Both teams expect to contend this season. The Lightning won three consecutive games before falling to the Winnipeg Jets 4-3 on Saturday.
The Blues also are coming off a home-ice loss Saturday -- 4-1 to the Anaheim Ducks. Prior to that loss the Blues earned points in nine consecutive games, going 7-0-2.
"We had a lot of shots on net compared to (the Ducks)," Blues forward David Perron said. "But they didn't result in goals so that means we have to a better job, either being more in front of the goalie's eyes or creating more second and third opportunities for other guys. Also, our power play could've been a little sharper."
During their current 0-1-2 winless streak, the Blues scored just five goals.
They are starting to feel the effects of losing top winger Vladimir Tarasenko to shoulder surgery. Forwards Brayden Schenn (one goal in seven games), Perron (one goal in seven games) and Ryan O'Reilly (on goal in six games) have cooled off after fast starts this season.
"We're going to re-set here," Blues coach Craig Berube said Saturday. "We got a day off and we'll come to work Monday, have a practice and get ready to play. That's it. We have to find a way to put the puck in the net more than we have been."
Berube shuffled all of his forward lines at that practice, most notably moving Tyler Bozak up from the third line to the top line with Schenn and Jaden Schwartz. He also moved Oskar Sundqvist up to a new third line with Robert Thomas, playing center for the first time this year, and Zach Sanford.
The Blues haven't helped themselves on special teams during this downturn. They went 0 for 10 on the power play in the last three games.
The Lightning are gaining momentum after overcoming earlier injuries to Brayden Point and Victor Hedman. They are more rugged this season after signing Blues playoff hero Patrick Maroon as a free agent.
Maroon, a St. Louis-area native, will return to Enterprise Center for the first time since changing teams. He scored three goals during the Lightning's recent three-game homestand.
Another former Blue, defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, had a five-game points streak (one goal, seven assists) stopped Saturday.
Lightning Steven Stamkos brings a five-game points streak (two goals, six assists) into this game. He scored his 400th career goal against the Jets Saturday.
"He's an elite player in this league and that's why he's continued to do what he does every single season," Maroon said. "I'm happy I'm on the other end of it because it stinks when he's teeing them up and scoring goals when you're facing him."
Nikita Kucherov has points in his last four games (two goals, five assists) after being held pointless in seven of Tampa Bay's first 13 games.
--Field Level Media