Already suffering through a miserable road trip, the St. Louis Blues play their next game at an arena at which they’ve had little success of late.
Mired in a six-game losing streak, the Blues close out their five-game swing Friday when they face the Central Division rival Chicago Blackhawks.
St. Louis (5-8-1) is 1-7-1 since winning four of its first five. The Blues dropped to 0-3-1 on their trip Wednesday night, suffering a 4-3 loss to Buffalo in which they fell behind 3-0 just 5 minutes, 18 seconds into the game.
St. Louis battled back with a goal in each period but couldn’t overcome the early hole.
“It’s a tough game to lose,” said right wing Lee Stempniak, whose goal midway through the third brought the Blues within one. “We did a good job scoring three goals, but it makes it more of a bitter pill to lose by only one.”
The Blues have struggled on the road, going 1-4-1 on the season, and will be trying to prevent their first five-game skid away from St. Louis since losing 10 straight from Feb. 16-March 15.
Ending the slide could be tough to do against the Blackhawks (7-3-4). The Blues are 2-5-3 in their last 10 games at the United Center and have lost three straight and six of seven there.
The Blues beat the Blackhawks 4-3 at home in a shootout Oct. 18, the teams’ first meeting of the season that also was Joel Quenneville’s debut as Chicago’s coach. Quenneville coached the Blues for parts of eight seasons from 1996-2004.
Quenneville’s current team suffered a 2-1 shootout loss to Boston on Wednesday that halted a four-game winning streak and dropped the Blackhawks to 2-0-1 on their five-game homestand.
“We weren’t at our best, but we’ll take a point,” Quenneville said.
Chicago is 6-0-3 at the United Center in 2008-09, thanks in large part to its special teams. The Blackhawks are 11-for-48 (22.9 percent) on the power play and have killed off 41 of 46 short-handed situations on home ice.
The Blackhawks’ fast start has also been keyed by their goaltending, as a resurgent Nikolai Khabibulin and offseason acquisition Cristobal Huet have combined for a 2.29 goals-against average. The two have alternated starts in the last six games, meaning Huet could be in net Friday.
Huet is 0-2-0 with a 2.43 GAA versus the Blues, while Khabibulin is 11-4-1 with a 2.21 GAA in his last 16 games against St. Louis.
Whoever starts in goal will likely have to face dynamic forward Paul Kariya, who’s expected to return following a three-game absence due to an unspecified lower-body injury.
Kariya is second on the Blues with 15 points and has 28 goals and 38 assists in 62 games versus the Blackhawks.
St. Louis’ Manny Legace has started back-to-back games since returning from a hip injury. He’s 0-3-0 with a 5.54 GAA in his last four contests, but 10-6-0 with a 2.37 GAA in his last 18 versus Chicago.