The last-place St. Louis Blues figured to have even more problems after they added Andy McDonald to their long list of injured players. So far, however, they’ve done a fine job overcoming the absence of their top scorer.
The Blues look to improve to 3-0-0 in games played without their No. 1 center on Tuesday night when they visit the Central Division rival Nashville Predators.
McDonald broke his leg in a 3-2 shootout loss to Montreal last Sunday and is expected to be sidelined eight weeks. That’s terrible news for a St. Louis team that already had the fewest points in the Western Conference at the time of McDonald’s injury in part because of their inability to stay healthy.
McDonald, still the team’s leading scorer with 18 points in 16 games, joined forwards Dan Hinote, Paul Kariya and T.J. Oshie on injured reserve. Defenseman Eric Johnson is out for the season with a knee injury. The injuries have left the Blues (8-8-2) with a makeshift roster.
“I don’t know some of the guys either,” coach Andy Murray said after his team’s last game.
Despite having to rely on some younger players, the Blues have won both their games since McDonald’s injury to improve to 3-0-1 following a six-game winless streak from Oct. 30-Nov. 12. They beat Minnesota 2-1 on Saturday night behind two goals from Brad Boyes.
Chris Mason made a season-high 31 saves and got his first win in five starts with St. Louis following an offseason trade from Nashville (10-9-1).
“It was great for Chris Mason,” Murray said. “He’s played well this year. He’s been deserving on other nights and we didn’t get the job done for him.”
Mason was glad to contribute to the Blues’ first pair of consecutive victories since they won a season-high three straight from Oct. 13-18.
“The guys did a great job of letting me see the shots and clearing the rebounds when they were sitting there,” he said. “It feels great to go back-to-back here.”
Despite his strong performance in his last outing, it’s unlikely Mason will start against his former club Tuesday. That job will probably go to first-string goalie Manny Legace, who’s 6-3-1 with a 3.11 goals-against average in 11 starts.
Legace is 12-7-6 with one tie, two shutouts and a 2.16 GAA in 28 career games against the Predators, including a 5-2 victory in both teams’ season opener Oct. 10.
Nashville, playing at home for just the second time since Nov. 1, is hoping to build on a 5-2 road victory over Carolina on Sunday. The Predators took a 4-0 lead before giving up two goals early in the third period.
Despite those late struggles, Dan Ellis finished with 24 saves after allowing four goals apiece in back-to-back losses.
“We were hoping to do a little better job than that,” coach Barry Trotz said. “I think (Ellis) played pretty good and we were hoping maybe we could secure maybe a shutout. We talked about keeping the opposition, especially on the road, to two goals and we’d have a chance to win. And we did that.”
Ellis gave up a season high-tying five goals in the Oct. 10 loss to St. Louis, and is 2-1-0 with a 3.06 GAA in five career games - four starts against the Blues.