Back-to-back losses to the second-worst team in the Western Conference have the Chicago Blackhawks concerned as they start a three-game trip.
The Blackhawks look to avoid their first three-game regulation losing streak Tuesday night when they meet the St. Louis Blues.
Chicago (46-21-7) was previously in position to gain the top seed in the Western Conference, but a 5-6-2 record since the Olympic break has dropped it five points behind Pacific Division leader San Jose.
What’s particularly discouraging for Chicago is its play in losses to last-place Columbus. The Blackhawks turned in their worst defensive performance of the season in an 8-3 road loss Thursday and returned home to fall again to the Blue Jackets 4-2 on Sunday.
“We’ve got eight games left and we’re certainly not pleased with the pace of our game,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I think that was the one thing that was noticeable tonight coming out of the frustrating loss in Columbus.”
“Our power play all year really hasn’t really ignited our offense all year the way it should have,” Quenneville said. “I think that’s something that we’ve tried different things the last couple of weeks. We’ll continue to try to get it right.”
The Blackhawks’ final extended trip of the season also includes visits to Minnesota and New Jersey. The players feel confident they can get back on track.
Chicago is 3-1 against St. Louis (36-30-9) this season, winning both matchups at the Scottrade Center. Cristobal Huet(notes) has started three of those games, and has a career 1.90 goals-against average in nine games versus the Blues.
Huet, though, gave up seven goals in Thursday’s loss and is 2-5-1 with a 3.62 GAA in his last nine games. Antti Niemi(notes), who appears to be the No. 1 goalie, has faced the Blues once in his career, making 34 saves in a 2-1 road win Feb. 6.
The Blues have slim hopes of reaching the playoffs, trailing eighth-place Colorado by eight points in the West.
St. Louis is trying to sweep a three-game homestand after a 2-1 victory over league-worst Edmonton on Sunday. Keith Tkachuk(notes) scored the winner on his 38th birthday with his first goal in 15 games.
“It’s a big win at home. We’re still alive, and you get on the board, finally,” Tkachuk said. “It seems like a long time, so it’s nice to contribute.”