Blues look to continue strong home play before taking a break


ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Blues are looking for some more home cooking before taking a break.

The Blues will seek to snap a two-game losing streak when they host the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night. After that, St. Louis embarks on its weeklong, league-mandated bye week.

Scottrade Center has been kind to the Blues, who have won three straight and four of their last five games on home ice. St. Louis has given up only seven goals during that stretch.

The Blues recently got good news on the injury front as forward Jaden Schwartz is no longer on crutches or a walking boot. Schwartz was placed on IR after taking a puck off of his foot Dec. 9 at Detroit.

It doesn’t mean a return is close, but according to Blues coach Mike Yeo, it does mean he’s on schedule. The team said Schwartz would be re-evaluated in six weeks at the time of the injury.

“So certainly, you’re not gonna put him in a bad spot and try to rush him back too quickly, but obviously, we’re very eager to get him back,” Yeo told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Schwartz was playing at an elite level when he got hurt, scoring 14 goals with 21 assists in 30 games.

Without Schwartz, the Blues and their offense have struggled. St. Louis has a 6-8-1 record without him, and this weekend’s games at Philadelphia and Washington, both losses, marked the first time the Blues scored three goals in regulation in back-to-back games without him.

Schwartz’s linemate, Vladimir Tarasenko, has busted out of his scoring slump. Tarasenko, the Blues’ second-leading scorer with 42 points, has six points (three goals, three assists) in his last six games.

Yeo told the Post-Dispatch that Tarasenko’s strong play also has helped Ivan Barbashev.

“Really happy with his game,” Yeo said of Tarasenko. “He seems to have not only elevated his game, but the way that Barby’s playing right now, I think Vlady has a lot to do with that, too. He’s helping his confidence out, talking to him lots. And so that’s a good sign for us.”

The Panthers beat the Blues 5-2 at Florida on Oct. 12. St. Louis is 8-3-0 in its last 11 games against Florida.

The Panthers are coming off a 3-2 shootout loss at Columbus on Sunday night. The shootout went eight rounds. It was Florida’s third straight loss.

“It was a good point,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner told NHL.com. “It was a hard-fought point against a real good hockey club. Both teams had good goaltending. We’ve just got to take this and move on.”

James Reimer made 46 saves against Columbus in his 14th consecutive start.

Panthers center Aleksander Barkov said he believes the wins will start coming as long as the effort is there.

“We’re playing good hockey, but we’re not getting two points,” Barkov told NHL.com. “That’s the biggest thing right now. We need to find a way to get those two points. No matter how we play, we just need to find a way.”

Source: Fox Sports

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