By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The Blues, mired in another prolonged slump with the man advantage, spent a considerable amount of time working on a power play unit that really needs to kick things into gear considering the fact that there are key pieces missing from the offensive arsenal.
The Blues are in a 0-for-22 funk dating back to Nov. 22, when Alex Pietrangelo scored at the nine-minute, 22-second mark of the first period.
That's going back eight games and now leaves the Blues (13-9-4), who play host to Columbus tonight at 7, 26th in the league in power play efficiency at 12.5 percent.
They've scored 13 times on 104 chances, leaving the Blues only ahead of New Jersey, Nashville, the Blue Jackets and Florida.
But with T.J. Oshie (broken ankle) and David Perron (concussion) already out of the lineup, the Blues are now looking at another power play cog to replace, as Andy McDonald (concussion) is also shelved.
"They're key moments for us," Blues coach Davis Payne said following practice Wednesday. "We're going to be a team that has to win the tight-checking affairs and we know that. That's what our 5-on-5 game has to look like. We also know our PK has to be very sharp and we expect the same out of our power play. The emphasis that it has is heightened. There's no question about that right now. These guys have the obligation and responsibility to make a difference for our team right now and we've got to find a group of guys that's going to consistently get it done."
Payne's outlook for the unit is that things change by the moment. The plan of execution varies by opponent.
"The emphasis on where we can go against certain teams changes game by game," Payne said. "Most of all right now, it's dealing with pressure and giving ourselves an opportunity to attack out of it. We came through that phase earlier in the year when the power play wasn't going and we recognized the pressure and then we had about six or seven games where we got ourselves fairly well directed.
"We got off-track with just being content to deal with pressure as opposed to finding opportunities to attack. That's kind of put us in the situation we are right now. Finding a guy to settle some things down, finding a guy to make the right play under pressure or the right play to kind of calm things down and find out what our next play is, it's a little bit of a constant work in progress here."
* Cole back -- Blues defenseman Ian Cole, who missed practice Tuesday with a bout of the flu, was back on the ice Wednesday and feeling much better than he had over the last couple days.
Cole, recalled Friday from Peoria, played arguably his two best games as an NHL player with the Blues over the weekend at Edmonton and Vancouver.
At Edmonton Saturday, Cole played a career-high 18 minutes, 49 seconds with two shots and two blocked shots to go along with four hits. He was even for the game.
At Vancouver Sunday, the 18th pick in the 2007 Entry Draft played 15:23 and was a plus-1 playing alongside captain Eric Brewer.
"I could tell the difference between the first time up and now," Cole said. "I just felt so much more assertive and sure of myself. I didn't feel like I was chasing the play. I felt like I was reading (plays). It just felt like it was a lot easier, and Brewer, I can't say enough about playing with him. He makes it that much easier."
* Perron still in limbo -- David Perron, out since suffering a concussion Nov. 4 against San Jose, will miss his 17th game tonight against Columbus.
Perron, who has five goals and seven points in 10 games, said recently he was feeling better but as time passes and nothing new to report, sometimes no news can be troublesome.
"Still same story. Still dealing with the symptoms," Payne said. "Until we get through that, there's no update."