By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- After scoring 52 goals in the season's first 15 games -- or 3.46 goals per game -- the Blues have hit a wall in the goal-scoring department.
After being blanked by Chicago Thursday night, the second time they've been shut out in the last three games, that leaves the Blues with three goals in the last four games -- or 0.75 goals per game.
Of course the Blues (10-7-2), who host the Edmonton Oilers (8-7-2) at 7 p.m. today (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM), are missing their second scoring line of Andy McDonald, Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko, but the Blues are not making excuses despite scoring one goal or less in five of the last seven home games.
"When things aren't going your way, you've just got to simplify," said winger Chris Stewart, who is second on the Blues with seven goals behind Patrik Berglund's nine. "You have to go to the hard areas to score goals. That's plain and simple. We haven't been doing that lately. If you look at our goals the last few games that we have scored, it's a step that has been a result of that. Everybody wants to make the perfect play. If you don't have your full lineup, you've got to make the predictable, easy play and play in straight lines."
So why does it come to everybody wanting to make the perfect play?
"I don't know if there's a specific reason for it, but sometimes you have time and space and you think a guy's open," Stewart said. "I think we've got to get back to simple hockey where we're getting 40-45 shots a night. That's when we're successful and we grind teams down in their end."
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said it's a by-product of the Blues' lack of five-on-five success.
"I think your five-on-five play is a reflection of your overall team game," said Hitchcock, whose team is 28th in the NHL with 28 five-on-five goals but are 15th in five-on-five goals against, allowing 34. "We've relied on the power play all year and it's carried us. It hasn't carried us the last little while. We've gotten a lot of chances the last couple games because the work ethic was starting to come back, but I think your five-on-five play is a direct reflection of how much time you spend in the other teams' zone, and we just don't spend enough time in the other teams' zone right now to be a consistent winning hockey club.
"We have to manage the puck better. I think when you manage the puck well, you just end up being a really good five-on-five team. You end up creating garbage scoring chances, zone time wear-down scoring chances, but when you don't spend enough time in the offensive zone, it's hard to be a good five-on-five team, because you can't hold up, you can't defend with your stick. You've got to be able to use your body, and if you put the puck in properly and you manage your support properly, you always end up being a good five-on-five team."
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The Blues' probable lineup, and some changes are in order after an optional skate:
Jaden Schwartz-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
David Perron-Patrik Berglund-Chris Stewart
Chris Porter-Vladimir Sobotka-Matt D'Agostini
Adam Cracknell-Scott Nichol-Ryan Reaves
Barret Jackman-Alex Pietrangelo
Wade Redden-Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell-Roman Polak
Jaroslav Halak, who stopped 20 shots in the loss to Chicago Thursday, gets the start again tonight; Brian Elliott is the backup but will get the start Sunday in Dallas.
Scratches include defenseman Ian Cole and winger Andrew Murray; McDonald (knee) is on injured reserve and is out week to week. Steen (upper body) is day to day. Tarasenko (concussion/facial laceration) is on injured reserve. Jamie Langenbrunner (hip) is out for the season.
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The Oilers had an optional skate Friday but are expected to play the following lineup:
Taylor Hall-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-Jordan Eberle
Ryan Jones-Sam Gagner-Ales Hemsky
Ryan Smyth-Eric Belanger-Nail Yakupov
Ben Eager-Chris Vandevelde-Lennart Petrell
Jeff Petry-Ladislav Smid
Nick Schultz-Justin Schultz
Ryan Whitney-Theo Peckham
Devan Dubnyk is the expected starter after backstopping Edmonton to a 5-1 win at Dallas Thursday; Yann Danis is the backup.
The healthy scratch is forward Magnus Paajarvi. Injuries include Shawn Horcoff (hand), Nikolai Khabibulin (groin), Teemu Hartikainen (shoulder), Anton Lander (foot), Andy Sutton (knee), Corey Potter (head), Mark Fistric (elbow).
Note: Potter and Fistric suffered their injuries in Thursday night's 5-1 win at Dallas and are listed as day to day according to Oilers reporter Gene Principe.