By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- No comes the challenging part for the Blues again tonight, when they close a stretch of three games in four nights at Enterprise Center against the Winnipeg Jets (6 p.m.; FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).
The Blues played hard, played for one another but mistakes hurt them against Nashville Wednesday and they lost in Music City 4-1. On Friday, the Blues certainly played for one another, brought an element of physicality not seen often and it produced a 6-2 convincing win against the Predators in the rematch.
Against the Jets (12-7-2), who the Blues (8-10-3) are 0-1-1 against this season after a season-opening 5-1 loss at home on Oct. 4 and a 5-4 overtime loss at Winnipeg on Oct. 22, the Blues will have to try and duplicate and keep a consistent blueprint of playing to a high level and standard, one which was expected at the start of the season.
They've had a number of signature wins this season (4-1 at Toronto on Oct. 20, 4-0 at home against San Jose on Nov. 9 and 4-1 at Vegas on Nov. 16) but couldn't follow those up with a consistent level of play.
"I think that's what kind of team we have to be," said Blues center Brayden Schenn, who had a goal and an assist Friday and picked up his second career Gordie Howe hat trick. "We're a hard, big, heavy team. If we're not playing physical, we're not going to be that hard to play against. We've done it two times (in a row) so far, we've got another challenge (tonight)."
The Blues were able to manhandle and force the Predators to play on their heels Friday. Can they follow it up again tonight?
They'll likely have to do it in a different manner with the Jets being a bigger, heavier opponent than the one the Blues faced on Friday.
"Yeah, we have to," said forward Pat Maroon, who along with Schenn set the tone Friday with two fights in the first 75 seconds of the game. "I think Petro [Alex Pietrangelo] said it in the media before … we win one, lose one, win one, lose one, or we win one and then lose three or four. We’ve got to find ways to win two, three, four, five in a row. It hasn’t been a good month, it hasn’t been a good start of the season, but (tonight) is another good test where if we can beat another good hockey team … hopefully it will be another good two points."
The Blues finished with 29 hits Friday, and coach Craig Berube, who picked up his first win after taking over on an interim basis for Mike Yeo last Monday, said the Blues cannot back down off that mantle.
"You have to play hard in this league," Berube said. "Everybody works hard but you have to play hard. That's just what you have to do. If you want to be successful and be a good team, you have to play hard and that involves being physical and it involves a lot of things."
The Blues should be prepared for an angry Jets squad that led 2-0 t Minnesota heading into the third period before falling 4-2. The Jets have lost two in a row for the first time this season and will want to avoid a third straight defeat.
The Blues don't care. They have to begin building their identity.
"You want to go two in a row and want the victory, but it's taking that process and getting prepared for a hard game," said center Ryan O'Reilly, who had a goal and an assist Friday. "They've got a lot of talent over there and they've worked well together. We need to throw another complete effort together."
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Neither the Blues nor Jets held a morning skate today, so any lineup changes won't be known until this afternoon.
Berube will address the media at 4:30 and Jets coach Paul Maurice will address Winnipeg's status at 3:30.
Jets forward Andrew Copp went into concussion protocol after Friday's game and may not play tonight. (*confirmed that Copp will not play)
Chad Johnson (Blues) and Laurent Brissoit (Jets) will be the starting goalies after both Jake Allen and Connor Hellebuyck played for their respective teams on Friday.
Allen, who made 26 saves on Friday, didn't face a big amount of high-stress volume of shots in the game, the Blues are playing back-to-back at home and they don't play again until Wednesday.
Oh, and Allen has a 1.22 goals-against average and .942 save percentage his past five starts, so while he's hot, might give Berube some thought to mull this one over.
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The Blues' projected lineup:
Zach Sanford-Ryan O'Reilly-Vladimir Tarasenko
Robby Fabbri-Brayden Schenn-Robert Thomas
David Perron-Tyler Bozak-Pat Maroon
Sammy Blais-Ivan Barbashev-Oskar Sundqvist
Vince Dunn-Alex Pietrangelo
Joel Edmundson-Colton Parayko
Jay Bouwmeester-Jordan Schmaltz
Chad Johnson will start in goal; Jake Allen will be the backup.
The healthy scratch is expected to be Nikita Soshnikov. Jaden Schwartz (hand), Alexander Steen (upper body), Carl Gunnarsson (upper body) and Robert Bortuzzo (lower body) are all expected to be out.
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The Jets' projected lineup:
Nikolaj Ehlers-Mark Scheifele-Blake Wheeler
Kyle Connor-Bryan Little-Patrik Laine
Mathieu Perreault-Adam Lowry-Brandon Tanev
Jack Roslovic-Nic Petan-Brendan Lemieux
Josh Morrissey-Jacob Trouba
Ben Chiarot-Dustin Byfuglien
Joe Morrow-Tyler Myers
Laurent Brossoit will start in goal; Connor Hellebuyck will be the backup.
The healthy scratch will be Sami Niku. Dmitry Kulikov (upper body) and Andrew Copp (concussion) are out.