By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- If any of the first eight Blues opponents didn't draw their attention, perhaps the lone remaining unbeaten team in regulation will grab it.
The Colorado Avalanche (7-0-1) come calling to Enterprise Center today for a Central Division showdown with the reeling Blues (3-2-3), who have lost four in a row for the first time since March 30-April 4, 2018. A loss tonight would be the longest since losing seven in a row (0-6-1) from Feb. 11-28, 2018.
"At times, we're doing things well, but we have to get back to reinventing ourselves," Blues center Ryan O'Reilly said. "We know we're not going to win the same way as we did last year. We have to be able to keep growing our game and keep getting better. We have to just start building, building towards something that's much better and more our identity."
The Avalanche are leading the NHL averaging over four goals per game (4.38) and have scored 19 during a road stretch that will last six games, this being the fifth.
"It's been good so far," said Colorado forward Mikko Rantanen, who is tied for the team lead in points (11) with Nathan NacKinnon. "We found a way to win even though we haven't played our best some nights. That's what good teams do, they find a way."
This is a game in which the Blues will have to pay attention to detail, particularly on the defensive end, because if they don't, it could be a long night.
"They are a different team from last year and have a lot more depth to them," O'Reilly said of the Avalanche, who he played for in the first six seasons of his NHL career (2009-15). "They've been obviously playing really well, they've been playing great hockey. They've got a lot of wins, and it's a divisional matchup too. It's a huge game for us to kind of get back on track and kind of get back to our identity. Obviously the last ones, at times we've had it for a little bit, but then we lose it. It hasn't been good enough, so we want to have a consistent game with them and get back to our style.
"You just look at their top line alone [Rantanen, MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog], everyone in this group knows if you go up against that line, you have to be on, you have to be doing the right things. You can't feed their transition and let their best players touch the puck. It does help us prepare in the sense that we can be very detailed with it and know what we're up against. It's a great opportunity, it's a great challenge for us. Obviously not playing well and them playing very well, it's a huge opportunity.
"I like this challenge. I know I have to play a good game defensively. They're hard top play against. If not, it's going to give them tons of opportunities. That's something we can't have."
Where Colorado is vulnerable though is that they're 17th in shots for (31.3) per game but allowing 36.5 shots against and winning just 45.5 percent of their face-ofs, which is last in the league in both categories, and conventional wisdom says the run they're on won't last and will sooner or later catch up to them, but it hasn't so far, and they're a young and fun bunch to watch right now with two veteran former Blues defensemen [Erik Johnson and Ian Cole] on the back end.
"They've got good lines, they've got three, four good lines," Blues coach Craig Berube said of the Avalanche. "[Cale] Makar and [Samuel] Girard on the back end can really get up the ice. They're a good team offensively.
"[Nazem] Kadri's a good two-way player, very good. He scored 30 goals in this league a couple times. The whole team can skate. They're a very mobile team and obviously that top line is very dangerous 5-on-5 and their power play. ... It's very important when you're out there against them that all five guys on the ice are doing a good job and aware of what's going on. Your puck management's big when you're out there against those guys. If we can control play in the offensive zone against them, that's going to be a bonus for us."
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The Blues held an optional morning skate, although heavily populated with 16 of the 23 skaters on the ice. Among those not skating still is defenseman Carl Gunnarsson, who sustained a lower-body injury last week against Vancouver and will not play.
Berube didn't disclose the lineup changes, but from what was on the ice Sunday at practice, Mackenzie MacEachern will be inserted into the lineup and Robby Fabbri is expected be a first-time healthy scratch this season, with Alexander Steen starting up with O'Reilly and David Perron and Sammy Blais dropping to play with Robert Thomas and Tyler Bozak.
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* Blues center Brayden Schenn has eight points (five goals, three assists) the past seven games.
* Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko has a four-game point streak (two goals, three assists).
* Blues left wing Jaden Schwartz has four points (one goal, three assists) in a four-game point streak.
* Blues goalie Jordan Binnington will get the start tonight but is 0-1-2 with a 3.55 goals-against average and .891 save percentage in the past three games.
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The Blues' projected lineup:
Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko
Alexander Steen-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron
Sammy Blais-Tyler Bozak-Robert Thomas
Mackenzie MacEachern-Ivan Barbashev-Oskar Sundqvist
Colton Parayko-Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Bouwmeester-Justin Faulk
Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo
Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Jake Allen will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Robby Fabbri and Zach Sanford. Carl Gunnarsson (lower body) is out.
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The Avalanche's projected lineup:
Gabriel Landeskog-Nathan MacKinnon-Mikko Rantanen
Joonas Donskoi-Nazem Kadri-Andre Burakovsky
Matt Nieto-Tyson Jost-Colin Wilson
Matt Calvert-Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-J.T. Compher
Samuel Girard-Erik Johnson
Cale Makar-Nikita Zadorov
Ian Cole-Ryan Graves
Philipp Grubauer will start in goal; Pavel Francouz will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Mark Barberio, Vladislav Kamenev and Valeri Nichushkin. The Avalanche report no injuries.
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