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The Blues had their ‘worst game of the year’ last night

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The St. Louis Blues have not been able to win back-to-back games in over a month.

They failed again last night, losing 4-2 at home to Carolina. Three days prior, they’d beaten Chicago in the Winter Classic.

“I thought that was our worst game of the year,” goalie Jake Allen said last night, per the Post-Dispatch. “We need to look ourselves in the mirror after that game. Unfocused, (didn’t execute), just didn’t play our game at all. … I thought we had a lot more to give coming off the Chicago game, from all of us. I think we all need to get back real soon. We’ve got a huge divisional game coming this weekend.”

The Blues (20-14-5) host Dallas Saturday, and the Stars (16-15-8) have been playing better lately, with just two regulation losses in their last nine.

St. Louis, meanwhile, has been mostly floundering. The Blues are only 7-7-2 since the beginning of December, and they are regularly finishing games with between 22 and 25 shots. Against the Hurricanes, they were outshot 29-23.

In case you’re wondering, the Blues have not been hampered by injuries. That being said, they don’t have David Backes or Troy Brouwer anymore, and those two combined for 39 goals last season. David Perron (10 goals) has helped fill some of the offensive void, but it’s still been a struggle to score at times.

And scoring goals isn’t even their biggest issue.

In goals against, the Blues have fallen from fourth last season (2.40) to 24th (2.92). Jake Allen’s .904 save percentage is one of the lowest among NHL starters, and Carter Hutton (.890) hasn’t been any better in the backup role.

Not to pin it all on the goalies.

“This is attitude consistency,” head coach Ken Hitchcock said. “You can’t play the game when you’re losing as many races to pucks and battles — that’s the game.”

The Blues still have a four-point playoff cushion, but with Nashville, Winnipeg and Dallas not far behind, finishing top three in the Central is no guarantee.

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Report: Blue Jackets RFA Anderson in contact with Hockey Canada about 2018 Olympics

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The preseason is well underway and Josh Anderson is still without a contract.

Anderson, who scored 17 goals and 29 points last season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, is one of two remaining restricted free agents without a new deal. The other is Andreas Athanasiou of the Detroit Red Wings.

While there were reports this summer about Athanasiou potentially going to the KHL for this season, John Shannon of Sportsnet reported on Thursday that Anderson’s representatives have reached out to Hockey Canada’s staff about the 2018 Olympics. 

Anderson’s entry-level contract, with an AAV of just over $894,000, expired at the end of last season.

Meanwhile, here is the latest on this ongoing contract situation.

Making an impression: Sergachev has ‘NHL written all over him’

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Mikhail Sergachev has, over the summer, stated his belief he can play in the NHL this season.

He had a small taste of NHL action last season, appearing in four games for Montreal — the team that selected him ninth overall in 2016 — before getting sent back to junior and then being traded in June to Tampa Bay, as part of a blockbuster involving Jonathan Drouin to the Habs.

Well, Sergachev made a statement Wednesday in his preseason debut for the Lightning.

He scored once. He also played more than 22 minutes, which led all Lightning players on the night. That included time on the power play and penalty kill. If he was looking to make a favorable impression, to show that he belongs at the NHL level when the regular season begins, this seems to be another step in that direction.

“You watch this kid skate, shoot, stickhandle, he’s got NHL written all over him,” Tampa Bay’s associate coach Rick Bowness told the Tampa Bay Times. “Now we’ve got to give him experience. How much can he handle?”

There is competition on the blue line, with eight defensemen under contract in Tampa Bay for this season. That includes Sergachev, who is still only 19 years old. After getting sent back to junior last season, he recorded 43 points in 50 games with Windsor and then won the Memorial Cup that spring. That said, he’s made it a point of saying going back to junior “is not an option” for him.

Related:

Looking to make the leap: Mikhail Sergachev

Report: Lupul will have ‘independent medical exam’

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Joffrey Lupul issued a statement Wednesday, saying he wouldn’t seek a second medical opinion after the Maple Leafs announced he didn’t pass his training camp physical.

A day later, reports have surfaced that the 33-year-old forward will, in fact, undergo another, independent medical test.

That is according to James Mirtle of The Athletic:

Earlier this week, Lupul made accusations against the Maple Leafs on Instagram.

“I’m ready … just awaiting the call,” Lupul wrote in the comments section of the Instagram post, per a screen grab. “haha failed physical? They cheat. Everyone lets them.”

Lupul, who didn’t pass his physical for a second year in a row, issued an apology yesterday. But those comments — which have since been deleted — seem to have grabbed the attention of the league.

Darren Dreger of TSN added to that, saying it’s the NHL pursuing a second medical opinion on this matter.

“The National Hockey League has that right to pursue the second opinion. That’s exactly what they’re engaging in right now,” Dreger reported Thursday.

“The reasoning behind it is because of the comment that Lupul made on social media. I’ll go back a year ago. The league didn’t step in a year ago but Lupul stayed quiet at that point. So they want to make sure — ‘They’ being the National Hockey League — that the medical evaluation from the Toronto Maple Leafs is 100 per cent above the board.”

Team USA won’t include NHL draft-eligible prospects at 2018 Olympics

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) General manager Jim Johannson has ruled out the possibility of the U.S. men’s hockey team having NHL draft-eligible prospects competing at the Winter Olympics in February.

Johannson tells The Associated Press he doesn’t view anyone from the 18-and-younger pool of prospects capable of cracking the projected lineup of non-NHL players, many of whom are opening this season playing in Europe.

USA Hockey’s assistant executive director says he’s also targeting a number of established college players, and would not rule out keeping a spot or two open for members of the U.S. team competing at the World Junior Championships this winter.

Johansson spoke in Buffalo, New York, on Thursday, where he is attending USA Hockey’s sixth annual All-American Prospects game. The game features the top 42 U.S.-born players eligible to be selected in the NHL draft in June.