WATCH LIVE: Blues visit Blackhawks on Wednesday Night Hockey

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Wednesday night’s matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues at 8 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Blackhawks and Blues find themselves at the bottom of the Central Division eneytering Wednesday’s meeting. Chicago took the first two meetings in overtime, but St. Louis got one back with a 7-3 victory on Oct. 27.

New Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton is still looking for his first win since replacing Joel Quenneville. Chicago is 0-2-1 under Colliton, which has extended their losing streak to eight games. That loss to the Blues was the game that started this current slide. They’ve not had a nine-game losing streak since the 2011-12 NHL season.

“I believe we’re on the right track. I believe we will turn this around. I think we’ve got really good players,” said Colliton. “When things are going against you over a long period of time, it’s not easy to get out of it. The circumstances are what they are. We’ve got to find a way to get it done. We can and we will.”

The dark clouds that were above the Blues earlier this season have brightened as they’ve won four of their last six. During that six-game stretch they’ve sliced their goals against per game from 4 to 2.5. Ryan O'Reilly is also excelling with eight goals and 17 points during a 10-game point streak.

Jake Allen‘s play was a factor in the Blues’ slow start, which opened the door for Chad Johnson, who’s played well in net for the last three games. He’s stopped 86 of the last 90 shots he’s faced and will get his chance to continue to shine during this current three-game road trip. Tonight, however, it’s Allen’s net versus the Blackhawks.

“He’s been our best player. You’ve seen countless times the big saves he’s making that are giving us a chance to win,” O’Reilly said about Johnson. “He’s stood on his head and it’s helped a lot. It’s helped us find our groove and do some good things. We have to be better in front of him, though.”

[WATCH LIVE – 8 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: St. Louis Blues at Chicago Blackhawks
Where: United Center
When: Wednesday, November 14th, 8 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Blues-Blackhawks stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BLUES
Jaden Schwartz – Ryan O’Reilly – Vladimir Tarasenko
Robby FabbriTyler BozakAlexander Steen
Zach SanfordRobert ThomasDavid Perron
Patrick MaroonIvan BarbashevOskar Sundqvist

Carl GunnarssonAlex Pietrangelo
Vince DunnJordan Schmaltz
Joel EdmundsonJay Bouwmeester

Starting goalie: Jake Allen

BLACKHAWKS
Nick SchmaltzJonathan ToewsPatrick Kane
Brandon SaadArtem AnisimovJohn Hayden
Alex DeBrincatDavid KampfDominik Kahun
Chris Kunitz – Luke Johnson – Andreas Martinsen

Duncan KeithBrent Seabrook
Erik GustafssonHenri Jokiharju
Brandon Manning – Gustav Forling

Starting goalie: Corey Crawford

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Blues hope returning Fabbri can finally get some health luck

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As a smaller scorer, Robby Fabbri was already a hockey player who was easy to root for. His terrible injury luck makes it a no-brainer, really, so his latest attempt to get on track with the St. Louis Blues is absolutely worth watching.

After word surfaced that the shifty winger was activated from IR, Blues coach Mike Yeo admitted to The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford that he’s pulling for him, too.

“I’m excited for him personally,” Yeo said. ” … I don’t know how long it’s going to take for him to get right back on top of things. I do know that players that are relentless and tenacious and as driven as (he is) usually find a way to get there quicker.”

Yeo added something undeniable: Fabbri’s been through “an awful lot.”

Fabbri’s 2017-18 season ended before it began, as a knee injury sidelined him through that campaign. The 22-year-old actually hasn’t played in an NHL game since Feb. 4, 2017, as his 2016-17 season was also derailed by health issues. Those problems bubbled up again, thwarting his hopes of beginning this campaign on a healthy note.

That’s tough to stomach for anyone, particularly for a player who’s still trying to establish himself as a difference-making, quality scorer.

It stings that much extra because, while he hasn’t been unstoppable with the Blues, there have been flashes of first-round brilliance. Fabbri’s scored 66 points in 123 regular-season games despite modest ice time (14:16 per game on average). A struggling St. Louis team could really use another catalyst, so if Fabbri is reasonably healthy, this could be a real boon for the Blues.

(Not to mention fans who enjoy watching creative scorers.)

The Blues look to bring Fabbri along slowly at first. According to Left Wing Lock’s listings, he’s currently slated to play on the fourth line. That said, that trio is relatively intriguing: Robert Thomas is a promising prospect/bad music joke machine, while Oscar Sundqvist deserves his own set of kharmatic bounces considering the hit he suffered from Tom Wilson.

Maybe the most promising early opportunity comes on the power play. While Fabbri is on the second unit, it’s one of the more intriguing No. 2 groups in the NHL, as he joins Alex Pietrangelo, David Perron, Brayden Schenn, and Jaden Schwartz. Honestly, that could easily pass as a top group on a shallower squad.

The Blues are off to a frustrating 3-4-3 start, and Fabbri knows all too well how it must feel like to be snakebitten. Perhaps both the player and team can improve their fates together?

St. Louis hosts the Vegas Golden Knights – another team that’s dealt with some irritating ups and downs so far this season – on Thursday night.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

As losses pile up, seat gets hotter for Blues’ Mike Yeo

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Take a gander at the Western Conference standings right now and you have to scroll a bit to find the St. Louis Blues, who currently reside next-to-last with a 2-4-3 record and seven points, two better than the last place Los Angeles Kings.

Thursday night’s 7-4 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets was not an ideal way to kick off a seven-game homestand, especially when there’s plenty to fix. Head coach Mike Yeo was probably already on the hot seat heading into this season and if this keeps up, he’s possibly in his final days as Blues head coach. 

“Heck my job should be in question right now,” Yeo said Thursday night. “Of course that comes with the trade. But I’m not going to coach to try to save my job. I’m going to coach to try to win a Stanley Cup. I believe in this group, so whatever we need every single day, I’m going to try to do that.”

It wasn’t that long ago that Yeo found himself in a similar situation behind the bench. 

Through the first half of the 2014-15 NHL season Yeo’s Minnesota Wild team were struggling mightily. Mired near the bottom of the West standings and last in the Central Division, he went ballistic during an early January practice. Numerous expletives were hurled and there was some angry stick smashing on the ice. 

Who knows how much the tirade helped in the team’s turnaround since there was a bigger factor involved. Seven days after Yeo went bonkers the Wild acquired Devan Dubnyk. They would finish with the second-best record in the league from Jan. 7, 2015 on and Dubnyk saved his career and ended up a Vezina Trophy finalist that June.

Unless the second coming of Jan. 2015 – May 2015 Dubnyk is going to be available, there’s no savior coming in for the Blues.

The Blues are in Year 3 with Yeo, which has featured a second-round loss in 2017 and watching the entirety of the 2018 playoffs last spring. Now after a summer where general manager Doug Armstrong brought in Ryan O’Reilly, Tyler Bozak, David Perron, Patrick Maroon, the pressure is on to win.

And while the Blues are scoring fine (3.22 goals per game) and the power play is clicking (28.2 percent), everything else is a sub-par.

• 4 goals against per game (second-most)
• 24 goals allowed at 5-on-5 (tied for second-most)
• 47 percent Corsi, per Natural Stat Trick
• 18 third period goals allowed (most in NHL)
Jake Allen‘s .896 even strength save percentage is 15th out of 16 goalies with 300 minutes played, per Corsica

A closed-door meeting was held after the loss to the Blue Jackets, a meeting that also included Yeo. The message of needing to be better was reinforced but talking will only do so much as the losses pile up.

“We sign great players and maybe think like goals and chances will come right away because we have such a good roster on paper,” said Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo via the Post-Dispatch. “Now things don’t go our way, so this may be a little bit different expectations (from) what everybody expects. But like I said, there are two ways: Stay here or try to find a way to get out.”

The Blues players were all pointing fingers at themselves following the game and supporting their head coach and Allen, who’s been left out to dry on a number of occasions this season but can still be much better. They’re not a confident team right now and Saturday will be another chance to right the ship as they host the Chicago Blackhawks. After that, it’s four full days off to continue working on fixes — or making big changes — before the Vegas Golden Knights visit.

“I don’t know ‘fragile’ is the right word. We’re not mentally strong enough right now to consistently play the type of game that we want to,” said Alex Steen. “We can sit here and talk about everything, X’s and O’s. It’s not about that, it’s about work and doing it for 60 minutes and we’ve done that only once, maybe twice so far this year and our record shows it.”

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Blues keep finding ways to lose

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There isn’t much shame to coughing up a lead against the Winnipeg Jets, a team that can become an offensive locomotive when it really gets going. No, for the St. Louis Blues, it was the way they lost last night’s game, seeing a 3-1 lead evaporate into a 5-4 overtime loss.

“I think we’re scared to lose games right now,” Jake Allen said. “We’re behind in the standings, we know that; we know that each point is crucial, and we’re playing in the third period like we’re scared to lose the game. If you lose, you lose, but you gotta go down swinging. We’re just giving teams opportunities, and a team as good as Winnipeg, they’re going to bury them. This loss is on us.”

” … They didn’t beat us. We beat ourselves.”

The Blues fell to a disappointing 2-3-3 record thanks to a disturbing trend: giving up leads and letting wins and points slip through their fingers. The numbers back that up, extending back to last season, but especially right now:

The Blues have only scored eight third-period goals, by comparison, so it’s a troubling sign.

Now, with any pattern established this early in 2018-19, it’s dangerous to make too many sweeping observations.

That aside, it’s also important to ask questions, or else you risk history repeating itself.

How much of this is on the style of play? To be more precise, is head coach Mike Yeo trying too hard to “sit on leads” rather than enhance them?

Sure, there are risks involved with being aggressive on offense, yet every second you spend with the puck on your stick in the opposing zone is another moment where the opposition isn’t threatening to score.

The Blues were getting rid of the puck as if it was a live grenade often through the third period of that eventual loss to Winnipeg. It got to the point where officiating became crucial in a sad way: borderline icing calls. At one point Jets fans serenaded referees for calling an icing after an earlier call was thwarted in part by an official getting in Jacob Trouba‘s way. Later on, it seemed like an icing might have been too hastily whistled against the Blues.

For all we know, a more aggressive approach might have left the Blues losing to the Jets in regulation, rather than at least getting a point in an overtime loss. Hindsight is 20/20, so it’s easy to armchair QB the Blues’ approach after the fact.

You can still wonder about some coaching decisions, however. Why, for instance, was recently scratched defenseman Jay Bouwmeester on the ice in so many crucial situations?

Such mistakes can come back to haunt the Blues in future games where they’re trying to protect leads.

Plenty has been made about buzzwords like “urgency,” as you can see from this Jeremy Rutherford piece from The Athletic (sub required) about a week ago. But how much of that lack of urgency stems back to Yeo’s system, how he might be playing to the score, and the players he’s putting out on the ice in certain situations.

The Blues boast a wealth of options on defense, from established difference-makers such as Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko to an interesting up-and-coming scorer like Vince Dunn. Is it really wise to hope Bouwmeester can carry such of a workload? Is this a case of outdated thinking? Could it be that Yeo was overreacting to this brutal late-game gaffe by Parayko?

Now, look, it’s not all bad for the Blues. Generally speaking, when you open up a 3-1 lead against the Jets – carrying big chunks of play in the process – you’re probably doing quite a bit right.

For one thing, the Blues might have stumbled onto some nice scoring balance, at least between its top two lines.

Early on, Ryan O'Reilly was anchoring a top line with Vladimir Tarasenko. After starting strong, the combo hit a lull, so Yeo reunited last year’s deadly first line (Tarasenko with Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz) while putting ROR with David Perron. So far, O’Reilly (six points in three games) and Perron (five in three games) have been generating serious offense. If that top trio can rekindle some of last year’s magic, they might just build up leads so robust that they can rest on their heels and still win plenty of games.

Nonetheless, the Blues bring high expectations into this season. They gave up some serious futures to land O’Reilly, along with landing Perron and Patrick Maroon in free agency.

On paper, the Blues seem like they should be a contender, even in the cutthroat Central Division. If St. Louis can’t convert that potential to real-life wins soon, the heat could really start to rise.

It’s up to Yeo and others to find answers, and soon.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

It’s St. Louis Blues day at PHT

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to focusing on a player coming off a breakthrough year to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the St. Louis Blues.

2017-18

44-32-6, 94 points. (5th in the Central Division, 9th in the Western Conference)

IN:

Ryan O'Reilly
Tyler Bozak
David Perron
Chad Johnson
Patrick Maroon

OUT:

Vladimir Sobotka
Patrik Berglund
Tage Thompson
Carter Hutton
Scottie Upshall

RE-SIGNED:

Nikita Soshnikov
Robby Fabbri
Joel Edmundson

The St. Louis Blues got off to a strong start in 2017-18. Early on, it looked like they were going to be one of the top teams in the Western Conference. The Blues won 10 of their first 13 games (10-2-1) thanks to impressive performances from players like Brayden Schenn, Vladimir Taranseko, Alex Pietrangelo and company.

Everything appeared to be great. But near the end of the calendar year, the season started going off the rails. St. Louis wound up losing seven of nine games between Dec. 12 and 29. Things didn’t seem to get much better in the new year. The magic that had been surrounding the Blues early on in the season appeared to be gone.

[Under Pressure: Allen | Breakthrough: Dunn | 3 Questions]

Losing one player to injury shouldn’t be the reason for a season to go off track but looking back, it definitely appears as though losing Jaden Schwartz to an ankle injury did just that. When Schwartz went down on Dec. 9, he had racked up an impressive 35 points in 30 games. After that, they clearly weren’t the same team anymore.

Schwartz was a key cog during their early run, but if a team can’t survive one injury then they probably weren’t that good to begin with.

As always, starting netminder Jake Allen went through his usual ups and downs. His numbers weren’t always terrific, but he still had a 17-6-2 record at one point. When the team started slumping, their starter wasn’t able to help get them out of a hole.

In late December, Allen had even lost his starting job to Carter Hutton for a while (Hutton started 10 of 14 games between Dec. 30-Feb. 2). But Allen and the Blues managed to put together a six-game winning streak in March, but it still wasn’t enough to secure a berth in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

When the Blues decided to trade pending free agent Paul Stastny at the deadline, some players (i.e. Brayden Schenn) voiced their displeasure in the media. Sure, they were in the middle of a tight playoff race, but GM Doug Armstrong obviously didn’t believe that his team was good enough to do any damage even if they did sneak into the postseason. It might not have been a popular decision, but Armstrong was doing what was best for his group in the long run.

So after missing the playoffs, he decided it was time to make some significant changes to his roster. They added plenty of depth down the middle in the form of Ryan O’Reilly and Tyler Bozak and they also added wingers that can chip in offensively like David Perron and Patrick Maroon.

With the new additions and Schwartz and Robby Fabbri now healthy, the Blues appear to be a legitimate threat to make the postseason.

Prospect Pool:

Robert Thomas, 19, C, Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL) – 2017 first-round pick

Thomas has emerged as one of the best prospects in the game. The youngster had an outstanding OHL season with London and Hamilton, as he put up an impressive 24 goals and 75 points in just 49 games. He also performed very well for Team Canada at the 2018 World Junior Hockey Championship, where he accumulated six points in seven games. But Thomas isn’t only just an offensive force, he’s also capable of playing a 200-foot game. Even though he’s still a teenager, the 19-year-old has a legitimate shot of cracking the Blues roster this season.

“I’m excited about Robert. What I like, what coaches like, is he’s got a well-rounded game,” coach Mike Yeo said, per NHL.com. “Robert’s a guy who’s going to learn quickly. He’s a very coachable kid, he’s a smart player, plays well on both ends of the ice. Another right shot, but a guy that’s got a lot of elements, a lot of high hockey intelligence to his game that could really give him a chance to come in and make our team.”

• Jordan Kyrou, 20, C, Sarnia Sting (OHL) – 2016 second-round pick

Kyrou put together an incredible final season in junior in 2017-18. The 20-year-old had 39 goals and 109 points in just 56 games with Sarnia last season. That’s even more impressive when you consider that the second-leading scorer on his team finished the year with 73 points.

The young forward will now make the full-time leap to the professional ranks. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not he is capable of cracking the Blues’ opening-night roster or not. But with all the additions the team made during the off-season, they probably won’t be able to keep both Thomas and Kyrou, so that might be an interesting camp battle. Unfortunately for Kyrou, he can be sent to the AHL and can be recalled to the big club anytime they need him. If Thomas doesn’t stick, he has to go back to junior for the season.

• Klim Kostin, 19, C, San Antonio Rampage (AHL) – 2017 first-round pick

The 6-foot-3, 212-pounder was the last pick of the first round in his draft year, but he’s shown that he should have gone much earlier than that. Kostin made the leap right to the North American professional ranks last season, as he spent the year in the AHL. He finished the year with a respectable six goals and 28 points in 67 games, which isn’t too shabby for a player who was 18 for most of the hockey year. Kostin will need more seasoning in the minors, but he’s shown that he has a bright future ahead of him.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.