Since coach Ken Hitchcock took over the St. Louis Blues earlier this month, the results of his up-tempo approach have been a better power play and heavy point production from his defensemen.
The Florida Panthers' power play still has room for improvement, but the contributions from their blueliners have been outstanding.
St. Louis tries to extend its home point streak to eight Thursday night when the Panthers look to continue one of the most dominant road stretches in franchise history.
Back on an NHL bench for the first time since getting fired by Columbus in February 2010, Hitchcock has already made a major impact since replacing the fired Davis Payne on Nov. 6. The Blues, who are 3-0-1 since the switch following Tuesday's 2-1 win over Detroit, have gone 3 for 14 on the power play since Hitchcock took over. They converted 3 of 40 opportunities under Payne.
Led by Kevin Shattenkirk (goal and team-best four assists) and Carlo Colaiacovo (three assists), St. Louis' defensemen have 13 of the team's 28 points since Hitchcock's arrival.
"Hitch is allowing us to make those plays and be patient with the puck on the walls and try to create offense," Shattenkirk told the Blues' official website prior to Tuesday's victory. "If we have nothing, throw it at the net, but if we have some time, be patient and try to make a play."
The Blues (9-7-1) have been doing that at home all season, going 6-0-1 since a 4-2 loss to Nashville on Oct. 8.
St. Louis goes for its first eight-game home point streak since an 8-0-1 run to open last season. The Panthers (9-5-3), though, come to town following Tuesday's 6-0 victory over Dallas. It was their most lopsided road win since beating the New York Islanders 7-1 on Dec. 14, 2009.
Florida has outscored its opponents 19-5 while winning four in a row on the road. The Panthers' stretch of five or more goals in three straight road wins is a franchise record.
The Panthers will have a good chance for a fifth consecutive road win -- they last accomplished that Nov. 28-Dec. 12, 2008 -- if the defense continues to deliver.
"It's definitely a mentality," said Garrison, who scored 1:24 after Kulikov did in Tuesday's first period. "The forwards work hard down low, we work low to high and get shots through. That's definitely the game plan."
The Panthers' top line of Kris Versteeg, Stephen Weiss and Tomas Fleischmann has been pulling its weight with 11 goals and 26 points in the last eight games, but the team is just 2 for 18 on the power play in the past four.
Improving in that area could be tough if Blues backup Brian Elliott makes a third straight start. He has turned away 40 of 41 shots in his two most recent outings.
Panthers first-year coach Kevin Dineen might give Scott Clemmensen a second look after the veteran returned from a knee injury Tuesday to post his seventh career shutout with 25 saves.
The Blues will be without right wing Chris Stewart for the next three games after he received a suspension from the league for a check from behind Tuesday that led to a game misconduct.
St. Louis, a 2-1 winner in Sunrise, Fla., on Feb. 8 in the teams' only meeting last season, has posted shutouts in two of the Panthers' last three visits.
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