The Vancouver Canucks have been one of the NHL's most improved teams under new coach Rick Tocchet during the final quarter of the regular season.
The Canucks (34-34-5, 73 points) hope to sustain that roll when they face the Blues (33-34-6, 72 points) on Tuesday at Enterprise Center in St. Louis.Vancouver has won 10 of its last 12 games. The Canucks overcame a slow start against the lowly Blackhawks to win 4-2 at Chicago on Sunday.
"I wasn't happy with the first (period), and we came on at the end and obviously got a couple goals," Tocchet said. "You've got to respect every opponent you play. Listen, I'm happy we won. I just didn't like our start."
The Canucks have found their stride under Tocchet, who replaced Bruce Boudreau as coach in midseason. Their strong finish against the Blackhawks was another sign of that.
"We kept on going," goaltender Collin Delia said. "I think that's just a testament to our group. That's the type of habits we're trying to build. It's incredible, just the commitment we have to each other day in and day out, the little habits, the practice habits. We're kind of reaping the rewards of that right now."
Forward Elias Pettersson has led the late-season charge by scoring 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) during his 12-game point streak.
The Canucks are catching the Blues during their late-season upturn. The Blues had a 4-0-1 unbeaten streak snapped with their 7-6 loss at Los Angeles on Sunday, but they staged a spirited comeback after falling behind 5-1.
"Guys battled back hard in the second, and in the third, too," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "There's things that we gotta do better that we didn't do very well tonight that we've been doing well. Got away from us a little bit, but we battled and competed and scored some nice goals. And we were in the game.
"But overall, we gotta be better than that defensively and the penalty kill's gotta be better, too."
The Kings scored four power-play goals in that game and one short-handed goal.
"Bad start, bad (penalty kill)," Blues forward Pavel Buchnevich said. "They got ahead of us and we tried to catch 'em. I think for fans, interesting game to watch. I think we showed some character to almost get them back. Some positive emotions."
After the loss in Los Angeles, the Blues returned goaltender Joel Hofer to Springfield of the AHL. Hofer started five of the six games during his recall, which began when Jordan Binnington earned a two-game NHL suspension.
Binnington reliever Hofer during the loss to the Kings and he figures to regain his lead role for the rest of this season.
These teams split their first two games with each team winning on the road. The Blues won 5-1 on Dec. 19 behind Jordan Kyrou's hat trick and the Canucks prevailed 3-2 in overtime on Feb. 23 with Pettersson enjoying a three-point game (goal, two assists) while putting 10 shots on goal.
Binnington made 38 saves in that loss to help the Blues earn a point.
Canucks forward Vasily Podkolzin is questionable for Tuesday's game. He did not play in Chicago after exiting the previous game after blocking a shot. The team lists him as day-to-day.
--Field Level Media