New meets old: Hitchcock, Blues visit Blue Jackets
St. Louis head coach Ken Hitchcock is on the verge of game start by a new coach. Fittingly, it is a victory over his last NHL team that would give him the mark.
Hitchcock takes on the Blue Jackets for the first time as head coach of St. Louis, looking to snap Columbus' five-game point streak.
The 59-year-old Hitchcock took over for a fired Payne Davis on Nov. 7 and has guided the Blues to a 6-1-2 record. Joel Quenneville (7-3-0) and Red Berenson (6-2-2) are tied for the best 10-game record by a new Blues head coach with a .700 winning percentage.
Prior to taking over the Blues, Hitchcock last served as an NHL coach with the Blue Jackets from 2006-10. He told NHL.com that facing his former team will be just another game for him.
"I've been out two years (in Columbus) doing work for them," Hitchcock told the league's site. "I've developed a friendship with obviously the American (Hockey) League guys and some of the business people there just for fun, getting to know other people in the business.
"If it was (a big deal), I'd tell you. It isn't."
What has been a big deal is the play of the Blues since Hitchcock took over. St. Louis picked up a second straight victory on Friday with a 2-0 win over Calgary as Brian Elliott made 24 saves for his third shutout of the season and 12th of his career.
Elliott is 9-1 on the season and leads the NHL with a 1.34 goals-against average and .951 save percentage.
"Elliott has been fantastic battling and making saves," forward David Backes said. "When you have that behind you it gives you the confidence to make a few plays in front of him."
Backes scored shorthanded and had an assist, while Alex Pietrangelo also scored in the win. Alex Steen and Kevin Shattenkirk chipped in with assists.
"We got a great goaltending display and our fourth line was terrific," Hitchcock said.
St. Louis begins a three-game road trip this evening against a Columbus team that is 3-0-2 in its past five games. The Blue Jackets are also 4-1-2 since a 2-12-1 start.
Columbus had one of its best offensive showings of the season last time out, posting a 5-1 win over Buffalo. Rick Nash scored twice and Marc Methot, Mark Letestu and R.J. Umberger added goals.
Ryan Johansen, James Wisniewski and Jeff Carter each finished with two assists for the Blue Jackets, who are on their longest point streak since a 5-0-1 run from Feb. 11-25. Curtis Sanford made 28 saves in the win.
"When you can get out of the first period with a two-goal lead it takes some of the pressure off, especially when you're at home," said Nash. "We're just trying to simplify things out there and it's working."
The Blues won the final three meetings with the Blue Jackets last year to take the season series, 4-2. St. Louis has won six of its last 10 in Columbus.