Blues center Jay McClement went into Thursday's game against Columbus with three goals and one assist, a total that was considerably more modest when examined closely.
McClement actually had scored in just one of the first 26 games, leading a 4-3 victory over Atlanta on Oct. 30 with his first career hat trick.
"It's tough when you go through long stretches and don't get anything going," said McClement, who has had 12 and 11 goals, respectively, the past two seasons.
The frustration eased a bit in the Blues' 4-1 win over Columbus. McClement scored a power-play goal to snap his personal drought and double the Blues' lead to 2-0 in the first period.
"With the guys we have out, the timing is right for my game to come around a bit," McClement said. "Obviously, I'd like to show up more in the box score. At least I feel like I'm taking steps in the right direction. It feels good to contribute."
Highly regarded for his overall game, McClement is no different from any other player - he wants to contribute on the score sheet. But his sixth season in St. Louis has been a statistical struggle to this point. Besides modest offensive numbers, he entered Thursday's game with a plus-minus log of minus-10.
To show how unfair a plus-minus scale can be, McClement was a defensive standout Thursday, helping kill eight Columbus power plays. Yet, he came out of the game with a minus-1.
"I think this would be about three or four good games in a row for J-Mac," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "He's had real good determination on the puck, and his defensive responsibility and intensity have even been elevated. He's been demanding the puck, demanding to make a play with it. It's something our hockey club needs right now, so it's a great pick-me-up to have him playing that kind of game."
Feeling at home
The victory Thursday was one of 10 dates at Scottrade Center in December. Eleven of the Blues' next 14 games are in town, where they have a 9-2-1 record. Given the team has several key injuries, playing in friendly confines might help buy some time.
"Our fans are phenomenal for us here, and our record speaks volumes on what kind of support we get here," David Backes said.
"If that winning percentage can hold true through December, then we can be right on track and start to get some bodies back in the lineup. So that's a recipe for success. But we still have to take care of business; it's not going to be handed to us."
There is nothing new to report on the status of the injured. David Perron and Andy McDonald have not demonstrated any significant change in their concussion-related symptoms. T.J. Oshie (ankle surgery) is still some three months from being re-evaluated, and defenseman Roman Polak (lacerated wrist) is still weeks from having his status checked.
Payne had Vladmir Sobotka playing on his top scoring line Thursday, with Backes and Brad Boyes. In the process, his message to Sobotka was simple: "Don't go changin'."
"The biggest challenge is for him to continue to play his game," Payne said. "Sometimes you get a guy who is very comfortable and used to being in a checking role, and all of a sudden he moves up in a line and moves up in minutes. He feels he has an obligation to produce some offense, and he kind of gets into a different mind-set.
"But we feel like he's a guy, if he just plays his game, plays a firm game, plays a solid checking game and makes good decisions with the puck, he can extend some of our offensive-zone time and complement extremely well."
So far, so good. Sobotka had his second goal of the season in the victory.