Life without Kevin Shattenkirk finally took a sour turn for the Blues. They lost back-to-back games for the first time since back on Dec. 30 and Jan. 2.
They are getting some good shifts out of defensemen Carl Gunnarsson, Chris Butler and Ian Cole. All three have shown signs of stepping up their game in Shattenkirk's absence.
But . . . the Blues just aren't the same without Shattenkirk controlling the puck at even strength and quarterbacking the power play.
Butler played 28 shifts in the disastrous 7-1 loss at Columbus and Cole played 26. Both finished minus-2 for the game.
In Sunday's 4-2 loss to the Blackhawks, Butler played 27 shifts and earned a plus-1 rating. Cole played 23 shifts and suffered a minus-2 rating.
Gunnarsson helped put the Blues into an early hole by moving in deep with the puck, then turning it over while trying to make a pass from behind the Chicago net. The Blackhawks broke out and converted the 2-on-1 break against Cole.
He and Cole were on the ice for Bryan Bickell's goal. When David Runblad's shot resulted in a long rebound into the slot, Bickell jumped into the gap between Gunnarsson and Cole to hammer it home.
General manager Doug Armstrong will continue pondering his options on defense, since Shattenkirk isn't coming back any time soon. The Ottawa Sun suggested he would have interest in Arizona Coyotes defenseman Zybnek Michalek, a veteran several teams appear to be monitoring.
Many other decent defensemen could become available, including:
- Tyler Myers, Sabres: With Buffalo is full tanking mode, many contenders are interested in rehabilitating Myers -- whose rare size/skill combination is helping NHL GMs overlook his lackluster play in recent seasons. The Ducks have the pieces and flexibility needed to make this move.
- Dion Phaneuf, Maple Leafs: He is currently shelved by a hand injury, but many contenders covet his toughness and Toronto hockey czar Brendan Shanahan would like to clear out his contract. The Ducks and Kings have some young forwards to offer and LA created some flexibility by burying Mike Richards and his onerous contract in the AHL.
- Cody Franson, Maple Leafs: Toronto's free fall will trigger a major roster overhaul. Franson is a pending unrestricted free agent, but he could still fetch a decent return as a rental player. His 31 points in 52 games this season make him one of the NHL's more productive D-men.
- Mike Green, Capitals: He is headed toward another big contract and Washington lacks the salary cap space to offer him a suitable contract extension. So GM Brian MacLellan could consider dealing him for a Top 6 forward to help the team his spring. “In the end, we’re going to have to make some decisions," he recently told ESPN980 in Washington. "The forward mix has always been area for me, we’ve got some good players, and I think if we added one piece or got the chemistry right on a couple of the lines it would go a long way to improving our team."
- Keith Yandle, Coyotes: This solid offensive defenseman sees his name in the rumor mill week after week. Arizona is rebuilding and Yandle is a prime asset. Twice he has produced more than 50 points in a season and he appears on track to it again this season.
- Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Coyotes: He should be part of Arizona's long-term nucleus, but the franchise needs to start over. He could fetch a king's ransom at the trade deadline: Either a top-six forward (like Colorado's Ryan O'Reilly) or a top-four defenseman, plus a top prospect and a first-round pick.
- Andrej Sekera, Hurricanes: Carolina seems much more likely to move this pending free agent than offer him a new contract, so teams seeking a puck-mover are keeping an eye on his rental value. He produced a career-high 44 points last season.
- Jordan Leopold, Blue Jackets: The Blues offloaded him to Columbus to create needed salary cap flexibility. Now he could be on the move again.
- Jeff Petry, Oilers: He has been on the block for weeks. Right now he looks like a fallback option for many teams.
- Kimmo Timonen, Flyers: He is on the comeback trail from a career-threatening blood clotting condition. Unless Philadelphia makes a miraculous push toward the Eastern Conference playoff bracket, the team would consider moving Timonen to a contender.
AROUND THE RINKS: The Rangers are scrambling with all-world goaltender Henrik Lundqvist down for several weeks with a vascular injury. Cam Talbot takes over as the new No. 1, but GM Glen Sather has to be shopping for veteran help. Perhaps Evgeni Nabokov, recently displaced in Tampa Bay, could be an easy answer . . . The Flyers are fighting to stay alive in the playoffs, but another lower-body injury to red-hot goaltender Steve Mason won't make that easy . . . Jets power forward Evander Kane went AWOL from his team, then decided to quit playing with his shoulder injury. He won't play again until next season after undergoing surgical repairs. Look for him to get traded before the June draft, with the Ducks, Penguins, Islanders, Blue Jackets and Bruins as possible bidders. If Winnipeg wants to move Kane before the trade deadline for more immediate help, perhaps the Sabres, Flyers or Senators could make a move on Kane . . . The Ottawa Sun also suggests the Blues on are one of many teams sniffing the Lauri Korpikoski trail. The former 19-goal scorer would add depth on left wing . . . The Sharks have stalled out in 2015, going 7-7-2 in 2015. This is why Sharks GM Doug Wilson is pestering his colleagues with trade proposals . . . Jordan Staal has made a huge difference for the Hurricanes. His brother Eric scored just seven goals in his first 30 games, but 10 in the last 17 since Jordan came off the injured list . . . Tyler Bozak's startling fade this season for Toronto has apparently put him into play. He could be a decent second-line pivot with a change of scenery . . . Pricey Maple Leafs power forward David Clarkson was a healthy scratch Saturday night. There is another contract Toronto would love to unload . . . Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk earned four shutouts in his first nine games since coming over from the Coyotes. He is 7-1 with a 1.30 goals-against average and .948 save percentage for Minnesota. Nice trade!