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Can Blues play spoiler, ruin Blackhawks' streak?

2:17 PM, Feb 28, 2013   |    comments
April 14, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak (41) makes a save against the San Jose Sharks during the first period in game two of the 2012 Western Conference quarterfinals at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE
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(Sports Network) - The St. Louis Blues look to hand the Chicago Blackhawks their first regulation loss of the season when the teams meet at the Scottrade Center Thursday night.  The Blues have won five of their past seven at home versus the Blackhawks and are expected to start Jaroslav Halak on Thursday. He is 3-0-0 with a 1.00 GAA at home in his career versus Chicago.

St. Louis has been off since Saturday, but lost another player to injury during its break as Andy McDonald suffered a left knee injury in practice on Tuesday and landed on injured reserve the following day. In 18 games this season, he has registered three goals and eight assists.

Alex Steen, who leads the club with 16 points, was also shaken up in Tuesday's practice and did not practice on Wednesday, but has not been ruled out for this game.

Those injuries come after St. Louis placed rookie Vladimir Tarasenko on IR due to a concussion suffered in last Wednesday's 1-0 overtime setback to Colorado. The Blues were without the talented youngster for their most recent game, but still managed a 2-1 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Chris Stewart and David Perron had the goals, while Halak came up with 18 saves as the Blues snapped a two-game slide and moved to 4-1-1 in their last six.

"Guys did a hell of a job tonight, especially in the second and third just blocking the shots," Halak said. "Sometimes it's not easy, it wasn't pretty at times, but we got it done. We got two points and now lets keep moving forward."

St. Louis also snapped a five-game slide at home and did not allow a power- play goal for a third straight game. It has killed off all nine penalties in that span.

Following a rare come-from-behind victory earlier this week, the Chicago Blackhawks aim to extend their NHL record point streak on Thursday evening in a road matchup with the rival St. Louis Blues.

The Blackhawks found themselves in a rare position on Monday against the Edmonton Oilers: trailing going into the third period. It marked only the third time this season that Chicago was behind after 40 minutes, but Viktor Stalberg scored a tying goal just 2:24 into the third period and Marian Hossa capped the comeback with the winner 1:44 into overtime in a 3-2 decision.

Patrick Kane also scored for the Blackhawks, who extended their record season- opening point streak to 19 games at 16-0-3. They also improved to 2-0-1 this season when trailing after two periods and 10-0-3 in one-goal games. Each of Chicago's last five games have been decided by the slim margin.

"The biggest thing is that we don't want to lose right now," Kane said. "We want to keep this thing going. I'm telling you, after the second period guys weren't very happy that we were down a goal and we knew we wanted to come back and change that right away."

Ray Emery made 17 saves in Chicago's sixth straight victory, which came in the finale of a seven-game homestand. The Blackhawks moved to 8-0-1 as the hosting club this season.

Chicago center Dave Bolland missed his second straight game with an upper- body injury and isn't expected to play in this game, while Corey Crawford is set to make his second start since his return from injury. The 'Hawks netminder is 7-1-1 with a 2.79 goals against average in his career versus the Blues.

Crawford made 32 saves in a 3-2 home win over the Blues on Jan. 22, the Blackhawks' third in a row in this series and seventh in the past nine meetings. All three games of the current series win streak have been decided by one goal as well. 

St. Louis has really been inconsistent this season and not much has changed lately. They're up and then they're down and even after snapping their two game losing streak with a win against the Columbus Blue Jackets they still left a lot to be desired. Chris Stewart gave St. Louis a 1-0 lead in the first period but the Blues failed to grow their advantage the rest of the way. It ended up costing them as the Blue Jackets would knot things up with a goal late in the second period. In the third period St. Louis registered just three total shots on goal, but one of them found the back of the net as the eventual game winner. David Perron scored his sixth goal of the season as the Blues held on for the ugly victory. Jaroslav Halak was back between the pipes for the second time since returning from injury and he looked great again. Halak made 19 saves on 20 shots for the second consecutive game as he improved his record to 4-0-1 on the year. The Blackhawks have still yet to lose in regulation this season as they've posted an incredible 16-0-3 record this season, but things haven't come so easily lately for them. Their last five victories have all been by one goal and that Monday night's overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers. After allowing a shorthanded goal it was Patrick Kane tying things up on the power play with his 10th goal of the season. The Oilers would score the only goal in the second period and faced a one goal deficit heading into the third. Viktor Stalberg would tie things up with his fifth goal of the year early in the frame and in overtime it was Marian Hossa banging in a rebound to win it for the Hawks. The goal was Hossa's ninth of the season. Ray Emery got the start in goal after Corey Crawford returned from injury on Sunday and he made 17 saves on 19 shots to pick up the win. Expect Crawford to return between the pipes for this one on Thursday night.

Chicago is 5-1 the last six meetings between these two teams but just 2-5 their last seven visits to St. Louis. The home team is 16-5 the last 21. The Over is 5-2 the last seven in St. Louis. The Blues have been wildly inconsistent and with the way the Blackhawks have played defense this year and the goaltending they've gotten it's hard to imagine St. Louis scoring much in this one. Chicago looks like they're coming to the end of this streak soon, I'm just not sure if this is night.

 

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