Blues hope to take momentum to Columbus
BLUES (34-14-7) at BLUE JACKETS (16-34-6)
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: St. Louis 7-2-1; Columbus 3-6-1.
: This is the third of six meetings between these Central division rivals. The Blues have taken both matchups this season -- one on the road and on at home -- and five straight going back to last season. On Nov. 27 in Columbus, David Backes broke a 1-1 tie in the third period with a power-play goal, lifting St. Louis to a 2-1 win. On Dec. 18 in the Gateway City, the Blue Jackets held a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes, but the Blues rallied and outscored Columbus 4-1 in the final period to claim a 6-4 win.
All four goalies from both teams have made a start in the season series. In the first encounter, Brian Elliott outdueled Curtis Sanford
, while Jaroslav Halak triumphed over Steve Mason
in the second game.
: The Blues bring their four-game winning streak and one of the League's hottest players to Nationwide Arena to take on the League-worst Blue Jackets. David Perron, named the NHL's Third Star of the Week on Monday, has six goals during the winning streak, with at least one tally in each of the four games.
"I'll certainly take the goals that are coming my way right now," Perron said. "Mostly the wins, for sure."
With the wins piling up, St. Louis is just three points behind League-leading Detroit with two games in hand. And while Perron has been dazzling on the offensive side, the Blues continue to put up tremendous defensive numbers. Their 1.91 goals-against average and 11 shutouts are tops among all teams.
: The Blues' defensive abilities were on full display in a 3-0 shutout of Pacific-leading San Jose on Sunday. The victory extended a franchise record with points in 19 consecutive home games, as the Blues are now 16-0-3 at Scottrade Center since Dec. 3 and an NHL-best 24-3-4 overall on home ice. Perron notched a goal with the man advantage, as St. Louis converted on two of three 5-on-3 power plays. They were 4-for-11 with the extra attacker over the weekend (including Saturday's 3-2 overtime win against Colorado), after going just 2-for-35 in the previous 12 games. Many of the players attributed the power-play's boost to the return of veteran forward Andy McDonald, who was back on the ice Sunday after missing 51 games due to a concussion.
"He's just another threat (on the power play)," said Alex Pietrangelo, who scored the other two St. Louis goals, including a power-play tally on which McDonald assisted. "You guys know how dangerous he is. He's been like that his whole career. Tonight's a prime example. He hasn't played in four months. I don't think he missed a beat."
After being pulled in his previous start, Halak bounced back with a solid 25-save effort for his sixth shutout of the season, tying him for the League lead with Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick.
"I've got a lot of confidence in Jaro, going right back to him," coach Ken Hitchcock said of Halak, who has won eight straight starts at home.
: It was an up-and-down weekend for Columbus. The Jackets won at Minnesota on Saturday, 3-1, only to come home and squander any momentum with a 5-3 loss to Anaheim. The Ducks' Corey Perry notched his second hat trick of the season -- both against Columbus -- as the Jackets dug themselves a 5-1 hole midway through the second period. Columbus battled back, though, as Aaron Johnson
and Antoine Vermette
found the back of the net during a feisty final 25 minutes. However, the rally was not enough to overcome three power-play goals by Anaheim.
"I think if we had given them 10 power-play opportunities tonight, they might have gotten 10 goals," said interim coach Todd Richards, whose club has the League's worst penalty kill at 75.1 percent.
: Besides Perron, Backes has been finding the scoresheet, posting an assist in each game of the winning streak. … Rick Nash
, Columbus' leading scorer, has a season-high five-game point-streak (1-5-6). The Jackets' captain is just two goals shy of registering 20 or more goals for the eighth straight season.
: St. Louis placed Jason Arnott (shoulder) on Injured Reserve on Friday and will continue to be without Kent Huskins (ankle), Alex Steen (concussion-like symptoms), and Matt D'Agostini (head). … The Blue Jackets also saw the return of a key player as James Wisniewski
was activated off IR on Saturday, although several players remain out of action. Mark Letestu
(hand), Kristian Huselius
(lower body), Radek Martinek
(post-concussion symptoms), Nikita Nikitin
(knee), Brett Lebda
(thumb), Marc Methot
(broken jaw) and Jared Boll
(foot) are all sidelined. In addition, Sanford (back) is questionable for Tuesday's game.
: The Blues are an outstanding 23-1-1 when leading after two periods. … In Sunday's loss to the Ducks, Columbus scored on the power play for the fifth straight game, tying a season high.
: The Blues are 20 games over .500 for the first time since March 27, 2003, when they were 41-21-9-6 under then-coach Joel Quenneville.