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BLUE JACKETS (21-26-9) at BLUES (24-22-8)
Last 10: Columbus 4-6-0; St. Louis 6-3-1
Season series: This is the fourth of six meetings. On Nov. 30, R.J. Umberger scored his second career hat trick to lead Columbus to a 5-2 road win, ending a three-game losing streak. Steve Mason stopped 27 shots, including Paul Kariya's wrister from the high slot with just over a minute left that would have tied it. On Jan. 12, Jay McClement had a goal and assist in a big first period in the Blues' 4-1 home win. The Blues took a 3-0 lead on nine shots against Mathieu Garon, who was benched in favor of Mason after one period. B.J. Crombeen and Alex Steen also scored in the opening period for St. Louis. On Jan. 18, Rick Nash scored for his 400th career point and Chris Clark notched his first goal as a Blue Jacket, leading the way to a 4-2 home victory.
Big story: Here we have two teams that were Cinderellas in 2008-09, unexpectedly qualifying for the playoffs, but are now down near the bottom of the Western Conference standings a year later. In the all-time series, the Blues are 31-18-3-2 against the Blue Jackets. The Blue Jackets are 4-10-1 in their last 15 visits to St. Louis.
Blue Jackets: Columbus is beginning a two-game road trip. Their last game was a 4-1 loss at home against Los Angeles on Thursday.
The Blue Jackets fell behind 4-0 before Antoine Vermette scored their only goal mid-way through the third period. Mason stopped 14 of 18 shots, and the team was booed off the ice by the crowd at Nationwide Arena.
"We got discouraged, lost our intensity and stopped doing the (good) things we were doing," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "As soon as we got scored on, we lost our energy."
Mason, last season's NHL rookie of the year, dropped to 13-18-6. He has not won consecutive starts since Oct. 17, the sixth game of the season.
Blues: St. Louis is playing its first home game following a 2-1-0 road trip that included wins against Calgary and Edmonton, and a one-goal loss at Vancouver.
On Thursday, Alex Steen's goal early in the third period broke a 1-1 tie and gave the Blues the win. Eric Brewer scored in the second period and goaltender Chris Mason made 24 saves to improve St. Louis' road record to 15-8-4.
"It was a tough game for us," Mason said. "We didn't play as well as we liked but we stuck with it and we were lucky enough to keep them off the scoreboard in the third period."
Who's hot: For the Blue Jackets, Vermette has 3 goals and 1 assist in four games, Kristian Huselius has 2 goals and 8 assists in seven games, Nash has 1 goal and 2 assists in three games, Umberger has 3 goals and 4 assists in seven games, and Anton Stralman has 6 assists in seven games. … For the Blues, Andy McDonald has 2 goals and 4 assists in six games, and David Perron has 2 goals and 3 assists in six games
Injury report: For the Blue Jackets, Rostislav Klesla (groin) is on injured reserve and Marc Methot (illness) is day-to-day. … For the Blues, Carlo Colaiacovo (lower-body) is on injured reserve and Erik Johnson (upper-body) is day-to-day.
Stat pack: With a single penalty minute, Keith Tkachuk of the Blues can become the fourth player in NHL history to record 2,200 PIM and 1,000 points in a career. He would join Dale Hunter (1,020 pts, 3,565 PIM), Pat Verbeek (1,063 pts, 2,905 PIM) and Brendan Shanahan (1,354 pts, 2,489 PIM). … St. Louis has gone 7-5-2 since Davis Payne replaced Andy Murray has head coach on Jan. 2. …. Clark is 3 goals shy of 100 and 3 points shy of 200 for his NHL career (97-100-197 in 534 games).
Puck drop: "We desperately need wins right now," Brewer said. "We are in a long drive here. We've made up a little ground, but it seems like everybody is winning games. You have to get points every night if you want to make up any ground."