|STL||1||1||1||1||(0 - 0)||4|
|CBJ||3||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||3|
BLUES (21-6-3) at BLUE JACKETS (14-15-3)
TV: FS-MW, FS-O
Last 10: St. Louis 7-3-0; Columbus 6-4-0
Season series: After competing for years as rivals in the Central Division, these teams are playing for the first time since the Columbus Blue Jackets moved into the Eastern Conference's new Metropolitan Division. The St. Louis Blues won three of four against Columbus last season.
Big story: St. Louis has been arguably the NHL's most consistent team this season. Columbus has not matched that consistency but is 4-1-0 in December and has an opportunity to climb the division standings with three of its next four games at Nationwide Arena.
The obvious and immediate concern for the Blue Jackets is the health of their goaltenders, as both Sergei Bobrovsky and Curtis McElhinney are out of the lineup with injuries. That means St. Louis native Mike McKenna, the AHL's reigning Goaltender of the Month for November, will get the start tonight against the Blues at Nationwide Arena.
Jeremy Smith, McKenna's goaltending partner in Springfield, was recalled on an emergency basis Friday afternoon and he'll serve as the backup. To make room for Smith, the Blue Jackets placed James Wisniewski on IR retroactive to Dec. 6, meaning he's eligible to return as soon as Monday's game against the Winnipeg Jets.
The Blue Jackets and Blues locked horns in several Central Division battles over the past few seasons, most notably when both teams were pushing for playoff berths in the spring of 2009.
And while things are a bit different now with the Blue Jackets settling in to life in the Eastern Conference, they won't need any introductions when the puck drops on another important game on Saturday night at Nationwide Arena. The Blue Jackets, having won their last two games and four of their previous five, are within two points of third place in the Metropolitan Division despite several injuries to key players - including both of the top goalies on their depth chart and a top-line winger in Marian Gaborik.
Here are tonight's dueling team scopes from NHL.com...
Blues: St. Louis recently experienced a rare losing stretch, dropping three of four with all three losses coming against California teams. But the Blues rebounded this week with wins against a pair of Canadian franchises. Following a 2-1 road win against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, the Blues welcomed the Toronto Maple Leafs to Scottrade Center on Thursday.
St. Louis scored three times in the first period, and Chris Stewart gave the Blues a commanding 4-0 lead 29 seconds into the second. Nazem Kadri replied 76 seconds later, but Alexander Steen scored his 22nd of the season 7:04 into the third and the Blues eventually wrapped up a 6-3 win.
"We jumped on them early," said forward Jaden Schwartz, who had a three-point night. "We threw a lot of pucks on net. We got a lot of second-chance opportunities tonight. Everyone played well."
St. Louis' wins came with Adam Cracknell in the lineup and Magnus Paajarvi a healthy scratch, although Cracknell is looking for his first point of the season.
Blue Jackets: A difficult season for Columbus appeared even more challenging when franchise goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was lost for a month with a groin strain on Dec. 3. But the Blue Jackets have gone 3-1-0 since losing the Vezina Trophy winner and received solid goaltending from some unlikely sources.
That was especially the case Thursday at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers, when Curtis McElhinney was forced to leave after one period with a lower-body injury. With Columbus up 3-1, Mike McKenna came in relief and stopped 17 of 18 shots in his first NHL action since Dec. 2, 2010 to secure a 4-2 win that saw Artem Anisimov score against his former team.
VS. WINNIPEG JETS
MONDAY, 7 P.M.
|Jan 04 '14||CBJ 2 at STL 6||M. Lapierre|
|Dec 14 '13||STL 4 at CBJ 3 - OT||D. Backes|