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NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Wednesday, March 19th (All times Eastern)
St. Louis Blues (47-14-7) at Chicago Blackhawks (39-15-15), 8 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The red-hot St. Louis Blues will try to remain undefeated against the defending Stanley Cup champions this season when they visit the Chicago Blackhawks for Wednesday's Central Division showdown at United Center.
With an 8-0-1 record in March, the Blues have vaulted to the top of the NHL standings. A recent victory over the Winnipeg Jets made St. Louis the first team to reach the 100-point mark this season.
St. Louis currently sits first in the league with 101 points -- two more than the Boston Bruins. The Blues also are four points ahead of both Anaheim and San Jose in the West standings and hold an eight-point lead over both Chicago and Colorado for first place in the Central.
The Blackhawks are currently third in the Central and nine points behind St. Louis. Chicago has a chance to make up some ground in the division race tonight, but St. Louis has gotten the better of the reigning champs so far in 2013-14. The Blues also have earned points in 22 consecutive divisional games (20-0-2), extending a franchise record.
The Blues are 3-0 against Chicago this season and have claimed four straight overall in the series. However, each of the last three encounters between the clubs have been decided by just one goal. That includes a 6-5 shootout victory by the Blues in the last meeting on Dec. 28 in St. Louis.
Chicago failed to hold a pair of two-goal leads in that meeting in late December and the Blues forced the game beyond regulation by scoring twice during a 1:17 span late in the third period.
Still, these clubs have split the last 10 meetings overall and St. Louis has lost 10 of 13 in Chicago despite winning the last two matchups in the Windy City.
The Blues won their third straight game Monday night against visiting Winnipeg. David Backes scored twice, including the game-winner with 6:51 left in the third period, as St. Louis secured a 3-1 win over the Jets at Scottrade Center.
Backes broke a 1-1 tie with a power-play goal at 13:09 of the third before being credited with an empty-netter at 18:49. Winnipeg's Jacob Trouba hauled Backes down from behind with only an empty net in front of him, resulting in a goal.
Brenden Morrow scored St. Louis' other goal, while Ryan Miller made 16 saves to improve to 7-0-1 since being acquired on Feb. 28 by the Blues.
Miller will get another chance to improve on his brilliant start with the Blues tonight. The former Buffalo Sabres netminder is 2-2-0 with a 2.08 goals against average in four career games against Chicago.
St. Louis is kicking off a four-game road trip on Wednesday and is 22-9-3 as the visiting team this season. T.J. Oshie will be back for the Blues in the opener of the swing after missing Monday's test to spend time with his wife and the couple's newborn daughter.
The Blackhawks have lost three of their last four games, but were able to pick up a point in Tuesday's 3-2 overtime loss in Philadelphia.
Chicago grabbed an early 2-0 lead by scoring twice in the first 3:51 of the game, but the Blackhawks wouldn't find the net again. After Scott Hartnell scored twice in the first period to even the game, Philadelphia captain Claude Giroux scored the winning goal with just 4.2 seconds left in OT to give the Flyers the victory.
With time winding down in the extra session, Giroux flew down the right wing into the zone and from the circle he snapped a laser on net, using Duncan Keith as a screen, and it went in and out of the left corner for the win.
Andrew Shaw and Keith had the goals for Chicago. Antti Raanta gave up all three goals on 37 shots.
"I think we did a lot of good things tonight. But, definitely really frustrating the way we gave that point up," said Keith.
Blackhawks No. 1 netminder Corey Crawford expects to get the start tonight. He is 9-2-3 with a 2.45 GAA in 14 career games against the Blues.
Chicago is beginning a four-game homestand on Wednesday and also will host Carolina, Nashville and Dallas during the stay at United Center. The Blackhawks are 21-6-7 as the home club this season.
03/19 10:44:11 ET
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