NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Saturday, December 28th
(All times Eastern)
Chicago Blackhawks (27-7-6) at St. Louis Blues (24-7-5), 8 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Chicago Blackhawks may be leading the Central
Division, but the rival St. Louis Blues have dealt the defending champions a
pair of losses already this season.
The Blues aim to make up some more ground in the standings on Saturday night
when they play host to the Blackhawks.
St. Louis has won four of its last five versus Chicago, including a pair of
victories this season. The Blues took a 3-2 decision at home on Oct. 9, then
won a 3-2 shootout eight days later in the Windy City.
The Blues have won seven of their last 11 at home versus the Blackhawks and
the two victories over the club this season are part of a 10-0-1 record
against the division. However, St. Louis still trails Chicago by seven points
for first place in the standings but has played four fewer games.
St. Louis has logged a point in seven of its last eight games, going 5-1-2
over that time, but did have a two-game win streak snapped with Monday's 4-3
shootout loss to the Calgary Flames.
Jaden Schwartz, Kevin Shattenkirk and Magnus Paajarvi had the goals for the
Blues, while Jaroslav Halak made 26 saves and was beaten by the Flames' Mark
Giordano for a game-tying goal with 5.1 seconds to play.
Halak also yielded the lone shootout goal of the game.
"We lost composure with the puck. We made some puck errors," Blues coach Ken
Hitchcock said. "We got caught not clearing pucks at the end. We had full
control of the hockey game and the second goal gave Calgary some momentum, but
we were in full control of the hockey game. We were just winding the game down
and made some puck errors and the next thing you know it was in our net."
St. Louis was without forward Alexander Steen due to an upper-body injury and
his status for this game is unknown. Steen ranks second in the NHL with a
career high-tying 24 goals and did not practice on Friday.
Halak is likely to get the start tonight and has stopped 53-of-57 shots faced
in the two victories over the Blackhawks this season. He is 5-1-3 with a 2.04
goals against average in nine career starts against them.
Chicago looks to get its first victory of the season over St. Louis one night
after routing the Colorado Avalanche 7-2 at home. Patrick Sharp celebrated his
32nd birthday with a hat trick while adding an assist to the win.
"It was a special game. I thought maybe I could have had one the last game
when I hit a post on the last shift," said Sharp, who scored twice in a win
over the Devils on Monday. "When things are going in like that you just try to
get open, get good passes from your teammates and try to ride it for as long
as you can."
Jonathan Toews had two goals and two assists for Chicago, which is 4-0-1 in
its last five and has won seven of its past nine overall. Antti Raanta needed
to make just 16 saves in the win.
Patrick Kane extended his point streak to 13 straight games with an assist.
The Blackhawks forward has seven goals and 15 assists over his run, pushing
his season point total to 50. That ranks second in the NHL behind only Sidney
Crosby's 55 for Pittsburgh.
It is unknown if Raanta will make his first career appearance versus the Blues
or if backup Jason LaBarbera will make his Blackhawks debut.
Acquired from Edmonton on Dec. 14 following injuries to netminders Corey
Crawford and Nikolai Khabibulin, LaBarbera was 1-3-0 with a 3.27 GAA in seven
games (4 starts) with the Oilers this season and is 3-4-0 with a 3.02 GAA
lifetime against the Blues.
12/28 10:30:58 ET