No matter who the Columbus Blue Jackets start in goal, they figure to get steady play from their netminder.
The Blue Jackets look to shut out a third straight opponent when they visit the St. Louis Blues on Saturday to conclude a five-game road trip.
Columbus lost the first two games of the trip but has rebounded behind the play of backup goalie Fredrik Norrena, who's posted back-to-back shutouts in victories over Edmonton and Colorado.
Norrena has been outstanding while starter Pascal Leclaire has kept the Blue Jackets (8-16-2) in games, despite the team scoring the fewest goals in the NHL with 58.
"You want to reward shutouts," said Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock, who's seen his goalies allow six goals in the last five games. "But both are going to play. There won't be a problem."
Hitchcock is quickly becoming familiar with the play of Norrena, who led Finland to a silver medal at the Turin Olympics. He started back-to-back games for the first time this season and gave the team consecutive shutouts for the second time in franchise history. Ron Tugnutt posted two straight shutouts in March 2001 in Columbus' first season.
Norrena made 21 saves in a 4-0 win over the Oilers last Saturday, then stopped 42 shots in a 3-0 victory over Colorado on Tuesday, the Blue Jackets' first win in Denver in franchise history.
"We're in a great situation," right wing Anson Carter said. "We have two No. 1's, as far as I'm concerned. Freddy isn't well known in North America, but he has a great track record in Europe, and Pascal is a real good, young goaltender. It puts us in a great situation where they both want to try and one-up each other."
Norrena, who spent the past 13 years in Europe, has a 2.09 goals-against average in nine games this season. Leclaire has a 3.13 GAA, but stopped 61 of 64 shots in the first two losses on the road trip and has been plagued by playing in front of a meager offense.
Leclaire was in net both games this season against St. Louis (7-16-4). The teams have split the meetings, with each team winning on the road.
Columbus has won four of the last six over the Blues, who have been forced to play multiple goaltenders - but not because of good play.
Starter Manny Legace was knocked unconscious by a puck during practice on Wednesday and backup Curtis Sanford is already out, so Jason Bacashihua made his second start of the season on Thursday against Detroit.
St. Louis blew a 3-0 lead and lost 4-3 to the Red Wings in overtime, extending its season-high losing streak to six games.
Pavel Datsyuk beat Bacashihua with a wrist shot on a 2-on-1, leaving St. Louis' third-string netminder perturbed.
"A 2-on-1. I've got to save that," said Bacashihua, who made 39 saves. "It's overtime, 2-on-1. It's a routine 2-on-1. You see 20 of those in practice. It's a good shot, but I'd like to have it back, especially how the guys played."
Legace is out at least seven days while Sanford injured his groin on Dec. 1 and is out six to eight weeks, leaving the job to Bacashihua and rookie Marek Schwarz, called up from the minors before Thursday's game.
The Blues have won only two of their last 11 games, but one of those victories was over the Blue Jackets.
Both Columbus and St. Louis are tied for last in the NHL with 18 points. The Blues have a league-low seven wins.
|Mar 27 '07||CBJ 4 at STL 1||F. Modin|
|Mar 25 '07||STL 1 at CBJ 4||M. Malhotra|
|Feb 20 '07||CBJ 4 at STL 5 - SO||L. Stempniak|
|Feb 14 '07||STL 4 at CBJ 2||D. Backes|
|Jan 09 '07||STL 4 at CBJ 3 - SO||L. Stempniak|
|Dec 09 '06||CBJ 5 at STL 1||S. Fedorov|
|Nov 22 '06||STL 4 at CBJ 3 - SO||B. Guerin|
|Nov 09 '06||CBJ 4 at STL 2||D. Fritsche|