BLUE JACKETS (18-20-9) at BLUES (18-19-7)
Last 10: Columbus 4-4-2; St. Louis 3-5-2
Season series: This is the second of six meetings. On Nov. 30, Columbus scored 3 goals in the third period for a 5-2 home win, with R.J. Umberger recording his second career hat trick. Kris Russell and Antoine Vermette also scored goals, and goaltender Steve Mason stopped 27 shots. Erik Johnson and Paul Kariya scored for St. Louis.
Big story: From Dec. 10 through Jan. 5, the Blue Jackets lost 13 of 14 and were in an offensive funk. They have turned things around and enter this contest with a three-game win streak, scoring 9 goals in that span. Through 47 games, Columbus has 45 points, which is only four points fewer than it had at this time last season (22-20-5) when the club made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
Blue Jackets: This is the first of two consecutive road games.
On Sunday, goaltender Mathieu Garon made 26 saves for his second shutout of the season, and Raffi Torres and Vermette scored in a 2-0 home victory against the Dallas Stars. Vermette extended his points streak to four games with a late empty-netter, and Columbus improved to 18-2-2 when Torres scores a goal. Columbus has won three straight for the first time since Nov. 13-19.
"It's been a while since we've won three in a row," Torres said. "We're feeling good in this room. We're just calm, cool, we're just taking it easy right now. We know what we need to do. We're sticking with the game plan and going from there."
Blues: This is the start of a three-game homestand, but Scottrade Center has been a house of horrors for St. Louis. The Blues have not won at home since Dec. 15 and have won only once in the last 10 home contests.
St. Louis is coming off a 4-3 road win at Los Angeles on Saturday, snapping a seven-game losing streak. It was their first victory under new head coach Davis Payne, who replaced Andy Murray on Jan. 2.
Brad Winchester scored 14 seconds into the game, and David Perron, T.J. Oshie and B.J. Crombeen added goals.
"There are special wins along the way, and this no question is one of them," Payne said. "It's the thrill of a lifetime, and one I'll remember for quite some time. These guys battled hard, stuck to the game plan and did everything we asked of them. We were able to build enough of a cushion to get it done."
Who's hot: For the Blue Jackets, Jan Hejda has 2 goals and an assist in three games, Vermette has 3 goals and 2 assists in three games, Jakub Voracek has 3 assists in three games, Kristian Huselius has 3 goals and 4 assists in five games, Torres has 2 goals and 2 assists in three games and Umberger has 2 goals and an assist in four games. … For the Blues, Jay McClement has 3 assists in two games, David Backes has 5 assists in five games and Barret Jackman has 2 goals in two games.
Injury report: For the Blue Jackets, Marc Methot (upper body), Derek Dorsett (hand) and Rostislav Klesla (groin) are on injured reserve, and Fredrik Modin (undisclosed) and Russell (lower body) are day-to-day. For the Blues, Kariya (head), Keith Tkachuk (facial) and D.J. King (hand) are on injured reserve.
Stat pack: The Blues are 10-0-0 when they score four or more goals. … St. Louis has three Olympians -- Johnson and David Backes of the United States, and Roman Polak of the Czech Republic. … Hejda snapped a 16-game goalless skid with his second goal of the season at Edmonton last Friday. He lit the lamp again the very next night at Calgary to give him goals in back-to-back games for the first time in his NHL career. … The Blue Jackets have six Olympians -- Hejda of the Czech Republic, Rick Nash of Canada, Samuel Pahlsson and Modin of Sweden, Fedor Tyutin of Russia, and Milan Jurcina of Slovakia. … Garon went 3-0-0 with a 1.46 GAA, .940 save percentage and one shutout in four games last week to be named the NHL's Third Star of the Week.
Puck drop: "I don't see any reason we can't play like this for the rest of the season," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We're grinding it with really good teams now. We're more than keeping pace. We're more than holding our own." -- Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock to the Columbus Dispatch following Sunday's 2-0 win against Dallas