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Blackhawks face Blues for control of Central Division

by Emerald Gao /

After a two-day break the Blackhawks will resume their busy November with four games in seven days, beginning Wednesday in St. Louis. The two teams met on opening night, and the Blues left Chicago with a decisive 5-2 victory after tallying three power-play goals and two empty-netters.

Things have improved for the Blackhawks' penalty kill since then, as they've allowed just one goal in the last 16 times shorthanded. That came in Sunday's 4-3 overtime win against the Dallas Stars, which extended Chicago's win streak to six games and widened their lead at the top of the Central Division to three points.

The Blues sit in second with a 7-4-2 record and have won their last two outings. St. Louis was last in action on Sunday as well, rolling 5-1 over Colorado. Despite having one of the league's best shot attempt percentages (54.2%, second only to Los Angeles) so far this season, the Blues haven't been able to translate their puck possession into goals, having scored just 18 even-strength goals in 13 games, but they remain a formidable team, able to bring a strong forecheck while limiting shots against.

Winger Vladimir Tarasenko had a big outing against the Blackhawks back in October, scoring twice and adding an assist to help St. Louis lock down the win. He's been just as impressive since opening night, leading the Blues with five goals and 11 points in 13 games so far this season. The 24-year-old is a volume shooter, ranking second in the league with 54 SOG as of Tuesday afternoon, and has a quick, hard release that's among the best in the NHL. Tarasenko has points in each of his last two outings, scoring the overtime game-winner to defeat Columbus 2-1 on Saturday before notching a helper the next night.

During their current win streak, the Blackhawks have been able to rely on their core players to come through with offensive contributions. Marian Hossa has produced some vintage performances since netting his 500th career goal, and he followed up on Sunday with an assist and the game-winning overtime tally against Dallas, reaching the 1,100-point milestone in the process; he's the fourth active player to reach the mark (J. Jagr, J. Thornton,. J. Iginla). Hossa now has seven points (5G, 2A) in his last seven games.

Artem Anisimov also continued his torrid start to the season, extending his career-long point streak to 11 games with a two-point effort on Sunday. The 28-year-old is still at the top of league scoring, leading all skaters with eight goals (four-way tie) and 17 points on the year. With Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin finding their stride with recent point streaks of their own and captain Jonathan Toews heating up (goals in three straight tilts), Chicago's top forwards have done their part to keep the ball rolling.

Both Chicago and St. Louis can boast active defenses and several blueliners who are more than capable of jumping up in the play. As of Tuesday, Duncan Keith shared first among NHL defensemen with 11 points (all of them assists, which ties the overall league lead); his nine points at even strength rank first. Brent Seabrook, who shares ninth in among league blueliners with nine points this season, has been productive at both even strength and on the power play (3 points).

On the Blues' end, Kevin Shattenkirk shares third among NHL D-men as of Tuesday with 10 points and has been dynamite on the power play, posting six points with the man advantage to share the lead. He picked up three helpers in Sunday's win over the Avalanche. Alex Pietrangelo, who was named team captain over the summer, ranks second among team defensemen with six points this season.

CHI: Tyler Motte (lower body), Trevor van Riemsdyk (upper body)
STL: Joel Edmundson (upper body), Robert Bortuzzo (lower body)


Schmaltz -- Toews -- Kane
Panarin -- Anisimov -- Hossa
Panik -- Kruger -- Hartman
Desjardins -- Rasmussen -- Tootoo

Keith -- Campbell
Kempny -- Seabrook
Forsling -- Hjalmarsson


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