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Columbus Faces St. Louis in Central Division Battle

by Staff Writer / Columbus Blue Jackets

The Columbus Blue Jackets hope to have Rick Nash and Sergei Fedorov back from injuries and try to continue their success against the St. Louis Blues when the Central Division rivals meet at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday.

Columbus (16-22-4) looks for its fifth win in six meetings with St. Louis (13-21-7) and could get a boost with the scoring duo back in the lineup.

Nash missed the Blue Jackets' 5-2 loss at San Jose on Saturday with a lower-body injury and Fedorov left in the first period due to an upper-body injury. Both are tied for the team lead with 13 goals, but Nash is second in scoring with 30 points, two more than Fedorov.

With much of its offense missing, Columbus struggled to keep up with the Sharks. Fredrik Norrena stopped 28 shots, but gave up three goals to Ryane Clowe in the loss.

One of Clowe's goals was in controversial fashion after Patrick Marelau scored a power-play goal for San Jose 4:22 into the game. Officials mistakenly released Clowe and Columbus' Manny Malhotra from the penalty box instead of the Blue Jackets' Rostislav Klesla. Clowe scored 38 seconds later.

Officials admitted the error before the start of the second period, according to a statement from NHL vice president Stephen Walkom, but that did not change Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock's feelings about it.

Hitchcock said he had not seen such a call "in all my years in hockey, nor in all my years in the league, especially since we argued it. We were told it was a new rule. ... The whole game was nothing but special teams anyway. That was the game."

The Blue Jackets attempt to rebound from the controversy and the loss when they face the Blues, whom they have outscored 20-10 in the last five meetings. Nash and Fedorov have combined for six goals and six assists with the lone defeat in that stretch coming in a 4-3 shootout loss at Columbus on Nov. 22.

St. Louis is in last place in the Central Division with 33 points, but is only three points behind fourth-place Columbus.

The Blues started a three-game road trip with a 3-2 loss to Nashville - their 13th in a row versus the Predators. Martin Rucinsky and Lee Stempniak scored for St. Louis, which twice erased one-goal deficits.

"Obviously there is no such thing as moral victories or feeling any kind of gratification in losing a hockey game no matter how hard you play," Blues coach Andy Murray said.

Saturday's loss was the Blues' second in three games, but only their third in the last nine (6-2-1). They have been dominant in the victories, outscoring opponents 20-7 with two shutouts.

Manny Legace has been a key contributor to the Blues' surge with a 1.67 goals-against average over that stretch. He's won his last four games at Columbus while recording a 1.72 GAA.

-- Associated Press

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