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GAME DAY: at St. Louis

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

  Columbus Blue Jackets vs. St. Louis Blues
RECORDS - CBJ: 26-45-7 (Road: 10-24-4), STL: 48-20-10 (Home: 30-4-4)
WHEN: Mar. 31, 2012 - 8 p.m.   |   WHERE: Scottrade Center

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GAME DAY ON THE ROAD presented by:



For a team that has its spot locked up in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the St. Louis Blues come in to tonight’s final meeting with the Blue Jackets with a lot to play for. The Blues will clinch the Central Division crown with two points against Columbus, something they have not done in over a decade. It’s quite a statement, especially considering the recent dominance of the Detroit Red Wings in the division. St. Louis can also secure the No. 1 seed in the conference with a win tonight.

The task at hand is a big one for the Blue Jackets, who have won two straight prior to tonight over playoff-bound opponents Detroit and the Florida Panthers. The Blues have won four of the five meetings this season, with the lone Blue Jackets win coming on Feb. 14 at Nationwide Arena – a game that came right down to the wire when a David Perron goal was disallowed due to a glove motion with less than a second on the clock. Aside from that game, the Blues have had the upper hand in each contest including a recent 4-1 win (Mar. 10) at the Scottrade Center.

Defeating the Blues on their home ice has only occurred eight times this season, as they own the NHL’s top home record at 30-4-4. In their last outing, the Blues rallied from a two-goal deficit against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center, but eventually fell 4-3 in a shootout. St. Louis head coach Ken Hitchcock has not wavered from his strategy of using both goaltenders – each having some of the top statistics in the league. Despite Brian Elliot riding a streak of three straight shutouts, Hitchcock started Jaroslav Halak in Chicago, and is likely to use Elliot against the Blue Jackets tonight.

The storyline for the Blues is health: for the first time in over two years, St. Louis will ice its full roster tonight. They got Alex Steen back from a concussion last week, and welcome Andy McDonald (shoulder) and Matt D’Agostini (upper body) back to the lineup this evening.

Nash (27) Backes (23)
Prospal (36) Pietrangelo (37)
Nash (54) Backes (53)
Dorsett (214) Reaves (109)
MacKenzie (+4) Shattenkirk (+24)
Mason (14-26-3)
Halak (25-11-7)
York (2.42) Elliott (1.48)
York (.915) Elliott (.943)
• Tonight’s game opens a three-game road trip that includes stops in St. Louis (tonight), Phoenix (Tuesday) and Colorado (Thursday). The season will conclude with a home game against the New York Islanders next Saturday. The club has gone 4-3-0 its last seven games after going 0-4-0 the previous four games. Columbus has gone 13-13-1 the last 27 games after posting a 4-15-2 mark the previous 21 outings.

•G Allen York stopped 29-of-31 shots to earn the first win of his NHL career Wednesday vs. Detroit. He is only the fifth goaltender in the last 20 seasons to post his first NHL win in a game against the Red Wings.

• D Nikita Nikitin has points in five of the last seven games, including two goals and an assist last night vs. Florida. The multi-goal game was the first of his NHL career (98 games), while the three-point game was the second of his career. He has 3-6-9 the last seven games after being held pointless the previous 11 games. He has registered 6-11-17 the last 24 games and has goals in five of the last 20 games after being held goalless the previous 20 games.


C - #10

• It has been a frustrating, injury-riddled season for the veteran playmaker, but the Blues need McDonald in the lineup – and they get him back tonight. He’s been out since Mar. 14 with a shoulder injury, and his nearly point-per-game pace will be a boost to the St. Louis offense.

D Radek Martinek (concussion); out for the season
LW Kristian Huselius (lower body); indefinitely
D Marc Methot (jaw); indefinitely
D Fedor Tyutin (hand); indefinitely
D James Wisniewski (upper body); indefinitely
G Curtis Sanford (lower body); indefinitely

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