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Game Preview: Blue Jackets go for season sweep of Blues

by Katie Foglia / Columbus Blue Jackets

The St. Louis Blues’ last game was played before the Thanksgiving holiday against the Pittsburgh Penguins at CONSOL Energy Center on Wednesday.

After a steady back-and-forth game throughout 60 minutes of regulation, Evgeni Malkin scored 1:03 into overtime to lead the Penguins to a 4-3 win over the Blues. Paul Stastny, Robby Fabbri and Alex Pietranglo each scored for St. Louis, which rallied in the third period to tie the game and secure a point.

The Blues (14-6-3) currently sit near the top of the Central Division with 31 points. If they keep their current pace, head coach Ken Hitchcock’s team is primed to make a push deep into the post-season with help from sniper Vladimir Tarasenko and a deep, heavy group of forwards. The team’s blue line is backed by the red-hot Kevin Shattenkirk, youngster Colton Parayko (who currently has 12 points) and the steady Pietrangelo, who has 11 points.

In between the pipes for St. Louis, Jake Allen has recorded 10 wins, four losses and two overtime losses with a .928 save percentage. He's expected to get the start for the Blues on Saturday night at Scottrade Center.

The last time these two teams played each other was exactly 11 days ago: on Nov. 17 at Nationwide Arena. Brandon Saad scored twice, one of them a spinning, impressive backhander, to help the Blue Jackets secure their third straight win (second straight on home ice).

Despite Shattenkirk opening the scoring for the Blues at 7:36 into the first period, his goal would be the only damage inflicted by the visitors. Cody Goloubef notched his first goal of the season, the second of his NHL career, and tied the game at 16:39 in the first on a 2-on-1 rush involving both of the Blue Jackets' defensemen.

During a dominant second period, the Jackets out-shot the Blues 21-3. Saad scored off a backhanded top-shelf shot that beat Blues goaltender Brian Elliot and gave the Jackets a 2-1 lead. Saad's first goal was the game-winner, and he later added an empty-net goal in the third to lock up a 3-1 final.

Vladimir Tarasenko. Remember that name during this Jackets-Blues match-up (and really, every game the Blues play).

The Russian-born right winger has scored 13 goals and added nine assists for 22 points in 22 gamed played so far during the 2015-16 season. He's the Blues' top offensive threat and one of the league's most dangerous players in the scoring areas, and averages 19:45 time on ice per game and 28.4 shifts per game.

With those numbers, he’s on pace for a 47-goal season and some believe he could even surpass that total.

The 23-year-old was selected by St. Louis in the first round (16th overall) during the 2010 NHL Draft -- under the direction of John Davidson and Jarmo Kekalainen. In four NHL seasons (all spent with the Blues), Tarasenko has scored 79 goals and added 78 assists for 157 points.

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