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Blues Renew Rivalry with Red Wings

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues

ST. LOUIS - Jake Allen is expected to start tonight when the Blues host the former division rival Red Wings at 7 p.m. at Scottrade Center (FSMW, KMOX 1120 AM).

And to quote Darren Pang, why wouldn’t he?

Allen hasn’t allowed more than three goals in any of his 14 appearances this season and ranks second in the League in goals-against average (1.91), fourth in save-percentage (.935) and shares the League-lead in shutouts (3).

“I just feel like I’m getting better,” said Allen, who has accumulated nine wins this season. “I’m just trying to lay it all on the line. I learned a lot last year about how important every single game is in this League. I think in the minors or juniors, you can get away sometimes with not playing your A-game and still win. In this League, you can’t take a night off.

“I’m just trying to battle and bring it in every game.”

“You get excited when you’ve got a goalie that gives you a chance,” Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said. “You start playing for him. I think that’s what’s going on now. You look at some of our thirds periods in these hard fought games, he’s fighting like crazy and then we start fighting for him.”

Allen has given the Blues plenty of reasons to fight lately, delivering one unbelievable save after another. Just ask LA’s Anze Kopitar, Nashville’s Mike Ribeiro or Chicago’s Marko Dano.

“I feel like I’m technical when need be and athletic when need be as well. Those desperation saves are just do whatever it takes to stop the puck,” Allen said. “I think my technique takes over and it’s natural. If I need to dive to get across or throw a glove out, that’s just your instincts, athleticism and desire to make a save.

“This is where I want to be,” Allen added. “I want to take everything I’ve accumulated over these 25 years and put it into place to give the guys the best opportunity to win. It’s coming together right now.”

700 FOR STEEN

Alexander Steen, who leads the Blues with nine assists and ranks second on the team with 17 points, will suit up in his 700th NHL game tonight.

Since joining the Blues in the 2008-09 season, Steen has averaged .71 points per game, scoring 138 goals and 182 assists (320 points) in 446 games.

“Steener’s our leader up front,” said defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. “He certainly drives the bus for us. He plays every aspect of the game the way we need it to be played, and he’s one of the best players out there night in and night out. We’re lucky to have a guy like that and still going strong after 700."

Steen will become the 107th active player to reach 700 regular season games.

In his last 16 games against Detroit, Steen has scored 15 points (six goals, nine assists).

A RIVALRY RENEWED

The Blues and Red Wings have a storied rivalry, but since Detroit moved to the Eastern Conference, the teams now meet just twice a year in the regular season.

In some ways, not much has changed. The Detroit lineup still features Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, and Niklas Kronwall.

As far as changes: Mike Babcock is no longer behind the bench, Petr Mrazek seems to have an edge over Jimmy Howard in goal, and rookie Dylan Larkin ranks second on the team in points with seven goals and seven assists this season.

“For the most part, we know the personnel and we’ve seen them for a few years now,” Pietrangelo said. “You always have to make sure you’re on your toes against these guys.”

"Same style of play, same great qualities offensively, especially defensively, no gap, same stuff," Hitchcock said of the Red Wings under new coach Jeff Blashill. "I've only seen two games, but I really like the things they do in their game. A lot of those things are the exact same things that we do."

PROJECTED LINES

Colton Parayko joined the Blues for the morning skate today, but Hitchcock said he wanted to see how he felt afterwards before determining whether he’d play against Detroit.

With that game-time decision in mind, here are tonight’s lines and defense pairs.

Forwards
Steen - Lehtera - Tarasenko
Paajarvi - Backes - Upshall
Fabbri - Gomez - Brouwer
Ott - Brodziak - Jaskin

Defense
Bouwmeester - Pietrangelo
Edmundson - Shattenkirk
Gunnarsson - Bortuzzo / Parayko

Goalie
Allen

BLUE NOTES

David Backes leads all current Blues with 24 career points against the Red Wings (10 goals, 14 assists).

The Blues had two power-play goals Thursday vs. Buffalo and have scored on eight of 26 chances in the last eight games (30.8 percent). In the first 12 games, the Blues’ power-play converted just 9.5 percent of the time.

Blues penalty killers have not allowed a power-play goal in three consecutive games and have killed 14 in a row, moving the penalty-kill percentage up to 85.9 percent, which is good for sixth in the NHL.

Kevin Shattenkirk has a four-game point streak, scoring two goals and three assists.

The Blues will raise money to support prostate and testicular cancer research tonight during it’s ‘Stache Bash game. Fans can purchase limited edition autographed Movember pucks and Bernie Federko stick-on mustaches outside Section 119. If you missed it, Blues Associate Coach Brad Shaw had a routine colonoscopy in January that revealed a potentially life-threatening polyp. Click here to read more on that story.

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