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At the Rink: Blues at Blue Jackets

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- It was bad enough for Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Matt Calvert to lose 10 pounds because of an intestinal flu that caused him to miss the past two games.

But his return Friday happens to come against an NHL heavyweight that likes to throw its weight around.

The Blue Jacket (21-25-3), losers of three straight, host the St. Louis Blues, who will seek their eight consecutive win while trying to extend a club-record 13-game point streak (12-0-1).

"It's going to be a man's game because that's how they play," Columbus coach Todd Richards said of the Blues (34-13-4). "I'm not saying they run around and pick fights. They play the game hard and play honest."

Calvert, who was at 187 pounds before the illness, is ready to jump into the fray.

"I'm feeling better now and trying to get my strength back," he said. "They're going to come out hard. They're going to try to bull you around, so we have to push back."

It's been a rough three weeks for Calvert. He had not been feeling well for a while because of a head cold, then got sick prior to playing at the Tampa Bay Lightning on Jan. 31. He also sat the game vs. the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday.

The Blue Jackets are carrying 12 forwards and didn't want to promote another one from Springfield of the American Hockey League to avoid having to send down a defenseman who might get claimed off waivers. That meant either defensemen Jordan Leopold or Kevin Connauton replaced Calvert on the fourth line.

Some normalcy has returned with Calvert playing alongside Mark Letestu and Jared Boll.

"The big thing is going to be length of shifts for me," Calvert said. "If I get caught out there anything past 40 (seconds), that's when I start to tire out."

Richards is going to need everyone clicking to beat the Blues, winners of five straight on the road. St. Louis has more four more away wins (14-9-2) than Columbus has victories in Nationwide Arena (10-13-2).

"If you look at a lot of the games, we're tied after the first period on the road or we're tied after the second and we're getting points in those games," St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. "That's what's helped us a lot. We're not chasing road games like we were earlier in the year, or we're behind and we have to open it."

Brian Elliott, a 2015 NHL All-Star, will start in goal after backup Jake Allen made 23 saves in a 3-0 win at the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday. The other change will have right wing Joakim Lindstrom in for Ty Rattie on the third line.

Hitchcock said the Blues' success comes down to getting goals, saves and special teams at the right moments.

"It's not outplaying people," he said. "There was a stretch a month ago where we were outplaying everybody. We went on a five- or six-game stretch where we were really good. Since then it's been all about timing."

Here are the projected lineups:


Alexander SteenDavid BackesT.J. Oshie

Jaden SchwartzPaul StastnyVladimir Tarasenko

Dmitrij JaskinPatrik BerglundJoakim Lindstrom

Steve OttMarcel GocRyan Reaves

Jay BouwmeesterAlex Pietrangelo

Carl GunnarssonChris Butler

Barret JackmanIan Cole

Brian Elliott

Jake Allen

Scratched: Ty Rattie

Injured: Kevin Shattenkirk (abdominal), Jori Lehtera (concussion symptoms), Chris Porter (leg)


Scott Hartnell - Ryan JohansenCam Atkinson

Nick Foligno - Brandon Dubinsky - Corey Tropp

Artem AnisimovAlexander Wennberg - Jack Skille

Matt Calvert - Mark Letestu - Jared Boll

Fedor Tyutin - Jack Johnson

Ryan Murray - David Savard

Kevin Connauton - James Wisniewski

Curtis McElhinney

Anton Forsberg

Scratched: Dalton Prout, Cody Goloubef, Jordan Leopold

Injured: Brian Gibbons (knee), Nathan Horton (back), Boone Jenner (back), Sergei Bobrovsky (groin), Jeremy Morin (heart)

Status report: Leopold, who played the past two games after sitting the previous 13, will not play against the Blues. Columbus acquired him from St. Louis on Nov. 15 for a fifth-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. … McElhinney will start for Columbus after rookie Anton Forsberg played vs. the Coyotes.

Who's hot: Elliott is 6-0-1 with a 1.98 goals-against average against the Blue Jackets. … Tarasenko has a goal in three straight games and 27 for the season.

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