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At the Rink: Blues at Rangers

by Dan Rosen

NEW YORK -- No team has more road wins than the St. Louis Blues, who will try for their fourth straight victory and eighth in 10 games away from Scottrade Center when they take on the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; FS-MW, MSG).

The Blues' success away from home is why the Rangers believe they're going to have to raise their level despite the fact that they've won six straight, are 8-0-2 in their past 10 games, and 7-1-1 overall at the Garden.

"It's going to be a good matchup to have a little test to see where we're at," Rangers left wing Rick Nash said. "They're a hot team right now, hot goalie. They're one of the best teams in the [Western Conference]."

The Blues have had success on the road in part because goalie Jake Allen has been lights out. He's had to be with fellow goalie Brian Elliott struggling and because so many impact players (forwards Paul Stastny, Jaden Schwartz, Patrik Berglund and Steve Ott) are out of the lineup with injuries.

Allen, who will start against the Rangers, hasn't allowed a goal on the past 96 shots he's faced for a shutout streak of 165:59. He posted back-to-back shutouts and has allowed one goal on 97 shots in winning St. Louis' past three road games.

Allen is first in the NHL in goals-against average (1.53) and save percentage (.950) among goalies with at least 10 appearances.

"I'm just finding ways to see pucks," Allen said. "I'm trying to get in my position early and just be set, let the puck come to me and let the game come to me, and let the guys do the rest."

Coach Ken Hitchcock also pointed to the Blues' composure as a big reason for their road success.

St. Louis has come back from first-period deficits to win three games, including 5-2 against the Chicago Blackhawks on Nov. 4. In each of those games, the Blues trailed before the first television timeout.

"We just don't get discouraged," Hitchcock said. "We've been down in a lot of these games. We've been down three goals, two goals, down early, getting scored on first shift, and we don't get down, we just keep playing. I think our guys deserve an awful lot of credit because it hasn't been smooth, it hasn't been complete control. We've had to really challenge ourselves. We've had to win a lot of games in the third period, but we just keep going, we keep coming after you, and we've gotten points because of it. It isn't the prettiest road map, but all we need is these points right now to keep pace with everyone else."

Hitchcock, though, questions if the Blues can have similar success against the Rangers if they get down early Thursday.

The Rangers lead the NHL with 17 goals in the first period. They are second in the League in wins and points when leading after the first period (8-0-1, 17 points) and first in those categories when leading after two periods (9-0-0, 18 points).

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist is second in GAA (1.65) and save percentage (.949) behind Allen among goalies with at least 10 appearances.

"New York is the best game management team that I've seen in the League so far," Hitchcock said. "If you don't get to Lundqvist or if you don't get to the Rangers early, as the game wears down they seem to wear you out. We need to get to him early, we need to get to them early. We need to get to them uncomfortable early, and if we do that then I like our chances. They know how to win, they know how to play when the game is on the line. It's going to be a real challenge for us."

Here are the projected lineups:


Alex Steen - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko

Scottie Upshall - David Backes - Robby Fabbri

Martin Havlat - Scott Gomez - Troy Brouwer

Magnus Paajarvi - Kyle Brodziak - Dmitrij Jaskin

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson - Colton Parayko

Joel Edmundson - Kevin Shattenkirk

Jake Allen

Brian Elliott

Injured: Patrik Berglund (shoulder), Steve Ott (upper body) , Jaden Schwartz (right ankle), Paul Stastny (right foot)

Scratched: Robert Bortuzzo, Ryan Reaves


Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - J.T. Miller

Oscar Lindberg - Kevin Hayes - Viktor Stalberg

Emerson Etem - Jarret Stoll - Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Marc Staal - Dan Boyle

Keith Yandle - Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

Antti Raanta

Injured: none

Scratched: Dominic Moore, Dylan McIlrath

Status report: Moore will be a healthy scratch for the second straight game, the first time it's happened in two-plus seasons since rejoining the Rangers. Coach Alain Vigneault said he's sticking with the same lineup that worked to get a 3-0 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday because he liked the effectiveness of the fourth line featuring Stoll between Fast and Etem. "They were strong on the puck, strong on their forecheck, strong on the backcheck," Vigneault said. "Their numbers as far as time in the offensive zone and opportunities were good. It's not an easy decision and it's not an easy conversation to have with a guy like [Moore], but I feel for tonight I just wanted to go with the same forwards."

Who's hot: Nash is coming off his most productive game of the season. He had a goal and an assist against the Hurricanes. … Fast has goals in back to back games. … Gomez has seven points in 10 games with the Blues, including four assists in the past three games. … Pietrangelo has points in three straight games.


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