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Blackhawks back on road, streak on line against Blues

by David Kalan

BLACKHAWKS (16-0-3) at BLUES (10-6-2)

TV: CSN-Chicago, FS-Midwest

Last 10: Chicago 9-0-1; Blues 4-4-2

Season series: The Blackhawks won their only previous meeting with the Blues, holding on for  a 3-2 victory at United Center on Jan. 22.

Big story: The Blackhawks have already proven their bonafides on the road this season having survived playing 10 of their first 12 games away from United Center without suffering a regulation loss. But after wrapping up a seven-game homestand, it's time for Chicago to put the best start in NHL history on the line again when they travel to face off with the division-rival Blues.

Team Scope:

Blackhawks: As the season nears its halfway point, the Blackhawks remain without a regulation loss and sit comfortably atop the NHL standings. The Blackhawks are 16-0-3, they have 35 points in the standings while no other team has 30, their League-best plus-24 goal differential is nine goals better than the next-best (Pittsburgh Penguins), and with an 8-0-1 mark at home and 8-0-2 on the road, Chicago has been remarkably balanced.

That balance might pour water on the idea that the Blackhawks' start has been goosed by their recent homestand, which ended Monday night when Marian Hossa whacked the puck past Edmonton Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin for a 3-2 overtime win, but it will be tested nonetheless Thursday night when Chicago plays its first road game in two-and-a-half weeks. The Blackhawks will be back at the United Center on Friday night, but they will be on the road more often than not over the next month, meaning the travel and sheer probability could put an end to their impressive run sooner rather than later.

Blues: St. Louis did manage to top the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday, nipping a two-game losing streak in the bud, but the Blues will have some considerable obstacles Thursday night beyond simply the competition. For one, St. Louis might be a tad rusty: The Blues will be playing for the first time in five days, which is the longest break they've had between games. The more pressing concern, however, is that while most teams might use long periods off to rest and get healthy, this stretch seems to have done the opposite.

The Blues were already without rookie Vladimir Tarasenko, who was placed on injured reserve with a concussion last week, but the injury load got heavier Tuesday when both Andy McDonald and Alex Steen were hurt during a practice drill.

Steen's ailment, an upper-body injury, has him day-to-day, but McDonald injured his left knee and could be out considerably longer. With St. Louis jockeying for position in the predictably tight Western Conference, the sooner all three players are back the better.

Who's hot: Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane has cooled off somewhat, but the phrase "cooled off" is relative. Kane has a goal and two assists in his past four games. ... Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak has been solid in two starts since returning from injury, going 1-0-1 with 38 saves facing 40 shots.

Injury report: Steen is considered questionable. McDonald (left knee) and Tarasenko (concussion) are on IR. … David Bolland (upper body) is out for Chicago.

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