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Blackhawks-Blues Preview

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Blackhawks-Blues Preview

GAME: Chicago Blackhawks (3-9-0) at St. Louis Blues (2-7-2).

TIME: Wednesday, 8 p.m. EST.

Many teams complain about difficult early season schedules. The Chicago Blackhawks have them all beat.

Following three straight losses to league-leading Detroit, the Blackhawks should be happy to see the St. Louis Blues when the teams with the league's worst records meet at the Savvis Center.

Already struggling to become familiar with a first-year coach and several new players, the Blackhawks had the misfortune of facing the Red Wings in three straight games, all resulting in losses.

Chicago lost the first meeting 5-2 on the road on Thursday, suffered a 4-2 home loss two days later and was a 4-1 loser at Detroit on Tuesday.

"Detroit takes advantage of our mistakes," Blackhawks rookie coach Trent Yawney said. "If it's one thing we're lacking, its not finishing off the (opponents') mistakes."

The Blackhawks, losers of four straight and six of seven, did get some good news Tuesday with the return of center Tuomo Ruutu, who missed six games with a sore back.

While nobody considered the Blackhawks to be as good as the Red Wings this season, the signing of goalie Nikolai Khabibulin and several other free agents figured to at least help them close the gap.

The three games, however, proved the Blackhawks have a long way to go be considered anywhere near the same class as the Red Wings, who have won nine straight and 12 of 13 games this season.

The Blues, clearly in rebuilding mode, have won just two of their first 11 games (2-7-2) and are tied for the fewest points in the league with the Blackhawks.

St. Louis completed a three-game road trip Saturday with its fifth straight loss, 5-2 at Los Angeles.

Petr Cajanek and Jay McClement scored for the Blues, who played without left wing Keith Tkachuk, captain Dallas Drake, starting goalie Patrick Lalime and defenseman Christian Backman.

Tkachuk is sidelined with bruised ribs, Lalime missed his second consecutive game with a bruised left knee, Backman will be out at least two weeks with a shoulder injury and Drake will complete a two-game suspension Wednesday.

Top center Doug Weight left Saturday's game in the second period because of concussion-like symptoms and will also be out Wednesday.

"We have guys that are capable," Blues forward Jamal Mayers said. "We can't make excuses. Somebody's got to get the job done."

St. Louis beat Chicago 4-1 on Oct. 11 for one of its two wins this season.

STANDINGS: Blackhawks - 6 points, 4th place (tied), 18 PB, Central Division. Blues - 6 points, 4th place (tied), 18 PB, Central Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Blackhawks - Pavel Vorobiev, 5 goals; Tyler Arnason, Brent Seabrook and Vorobiev, 7 assists; Vorobiev, 12 points; Matthew Barnaby, 37 PIM. Blues - Mayers, 5 goals; Cajanek, 9 assists and 11 points; Barret Jackman, 22 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Blackhawks - Power play: 13.4 percent (11 for 82), 26th in NHL. Penalty killing: 77.6 percent (73 for 94), 24th. Blues - Power play: 16.4 percent (11 for 67), tied for 19th. Penalty killing: 80.5 percent (58 for 72), 18th.

GOALTENDERS: Blackhawks - Khabibulin (3-8-0, 0 SO, 3.82 GAA); Craig Anderson (0-1-0, 4.14). Blues - Lalime (2-5-2, 3.60); Reinhard Divis (0-2-0, 4.90).

SEASON SERIES: Blues, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Oct. 11; Blues, 4-1. At St. Louis, McClement scored his first NHL goal on a penalty shot and Lalime stopped 32 shots to lead the Blues to their first win of the season.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blackhawks - 1-6-0 on the road; Blues - 2-4-0 at home.


Associated Press
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