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Wednesday Night Rivalry

Blackhawks, Blues pushing for first place

Central Division battle heats up Wednesday Night Rivalry

by John Kreiser @jkreiser7713 / Managing Editor

There's a three-way race for first place in the Central Division, and two of the teams involved will try to take a big step forward when the Chicago Blackhawks visit the St. Louis Blues in the Wednesday Night Rivalry game at Scottrade Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports).

The Blackhawks enter the game two points ahead of the Blues, largely because they are 2-0-1 against St. Louis this season, including a victory in each of the past two games. Chicago and St. Louis are battling the Dallas Stars for first in the division and the opportunity to avoid facing one of the other two in the Western Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

As the Blackhawks and Blues keep pushing for first place, here are four players helping their teams make the climb:

Corey Crawford, G, Blackhawks -- For all of the Blackhawks' skill with the puck, Crawford might be their most valuable player. He's already set a career high with 35 victories and has won his past three starts, allowing five goals on 97 shots. Crawford also leads the NHL with seven shutouts, a not-insignificant achievement on a team that allows nearly 31 shots per game.

Jonathan Toews, C, Blackhawks -- Chicago's captain isn't putting up the same kind of offensive numbers as his teammate and NHL scoring leader Patrick Kane, but Toews has scored at least 20 goals for the ninth time in as many NHL seasons and is three away from 250 in his career. Toews also has a knack for scoring at the right time; eight of his 24 goals have been game-winners, including a League-leading five in overtime.

Jake Allen, G, Blues -- Like Crawford, Allen saw a lot of shots while winning his past three starts, facing 109 and allowing seven goals in an eight-day span. Despite missing nearly six weeks because of injury, Allen has five shutouts among his 21 victories, as well as a .922 save percentage and a 2.26 goals-against average. With Brian Elliott sidelined with a lower-body injury, the Blues are counting on Allen to carry the load during their push for the division title.

Jaden Schwartz, LW, Blues -- After missing nearly four months with a broken ankle, Schwartz returned midway through February and has given the Blues an offensive lift. The 23-year-old has five goals, nine points and is plus-6 in 11 games since his return. He and his usual linemates, Jori Lehtera and Vladimir Tarasenko, are the Blues' most skilled trio.

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