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Blackhawks carry mini-skid into game with Blues

by David Kalan
BLACKHAWKS (37-15-5) at BLUES (25-23-9)

Last 10 -- Chicago 5-4-1; St. Louis 4-4-2

Season series --
The Hawks lead the season series 2-1, but the Blues took the most recent matchup, spoiling Chicago's return home from a season-long road trip with a 3-2 win Wednesday at the United Center.

Big Story --
The suddenly slumping Blackhawks will look to snap their funk against a St. Louis team desperate to climb back into the playoff race.

Team Scope:

Blackhawks --
After their longest road trip of the season, home was supposed to be sweet for the Hawks, but suddenly, with two straight losses at the United Center in the books, Chicago is back on the road to find its solution. The Blackhawks are hoping the answer is in St. Louis as they look to snap their first three-game losing streak of the season, but with faceoff at the Scottrade Center coming just 24 hours after Friday night's loss to Coyotes, the Hawks could be tired.

The loss to Phoenix Friday night was particularly frustrating as the Hawks missed an opportunity to pick up two points on the idle Sharks in the race for the West's top seed. Chicago did manage to get one, and the Hawks may have Cristobal Huet to thank. While the Frenchman had been shaky of late, Huet was very solid in stopping 21 of 22 shots before falling in the shootout. Chicago could use a spark from its typically potent offense, which has five goals in its past three games.

Blues --
St. Louis started this week off with a big win over these same Blackhawks on Wednesday, but the Blues couldn't take the momentum back with them to Scottrade Center, where they fell Thursday night to the Sharks. Despite that loss and what has been a somewhat turmoil-filled season featuring the ouster of coach Andy Murray, the Blues are still right in the playoff discussion. St. Louis enters Saturday just seven points out of the West's top eight with 25 games left to play.

If the Blues plan on making a run at that spot, however, they'll need improved play from netminder Chris Mason, who is likely to get the start Saturday after sitting out the second half of this week's back-to-back. Mason has a winning record this season, but he has struggled of late, giving up less than three goals just twice in the last six games. The offense has also struggled, scoring more than two goals just once in the last six outings, while veteran Keith Tkachuk is well off his typical pace with just one point in the last nine games.

Who's Hot --
David Backes has three goals in the last three games for St. Louis to go with 13 points in his last 15 games overall. … Marian Hossa and Andrew Ladd both have five points in their last five games for Chicago.

Injury Report --
Chicago should have a full roster, while B.J. Crombeen is questionable for St. Louis with a lower-body injury.

Stat Pack --
If you want to beat the Hawks you typically have to get to them early -- Chicago is 30-6-3 this year when scoring first. But this hasn't been the case lately. In both of the Hawks' last two losses, they were the first to put the biscuit in the basket.

Puck Drop -- While St. Louis is in more dire need to get two points in the playoff race, Chicago is in unusual territory. If three straight losses turns into four, this mini-slump could turn into a prolonged one. If that winds up being the case, the Hawks could find themselves scrambling to rebuild momentum as the postseason begins.

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