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Blue Jackets-Blues Preview

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Blue Jackets-Blues Preview

GAME: Columbus Blue Jackets (7-18-0) at St. Louis Blues (4-15-3).

TIME: Thursday, 8 p.m. EST.

The hapless St. Louis Blues look to snap a franchise-record seven-game home losing streak when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets in a matchup of the worst teams in the NHL.

St. Louis has just four wins in 22 games and an NHL-worst 11 points. The Blues have already set a team record for consecutive losses with an 11-game skid from Oct. 20-Nov. 12.

Their run of 25 consecutive playoff appearances, the longest in U.S. professional sports, appears to be in serious jeopardy only a quarter of the way through the season.

"I think everyone agreed we should have done far better than this," defenseman Christian Backman said. "Everyone feels we're capable, but we've got to find a way to do it. We're going through a tough stretch and I hope everyone can step up and get out of this together."

St. Louis had dominated at home with a 217-118 record over the decade, but fell to 2-9-1 at the Savvis Center this season with a 4-3 loss to Columbus on Saturday.

Barret Jackman scored his first two goals of the season for the Blues, who have lost three straight while surrendering 15 goals. St. Louis has been outscored 8-0 in the third period in those losses.

"I don't know what it is," St. Louis coach Mike Kitchen said. "We sure have to improve in that area because we've blown a lot of leads."

Aaron Johnson scored his first goal of the season Saturday to lift the Blue Jackets, who halted a seven-game skid and moved past St. Louis into fourth place in the Central Division.

"It's big for our team," Columbus coach Gerard Gallant. "We're a lot like St. Louis. We're struggling."

Columbus, which scored just nine goals during its losing streak, followed up its win over St. Louis with a 3-2 shootout victory over the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday. Jaroslav Balastik scored the game-winner for the Blue Jackets, who have won two in a row after losing 11 of their previous 12.

Sergei Fedorov had an assist and became the first Russian-born NHLer to play in 1,000 career games. Acquired two weeks ago in a trade with Anaheim, the six-time All-Star center - who turns 36 on Dec. 13 - is the 205th player to reach that milestone.

"I'm just happy for this locker room, to overcome the obstacles they've dealt with," Fedorov said.

STANDINGS (through Nov. 30): Blue Jackets - 14 points, 4th place, 24 PB, Central Division. Blues - 11 points, 5th place, 27 PB, Central Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Blue Jackets - David Vyborny, 6 goals and 16 points; Manny Malhotra, 13 assists; Jody Shelley, 46 PIM. Blues - Dean McAmmond, 9 goals; Petr Cajanek, 16 assists and 18 points; Jamal Mayers, 41 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Nov. 30): Blue Jackets - Power play: 10 percent (14 for 140), 30th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.8 percent (140 for 171), 19th. Blues - Power play: 14 percent (21 for 150), 26th (tied). Penalty killing: 80.8 percent (114 for 141), 22nd.

GOALTENDERS: Blue Jackets - Martin Prusek (3-3-0, 0, 3.22); Pascal Leclaire (1-4-0, 0 SO, 3.93 GAA). Blues - Patrick Lalime (2-9-3, 0, 4.00); Curtis Sanford (2-4-0, 1, 3.21).

SEASON SERIES: Blue Jackets, 2-1.

LAST MEETING: Nov. 26; Blue Jackets, 4-3. At St. Louis, Malhotra had a goal and two assists and Luke Richardson and Martin Brule also scored for the Blue Jackets.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blue Jackets - 3-10-0 on the road; Blues - 2-9-1 at home.


Associated Press

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