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Blue Jackets turn to McKenna for start vs. Blues

by Tal Pinchevsky

BLUES (21-6-3) at BLUE JACKETS (14-15-3)


Last 10: St. Louis 7-3-0; Columbus 6-4-0

Season series: After competing for years as rivals in the Central Division, these teams are playing for the first time since the Columbus Blue Jackets moved into the Eastern Conference's new Metropolitan Division. The St. Louis Blues won three of four against Columbus last season.

Big story: St. Louis has been arguably the NHL's most consistent team this season. Columbus has not matched that consistency but is 4-1-0 in December and has an opportunity to climb the division standings with three of its next four games at Nationwide Arena.

Team Scope:

Blues: After dropping three of four games, with all three losses coming against California teams, the Blues rebounded this week with wins against a pair of Canadian teams. They beat the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 on the road Tuesday, then had no trouble beating the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-3 at Scottrade Center on Thursday.

St. Louis scored three times in the first period and was never threatened. David Backes had a pair of goals and Alexander Steen scored his 22nd of the season.

"We jumped on them early," said forward Jaden Schwartz, who had a three-point night. "We threw a lot of pucks on net. We got a lot of second-chance opportunities tonight. Everyone played well."

St. Louis' wins came with Adam Cracknell in the lineup and Magnus Paajarvi a healthy scratch, although Cracknell is looking for his first point of the season.

Blue Jackets: Goaltender Mike McKenna will take the ice Saturday night trying to beat the team he grew up watching.

McKenna is a St. Louis native; his father is an off-ice official at Scottrade Center. Injuries to Sergei Bobrovsky and Curtis McElhinney have left him as the likely starter Saturday night, 48 hours after he stopped 17 of 18 shots in relief after McElhinney left with a lower-body injury and helped the Blue Jackets beat the New York Rangers 4-2.

It was McKenna's first NHL appearance since Dec. 2, 2010. That was a couple of weeks after he made his lone career appearance against the Blues, a 3-2 loss in St. Louis.

"It's my hometown," he told the Columbus Dispatch when asked about playing against St. Louis. "As you get older and move around, I think you lose that emotional attachment. There will be a lot of people watching back home, but that was a big stage in New York [on Thursday], too. It's the NHL: it's all a big stage."

With McElhinney not expected to be available, Columbus called up Jeremy Smith from Springfield of the American Hockey League on Friday.

Who's hot: Schwartz has two goals and four points in his past three games, and Blues captain David Backes has three goals and four points in that span. … Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert has goals in three straight games, and linemate Cam Atkinson has six points in his past four games. Forward Ryan Johansen has nine points during a career-high seven-game point streak.

Injury report: Blues defenseman Jordan Leopold (finger) and forward Ryan Reaves (broken hand) are on injured reserve. … McElhinney and Bobrovsky are out for Columbus, as are forwards Marian Gaborik (knee), who was on the ice Friday, Nathan Horton (shoulder), Cody Bass (thumb) and Jared Boll (foot) and defenseman James Wisniewski (upper body).

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