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Blues and Canucks battle for top spot

by Deborah Francisco
BLUES (40-17-7) AT CANUCKS (40-16-8)

TV: FS-Midwest (HD), SNET-Pacific (HD)

LAST 10: St. Louis 7-3-0, Vancouver 6-1-3

Season Series: Vancouver is looking for a split of the four-game season series. The Blues won the first two contests but the Canucks edged St. Louis 3-2 in overtime in their last meeting on Jan. 12. Alexandre Burrows and Jason Arnott each had a pair of goals in that game.

Big Story: First place is on the line as the Canucks and Blues battle for the top spot in the League as well as first place the Western Conference. The Canucks come in with a one-point lead over the Blues in the standings, 88 points to 87.

Team Scope:

Blues: The Blues are answering any questions about their ability to win on the road. They made it four wins in as many games away from Scottrade Center on Wednesday with a dominating 5-2 win in Edmonton. They've also beaten Nashville, Winnipeg and Calgary.

Andy McDonald and Kevin Shattenkirk each had two points in the win at Edmonton, and they're increasingly confident about their play away from home.

"You have to be able to win on the road to be successful," McDonald said of the Blues improving to 14-13-3 in away games -- they've dominated opponents at home with a 26-4-4 record. "We know it is going to be tough every night and that we have to play a certain way and on this road trip especially we have stuck to that style.

"It's really paid off for us. Things are going well for us."

Canucks: The Canucks concluded a six-game road trip with a pair of losses - their first back-to-back losses since January 17. They did manage to pick up points in each loss. Vancouver was edged by Phoenix in a 2-1 shootout loss on Tuesday. Alex Edler tallied the lone goal and Corey Schneider made 34 saves.

"It was a frustrating way to end the trip," Schneider said. "We had a lead going into the third period and we don't close the door. We're a team that (usually) does that well."

Thursday's contest marks the beginning of a seven-game homestand for the Canucks, who don't see an opposition rink again until March 19.

Who's Hot: McDonald has five goals in his last eight games. … Edler leads the Canucks defensive corps in scoring with 41 points on the season (eight goals, 33 assists)

Injury Report: The Blues are without Alex Steen, Matt D'Agostini, and Kris Russell all with concussion-like symptoms and Jamie Langenbrunner, who's out with broken foot … For Vancouver, Keith Ballard (concussion), Andrew Ebbett (collarbone surgery) and Aaron Volpatti (shoulder surgery) are out indefinitely.

Stat Pack: The Canucks are the highest-scoring team in the League with (204) goals; they Blues are the stingiest defensive team, allowing 1.9 goals per game. … Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott both have 20 wins for the Blues, the first time in franchise history St. Louis has had more than one 20-game winner in goal.

Puck Drop : Brian Elliott is expected to start in net for the Blues after Halak beat the Oilers on Wednesday. He has started all three meetings between the teams this season and has allowed five goals while winning twice.

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