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Blues attempt to deny Jackets a fifth straight win

by Dan Rosen
BLUE JACKETS (22-38-7) at BLUES (43-18-7)


Last 10:
Columbus 5-4-1; St. Louis 7-3-0

Season series:
The Blues won the first two meetings of the season, but the Blue Jackets pulled out a 2-1 victory at home on Feb. 14. St. Louis won at Columbus, 2-1, on Nov. 27 and then at home on Dec. 18 by a 6-4 score.

Big Story: This is the front-end of a traditional home-and-home between the Central Division rivals. They also play Sunday in Columbus. Entering Friday the Blues were the Presidents' Trophy leaders with 93 points, one more than the Canucks. The Rangers, who have 91 points, were set to play Friday in Chicago.

Team Scope:

Blue Jackets: They will not go quietly, and they're actually putting their potential No. 1 draft pick in jeopardy with their four-game winning streak. The Blue Jackets are seven points back of the Edmonton Oilers and each have 15 games to play.

But the Blue Jackets are dealing with some injury issues, as Fedor Tyutin could be gone for the rest of the season with a broken right hand and Derek MacKenzie missed Thursday's game with concussion-like symptoms. It didn't stop them from winning again, this time over Los Angeles by a 3-1 score.

Jack Johnson scored against his former team, his second goal in as many games, giving him 4 points in the last three games. He was also plus-2 and played more than 27 minutes for the second straight game.

"He's what you want in the organization," interim coach Todd Richards said in the Columbus Dispatch. "You want a guy that wants to be here. When you're a last-place team and you trade for a guy, sometimes you don't know what to expect. But here's a guy that comes in and says I want to be part of it, I want the challenge. That's what we need."

Blues: They've won three straight and haven't given up more than a goal in any of them. In fact, the last time the Blues gave up more than two goals in a game was on Feb. 22, when Boston beat St. Louis, 4-2, at Scottrade Center.

The latest defensive gem came against Anaheim on Thursday. Jaroslav Halak made 24 saves and David Backes scored twice to put the Blues in front in the Presidents' Trophy race.

Halak has now won seven straight decisions, boasting a 1.40 goals-against average and .943 save percentage during the span. Halak's last loss was actually that 2-1 decision to Columbus on Feb. 14.

"I'm just trying to have fun out there and keep the guys in the game," Halak said after Thursday's win. "It's always great to win a few games in a row. It's a team effort. I wouldn't be able to do it without the guys."

Who's Hot:
Blue Jackets center Derrick Brassard is on a five-game point-scoring streak. He has a goal and 5 assists during the streak.

Injury Report:
The Blue Jackets are without Tyutin (broken hand) and likely MacKenzie (concussion-like symptoms). Steve Mason suffered a cut on his blocker hand midway through the second period Thursday, but returned to the bench and said he could have played if necessary. … For the Blues, Matt D'Agostini, Alex Steen and Kris Russell all have concussions. Jamie Langenbrunner is still out with a foot injury and Kent Huskins has missed the last two games with a bruised hand.

Stat Pack: The last time the Blues were leading in the Presidents' Trophy race this late in the season was exactly 12 years ago. … The Blues have killed off 35 straight power plays. They haven't allowed a power-play goal in the last 12 games. … St. Louis is now 35-0-0 when scoring at least three goals.

Puck Drop: The Blues have a League-best 60 points at home (28-4-4). They are 20-1-3 in their last 24 home games.

"We're not the most talented team in the National Hockey League," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We just find ways to win. That's what this team is about."
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