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Blues-Blackhawks Preview

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Blues-Blackhawks Preview

GAME: St. Louis Blues (8-21-4) at Chicago Blackhawks (13-18-4).

TIME: Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. EST.

The Chicago Blackhawks are learning the hard way a hockey game is 60 minutes.

They again try to shake off a late-game collapse as the St. Louis Blues visit the United Center.

Chicago was poised to take the full four points from its last two games, only to have breakdowns in the final minute of regulation that led to game-tying goals for opponents and eventual overtime losses. After squandering a two-goal lead in the last 39 seconds of regulation Friday against the Detroit Red Wings, the Blackhawks again failed to finish off the opposition Monday.

This time, Blue Jackets right wing Nikolai Zherdev rushed the length of the ice to score the game-tying goal past Nikolai Khabibulin with 24 seconds to play in the third period. The Blackhawks lost 4-3 in overtime on a goal by Jaroslav Balastik, extending their losing streak to four games (0-2-2).

"We had plenty of opportunities to put the game away," Blackhawks coach Trent Yawney said. "It's maturity, in terms of recognizing where you are in the game. When you have the opportunity to put the game away, put it away. There was plenty of opportunities for us to make that game basically out of reach."

Chicago, which is 1-4-2 in its last seven games, has been outscored 7-2 in the third period during its losing streak and 38-27 for the season.

The Blues lost for the fourth time in their last six games with a 6-1 defeat Monday to the Dallas Stars. Rookie goaltender Jason Bacashihua allowed four goals on 18 shots over two periods before being pulled for St. Louis, which allowed five or more goals for the 16th time this season.

"I didn't feel like myself tonight," Bacashihua said. "I don't know what the problem was, but they had a couple of good chances, a couple of breakaways and they were able to finish."

Dean McAmmond has scored three goals against the Blackhawks this season, but the Blues have lost the last three games between the teams since a 4-1 win Oct. 11 in the first meeting.

STANDINGS (through Dec. 27): Blues - 20 points, 5th place, 33 PB, Central Division. Blackhawks - 30 points, 3rd place, 23 PB, Central Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Blues - McAmmond and Mike Sillinger, 11 goals; Doug Weight, 21 assists and 27 points; Jamal Mayers, 83 PIM. Blackhawks - Mark Bell, 14 goals; Tyler Arnason, 18 assists and 28 points; Todd Simpson, 97 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 27): Blues - Power play: 14.6 percent (34 for 233), 26th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.3 percent (170 for 209), 22nd. Blackhawks - Power play: 14 percent (29 for 207), 28th. Penalty killing: 84.1 percent (232 for 276), 9th.

GOALTENDERS: Blues - Bacashihua (2-2-0, 0 SO, 4.03 GAA); Reinhard Divis (0-3-0, 4.74). Blackhawks - Khabibulin (11-16-3, 3.35); Craig Anderson (2-2-1, 4.13).

SEASON SERIES: Blackhawks, 3-1.

LAST MEETING: Dec. 16; Blackhawks, 5-1. At Chicago, Bell and Martin Lapointe each had a goal and an assist for the Blackhawks. Bacashihua replaced Curtis Sanford in the second period and stopped 14 of 16 shots in his NHL debut.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blues - 4-9-2 on the road; Blackhawks - 7-6-1 at home.


Associated Press
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