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Blues-Blue Jackets Preview

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Blues-Blue Jackets Preview

GAME: St. Louis Blues (10-29-6) at Columbus Blue Jackets (16-29-2).

TIME: Friday, 7 p.m. EST.

The St. Louis Blues hope to end an eight-game losing streak as they play the Columbus Blue Jackets, whom they have beaten twice this season.

The Blues, whose 10 wins and 26 points rank last in the NHL, have managed two wins against two teams - Central Division rivals Columbus and Chicago. The Blues, though, have not played the Blue Jackets since a 4-1 win Dec. 1, when they had 44 shots on goal.

St. Louis has scored just 14 goals during the eight-game skid, and four came in Thursday's 5-4 shootout loss to the Washington Capitals. It was the first time the Blues had scored four goals since their last win, a 4-1 victory Jan. 2 over Vancouver.

The Blues forced overtime when left wing Dean McAmmond scored with 4:29 left in the third period. They had a chance to win in overtime after Washington defenseman Ivan Majeski was whistled for handling the puck in the crease, but right wing Mike Sillinger had his penalty shot stopped.

"I was going down the ice and the puck rolled up my stick and I had to settle it down," Sillinger said. "Kolzig covers the bottom of the net really well and is quick up top. I thought I'd catch him backing up. He made a good save."

Despite the failed penalty shot, Sillinger has three-game goal-scoring streak after netting a power-play goal in the second period.

During the eight-game losing streak, the Blues' four double-digit goal scorers - Sillinger, McAmmond, Doug Weight and Jamal Mayers - have combined for just six goals. Weight has just one goal in the last seven games, and Mayers has gone nine games without scoring.

After a terrible start, Columbus has gone 7-4-1 since Dec. 26, with Rick Nash and the goaltenders leading the way.

The Blue Jackets have been outshot by an average of 41-26 in those 12 games, yet they have won four of their last six games thanks to impressive performances in net by Marc Denis and Pascal Leclaire.

Columbus, though, is trying to regroup after a 4-0 loss Wednesday to the Detroit Red Wings. Nash had a nine-game points streak end, and Leclaire - who made 48 saves Sunday in a win - turned aside 37 shots in the loss.

"I hope tonight was an off night," Columbus coach Gerard Gallant said. "We've been playing well and a win over Detroit would have been huge."

Denis has made 30 or more saves in eight consecutive starts, winning five of them.

Despite their improved play, the Blue Jackets are 19 points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

STANDINGS: Blues - 26 points, 5th place, 39 PB, Central Division. Blue Jackets - 34 points, 4th place, 31 PB, Central Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Blues - Sillinger, 16 goals; Weight, 29 assists and 39 points; Mayers, 100 PIM. Blue Jackets - Nikolai Zherdev, 13 goals; Bryan Berard, 18 assists; Zherdev and David Vyborny, 29 points; Jody Shelley, 102 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Blues - Power play: 15.5 percent (47 for 303), 24th in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.4 percent (222 for 276), 23rd. Blue Jackets - Power play: 13.5 percent (36 for 267), 28th. Penalty killing: 82.8 percent (265 for 320), 13th.

GOALTENDERS: Blues - Curtis Sanford (4-10-1, 2 SO, 2.93 GAA); Jason Bacashihua (3-5-0, 0, 3.82). Blue Jackets - Denis (9-17-0, 1, 3.33); Leclaire (4-9-2, 0, 3.52).

SEASON SERIES: Tied, 2-2.

LAST MEETING: Dec. 1, 2005; Blues, 4-1. At St. Louis, rookie defenseman Dennis Wideman's first NHL goal snapped a 1-1 tie midway through the second period.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blues - 5-15-3 on the road; Blue Jackets - 10-12-0 at home.


Associated Press

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