BLUE JACKETS (32-34-13) at BLUES (38-31-9)
Columbus 5-3-2; St. Louis 6-4-0
Sixth and final meeting of the regular season between these Central Division rivals. Columbus has taken three of the first five matchups. R.J. Umberger
recorded a hat trick in the Nov. 30 game and leads the Blue Jackets with three goals. Alex Steen
also has three goals for the Blues.
St. Louis is hanging on to hopes of another miracle finish. After Monday, the Blues finish off the regular season with games against Chicago, Anaheim and Nashville.
Although it's come too late to salvage any hopes of a second straight postseason berth, Columbus has been playing improved hockey down the stretch. The Blue Jackets put together a 6-2-2 stretch before losing consecutive games, but even those were 3-2 finals against red-hot Detroit and the League's best team in Washington. They can finish with a .500 record by winning three of their last four games.
"We battled through, even though our lineup's not at its best right now," interim coach Claude Noel said after the Jackets threw a scare into the Capitals.
In a battle of desperate teams, St. Louis pulled out a 2-1 victory over Dallas on Saturday when defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo
scored a power-play goal 8:14 into the third period.
"I just saw the opportunity with the puck up high," Colaiacovo said. "I tried to cheat down low for a rebound or even a backdoor pass. When the shot went through, I just happened to find myself still stuck there.
"Guys were crashing and banging and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I just tried to get it in there quick. Luckily for me, it went in."
Who's hot: Antoine Vermette
scored twice against the Capitals and has a career-high 27 goals and 65 points in his first full season with the Blue Jackets. Rick Nash
has three goals and five assists in his last six games. R.J. Umberger
had two goals and five assists during a career-high six-game points streak that ended Saturday.
has two goals and two assists in his last five games for the Blues. Steen has three goals and two assists in his last four games. Chris Mason has won four of his last five starts, giving up two goals or less in each victory.
Columbus defenseman Kris Russell
, who scored the overtime winner against St. Louis on Jan. 30, is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Out for the season are defensemen Rostislav Klesla (groin) and Jan Hejda (sprained MCL) and forwards Jared Boll
(hand), Chris Clark (knee) and Derek MacKenzie
(sprained MCL). … St. Louis defenseman Barret Jackman
is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Vermette is just two points behind Nash for the Blue Jackets' scoring lead. … Steen paces the Blues in goals (24), power-play goals (7) and shooting percentage (13.3), and is tied for first with Patrik Berglund
in game-winning goals (4). He is also second in points (47) and plus-minus (plus-9).
"It's too bad we can't go back and get some of those games that we gave away at home earlier in the year," Colaiacovo told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, referring to the team's dreadful 16-18-5 record at the Scottrade Center. "We're in the position we are right now because of it. But there's no looking back … it's live and die with each game."