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Blues-Capitals Preview @NHLdotcom
Blues-Capitals Preview

GAME: St. Louis Blues (10-29-5) at Washington Capitals (15-24-5).

TIME: Thursday, 7 p.m. EST.

The St. Louis Blues have endured a bleak season. Visiting the Washington Capitals could brighten the spirits of the NHL's worst team.

St. Louis has beaten Washington six straight times, and the Blues haven't lost to the Capitals since Dec. 29, 1997.

However, this is a vastly different Blues team than in previous seasons. St. Louis' streak of 25 consecutive playoff appearances - the longest run in professional sports - will likely end, and with 25 points, the Blues are in danger of finishing with the worst record in franchise history. St. Louis had 48 points in 1978-79, the year before the playoff streak began.

The Blues, who already endured a franchise-worst 11-game losing streak earlier this season, have dropped seven in a row, scoring only 10 goals during that stretch.

"It's just tiring and it's ridiculous, and I'm not putting blame," center Doug Weight said. "We do have to be positive, or it's going to get worse. But it's incredibly hard."

St. Louis lost 5-3 to New Jersey on Tuesday night, dropping the Blues' record to 1-7-1 against Eastern Conference opponents. The Blues battled back to tie the game after falling behind 3-0, but couldn't hold off New Jersey.

"When we tied it I felt great, I felt it was going to be our night," Weight said. "Two shifts later, it's in our net.

"Again, it was unfortunate at the end."

Washington has won two in a row following a six-game losing streak. Both victories came on the road, the first time this season the Capitals have won consecutive games away from Washington.

Alexander Ovechkin displayed his tremendous talent in Washington's 6-1 victory over Phoenix on Monday. The rookie scored two goals, including one with a flick of his stick while he was rolling on the ice with his back to the net.

"The best goal I ever scored," said Ovechkin, who recorded his first hat trick in a win over Anaheim on Friday. "I just went down and shot."

Without Ovechkin, the Capitals would be struggling offensively. He leads the team - and NHL rookies - with 32 goals and 58 points. Dainius Zubrus is second on the Caps with 24 points.

"The kid's amazing," Washington goaltender Brent Johnson said. "I mean, he seems to be on the scoreboard every night with some unbelievable shots. He's got one of the best shots that I've ever seen in the game, and it's just one of the quickest releases."

STANDINGS: Blues - 25 points, 5th place, 40 PB, Central Division. Capitals - 35 points, 5th place, 31 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Blues - Mike Sillinger, 16 goals; Weight, 29 assists and 39 points; Jamal Mayers, 100 PIM. Capitals - Ovechkin, 32 goals, 26 assists and 58 points; Brendan Witt, 111 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Blues - Power play: 14.9 percent (44 for 295), 26th in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.4 percent (217 for 270), 21st. Capitals - Power play: 13.4 percent (36 for 269), 30th. Penalty killing: 78.7 percent (244 for 310), 29th.

GOALTENDERS: Blues - Curtis Sanford (4-10-1, 2 SO, 2.93 GAA); Jason Bacashihua (3-5-0, 3.82). Capitals - Olaf Kolzig (11-18-5, 3.40); Johnson (4-5-0, 4.20).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Blues, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Oct. 18, 2003; Blues, 4-1. At St. Louis, Weight had three assists while Keith Tkachuk had a goal and an assist to lift St. Louis.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blues - 5-15-2 on the road; Capitals - 9-11-4 at home.

Associated Press

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