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Blues chase first against Atlantic-leading Bruins

by Brian Hunter

BLUES (14-3-3) at BRUINS (14-6-1)


Last 10: St. Louis 7-2-1; Boston 7-2-1

Season series: This is the first of two meetings between the St. Louis Blues and the Boston Bruins. In their most recent matchup, on Feb. 22, 2012, Brad Marchand scored a pair of goals and the Bruins won 4-2 at Scottrade Center.

Big story: The defending Eastern Conference champions are coming on and have taken over first place in the Atlantic Division. The Blues are chasing first in the Central, but in a division in which two points separates the top four teams they could find themselves going in the opposite direction with a loss.

Team Scope:

Blues: Jaroslav Halak will again be in net after bouncing back from a start Sunday in which he gave up three goals on six shots and was pulled in the first period against the Washington Capitals to help St. Louis defeat the Buffalo Sabres 4-1 on Tuesday. Halak stopped 23 shots for his 11th win.

The Blues got three of their goals from offseason acquisitions: Brenden Morrow had his first multi-goal game for St. Louis, and Magnus Paajarvi, who came back from the Edmonton Oilers in the David Perron trade, had his first of the season to close the scoring.

"I've scored some pretty big goals over the years," Morrow told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Wednesday. "Every part of hockey is fun, but there's nothing more enjoyable than scoring goals. Everyone wants to score goals and it feels good and I don't think that's something that I've lost over the years.

"You go through slumps and you're scared to death that you may never score another goal. But it's something I don't feel like I can't do anymore."

Bruins: This is the start of a three-game homestand for Boston, which plays five of its next six at TD Garden. A 2-1 win against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday combined with a loss by the Tampa Bay Lightning later that night vaulted the Bruins into the Atlantic lead.

Tuukka Rask has been a workhorse, starting 18 of Boston's first 21 games, and it was easy to see why coach Claude Julien went back to him even though he started against the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday. Rask stopped 43 shots against the Rangers for his 13th win, lowering his goals-against average to 1.61 and raising his save percentage to .946.

"When you're out there, you don't really expect a goal to go in. You just know how good he is," defenseman Dougie Hamilton said. "You know if there's a shot, he's probably going to save it."

Who's hot: Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester has one goal and five assists during a five-game point streak. … Bruins forward Shawn Thornton has goals in two of his past three games.

Injury report: St. Louis forward Patrik Berglund (upper body) won't play Thursday, but could return to the lineup over the weekend. Defenseman Jordan Leopold (finger) is on injured reserve. … Boston defenseman Adam McQuaid (hip/groin) is day-to-day.

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