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Blues continue Presidents' Trophy push vs. Canes

by Brian Hunter
BLUES (45-18-8) at HURRICANES (26-29-15)


Last 10:
St. Louis 8-1-1; Carolina 3-3-4

Season Series: Second and final meeting of the season. Matt D'Agostini scored with 1:02 left in overtime to give the Blues a 3-2 win on Oct. 21 at Scottrade Center. St. Louis had rallied from a two-goal deficit on tallies by Jason Arnott and David Backes after Carolina got goals from Jay Harrison and Brandon Sutter.

Big Story: Nearly five months after their initial matchup, the Blues are in the driver's seat to capture the Presidents' Trophy and home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs, while the Hurricanes are playing out the string. St. Louis leads the NHL by a wide margin in team goals-against average at 1.86, while Brian Elliott (1.61) and Jaroslav Halak (1.87) rank 1-2 among goalies in that category.

Team Scope:

Blues: Halak saw a streak of 10 consecutive starts in which he allowed two goals or less come to an end Tuesday against Chicago, though he could hardly be faulted for the eventual 4-3 shootout loss St. Louis suffered. Halak stopped 43 shots through regulation and overtime as well as two of three attempts in the penalty-shot tiebreaker, but the Blues were stymied there by Corey Crawford. They had chased Blackhawks starter Ray Emery with first-period goals by Jamie Langenbrunner, Andy McDonald and Patrik Berglund, but were unable to build on their 3-1 lead.

"We have to play that blue-collar, hard-nosed type of game, but we haven't lately," Backes said in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "They pounded us down, pounded us down and finally capitalized. We need to play for each other, stick up for each other, but we can't keep riding train tracks to the box all the time. … They got physical and we got soft. It's a learning lesson."

This is one of only two home dates for Carolina in a 12-game stretch that accounts for much of the month of March. The Hurricanes come off a respectable 2-2-1 road trip that ended with a 4-2 loss to the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers on Tuesday. They spotted New York a three-goal lead before Tim Brent and Drayson Bowman scored 32 seconds apart late in the second period to make it a game. But Martin Biron shut the door from there and Carl Hagelin added an insurance marker in the third.

"We're battling hard right now," coach Kirk Muller said in the Raleigh News & Observer. "As long as we're mathematically still in it (playoff race) we're going to keep going. As you can tell, we’re not quitting."

Who's Hot:
McDonald has 4 goals and 5 assists during a six-game points streak for the Blues, as well as 6 goals in his last eight games. Berglund (3-2-5) and David Perron (2-3-5) have four-game points streaks active. … Jeff Skinner has 3 goals and 6 assists in his last nine games for the Hurricanes.

Injury Report:
St. Louis defenseman Kent Huskins (bruised hand) hasn't played since March 5. D'Agostini, forward Alex Steen and defenseman Kris Russell are all sidelined with concussion-related symptoms. … Carolina defenseman Jaroslav Spacek (strained lower back) was out of the lineup Tuesday, while forward Jiri Tlusty (upper body) has missed two straight. Defenseman Joni Pitkanen (concussion/knee) is on injured reserve.

Stat Pack: The Blues have eight players with at least 10 goals this season, while McDonald, D'Agostini and Kevin Shattenkirk all have nine. … Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward ranks second in the League in both shots faced (1,828) and saves (1,666).

Puck Drop:
This is the third stop on a seven-game road trip for St. Louis, which was a mediocre team for much of the season away from Scottrade Center but has turned it up a notch of late. The Blues are 6-1-1 in their last eight road games to move to 16-14-4 for the season.
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