BLACKHAWKS (15-8-3) at BLUES (14-8-3)
TV: WGN, FS-MW (HD)
Chicago 6-4-0; St. Louis 7-1-2
Second of six meetings between these Central Division rivals. The first one back on Nov. 8 marked Ken Hitchcock's first game as Blues coach after taking over for the fired Davis Payne. St. Louis began its turnaround that night by shutting out Chicago 3-0 behind a 29-save performance from Jaroslav Halak
It won't get nearly the amount of national attention that a certain Pittsburgh captain returning from a lengthy concussion absence received last month, but St. Louis forward David Perron
will be back in the lineup Saturday for the first time since Nov. 4, 2010, when a Joe Thornton hit in a game against San Jose led to a concussion that sidelined him for over a calendar year. Perron had 5 goals in 10 games last season following a breakthrough 20-goal campaign in 2009-10, and adds another dimension to a Blues team that has taken off since the coaching change.
Facing the resurgent Islanders and a goalie who grew up in Chicago in Al Montoya, the Blackhawks had their work cut out for them Friday night at the United Center. New York took a pair of first-period leads and later rallied from a couple one-goal deficits before Chicago captain Jonathan Toews
scored the only goal of the shootout to secure a 5-4 victory. Toews also had a shorthanded goal in the second period and set up Patrick Sharp
's power-play marker in the third.
"Until you get to see him every day, it's the intangibles that I think separates him," veteran defenseman Sean O'Donnell
said. "Every shift, the way he brings it. There's lots of talented guys in this League, but … that will, desire, whatever you want to call it that he has, you can't make it up. You kind of either have it or you don't and he's got it."
Points in 10 of 11 games (8-1-2) since Hitchcock took the reins have vaulted St. Louis into third place in the Central, just two points behind co-leaders Detroit and Chicago. In spite of the way things have turned around in a short period of time, the Blues couldn't be thrilled with letting a pair of one-goal leads slip away in Colorado on Friday before Ryan O'Reilly netted the lone goal of the shootout to deal them a 3-2 defeat. Kevin Shattenkirk
, acquired by St. Louis in last February's blockbuster with Colorado, opened the scoring in his first game back at Pepsi Center with a power-play goal.
"I think we just sat back a little bit and took some pressure off of them," Shattenkirk said. "They got their transition game going and some ice to work with. They are a skilled team. They make great plays through the neutral zone and I think us backing off was playing right into their hands."
Sharp has goals in consecutive games for the Blackhawks and 5 goals in the last four games. ... Alexander Steen
has a four-game assists streak for the Blues.
Perron comes off injured reserve, but still remaining there for St. Louis are defensemen Kent Huskins
(ankle) and Carlo Colaiacovo
(lower body) and forwards B.J. Crombeen
(broken scapula), Andy McDonald
(concussion) and Evgeny Grachev
Toews notched the 21st shootout goal of his career Friday, while Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook
picked up his 200th career assist on the shorthanded goal by his captain. ... Perron, a first-round pick (No. 26) of the Blues in the 2007 NHL Draft, sports career totals of 53 goals and 131 points in 235 games.
Perron steps into a situation with St. Louis where things have been going well with the team and there shouldn't be any pressure on him to have to do too much too soon.
"It's going to be awesome. The guys are playing really well," he said. "Our goaltending has been really good.
"I'll just get in there, play my game and work as hard as I can and I think for me, it's going to be to keep it simple and just take the excitement of the game and bring two points to the team. Obviously it's going to be a big game for me, but we've got to look at the two points at the end of the night. That's what we want to have for sure."