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Blues go for home-and-home sweep of Jackets

by Pete Jensen

BLUE JACKETS (31-26-8) at BLUES (29-28-9)

TV -- FS-Midwest (HD), FS-Ohio (HD)

Last 10
- St. Louis 3-7-0; Columbus 4-3-3

Season series - St. Louis and Columbus will lace up for the fifth of their six meetings this season, and the second in three days. The Central Division rivals have split their first four games, including the Blues' 5-4 shootout win at St. Louis on Monday in the front end of the home-and-home series.

Big story - Time is running out on both the 12th-place Blue Jackets and 13th-place Blues as they try to get on a run and mount a playoff push. Neither team can afford a loss.

Team Scope :

Blues - St. Louis has lost seven of nine, but received a timely performance from center Andy McDonald in Monday night's shootout win against Columbus that ended a four-game skid. McDonald scored two goals in regulation and added another in the shootout to lift the Blues to their first victory in four tries in March. With 16 games left, St. Louis needs to string together some wins or face the prospect of missing the playoffs for the second straight spring.

The Blues figure to get a boost from the return of starting goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who was activated from IR on Tuesday. Halak hasn't played since Feb. 14 due to a broken right hand, but is expected to start.

Blue Jackets - Columbus compiled an impressive 8-3-1 record in the month of February in pursuit of its second playoff berth in three years. However, the Blue Jackets hit a wall on their just-concluded five-game road trip, going 0-3-2. The Jackets are in desperate need of a victory as they return home to Nationwide Arena.

Goaltender Steve Mason has struggled of late, allowing 12 goals while going 0-2-2 in his four starts during the trip. The Jackets have recently lacked a balanced effort down the stretch of games. Columbus' struggles have contributed to five losses by a total of six goals.

Who's hot - Columbus rookie Matt Calvert has 8 goals in his last 10 games. … Blues' center Patrik Berglund has 16 points in his last 17 games dating to Feb. 4.
Injury report - St. Louis expects to get a big lift from Halak's return. But the Blues have a number of injury concerns leading up to Wednesday's clash with Columbus. Patrik Berglund (lower body) and T.J. Hensick (lower body) are expected to make the trip, but remain questionable. Roman Polak (lower body) and B.J. Crombeen (shoulder) are nursing injuries as well, and may miss the trip. Columbus recently lost defensemen Andrew Murray (lower body) and Anton Stralman (left knee) to injury.

Stat pack -- The Blue Jackets have killed off 21 consecutive opposition power plays at Nationwide Arena since allowing a goal by Chicago's Duncan Keith on Feb. 1.

Puck drop - Columbus is seven points out of the eighth and final playoff spot with 17 games to go this season. St. Louis played spoiler on Monday, and kept its slim playoff hopes alive in the process. Both teams can ill-afford losses at this juncture of the season, and will each look to put a damper on its rival's postseason chances on Wednesday.

"As a team, we want to continue with efforts like we did [Monday] night," St. Louis coach Davis Payne said. "We got to a lot of loose pucks. We want to continue driving home these details that will make us a better team."

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