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Blues go for season sweep of Blue Jackets

by John McGourty

BLUES (23-14-2) at BLUE JACKETS (17-16-7)


Last 10: St. Louis 7-3-0, Columbus 5-4-1

Season series: The St. Louis Blues are going for a sweep of the four-game series, having allowed just one goal in each of their three victories -- including a 3-1 win last Friday.

Big story: The Blues have taken defense to a new level by shutting out their last three opponents, all on the road, including a 2-0 victory against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday that moved them into sixth place in the Western Conference playoff race. The Columbus Blue Jackets have had two days off to enjoy one of their best efforts of the season -- a 4-0 victory against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. A victory against the Blues is almost a must if the Blue Jackets hope to make the playoffs -- they enter the night three points behind the eighth-place Detroit Red Wings and play only one more game at Nationwide Arena, where they are 12-5-5, as opposed to a 5-11-2 record on the road.

Team Scope:

Blues: Not long ago, Brian Elliott looked he would have had trouble stopping a beach ball. These days, opponents would be lucky to get a marble past him. Elliott has rebounded from his early-season struggles with three consecutive shutouts, including the win at Minnesota on Thursday.

"He's been a battler for us," captain David Backes said. "[He] lays it on the line and has worked his butt off to get back into the shape he's in, as far as having that confidence, and knowing that every time he's in the net, we're going to have a great performance."

Blue Jackets: Regardless of whether their late surge carries them into the playoffs, the Blue Jackets look like a team on the rise. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has emerged as a No. 1 goaltender and the acquisition of Marian Gaborik from the New York Rangers on April 3 has given Columbus the sniper it lacked.

"It's great for our young players to be playing big games like this because it is at a different speed, a different intensity," coach Todd Richards said. "To have to play at these levels, to play against these elite teams, is a great teaching experience."

Who's hot: Elliott, who will get the night off in favor of rookie Jake Allen, has not allowed a goal in 189:31. … Gaborik has two goals and five points in four games with his new club.

Injury report: The Blues are still without goaltender Jaroslav Halak (groin) and forward T.J. Oshie (ankle). Forward Jamie Langenbrunner (hip surgery) is out for the season. … Columbus expects to have forwards Brandon Dubinsky (illness) and Jared Boll (upper body) available after they sat out Tuesday night.

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