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Blues hope to end hex of United Center

by Brian Hedger
BLUES (48-20-9) at BLACKHAWKS (42-26-9)


Last 10: St. Louis 6-2-2; Chicago 6-2-2

Season Series: This is the sixth and final meeting of the season series, with Chicago taking three of the first five games including the most recent game 4-3 in a shootout on March 13 at the United Center. The Hawks have won both of the first two games played in on their home ice and took one of the three games played at St. Louis' Scottrade Center.

Big Story: The Blues are trying to hold off the New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks for the President's Trophy coming down the final stretch run of the regular season, with a Central Division title all but locked up barring a bad losing streak to finish out. Maybe more important in would be defeating the Blackhawks at the "Madhouse on Madison," where they haven't been victorious since Feb. 3, 2010 and are just 1-5-3 in the last nine trips to the Windy City. Chicago continues to get positive news about injured captain Jonathan Toews (upper body/suspected concussion), but he's probably going to miss this game and so will top defenseman Duncan Keith -- who'll serve his third game of a five-game suspension for an elbowing Vancouver's Daniel Sedin in the face. Chicago has lost the first two games without Keith, but are 10-5-2 in the 17 straight games without Toews.

Team Scope:

Blues: Brian Elliott posted his third shutout in a row and ninth of the season on Tuesday night at Scottrade Center in just his 36th game to lead the Blues to 3-0 victory against the Nashville Predators.

Jamie Langenbrunner, David Perron and T.J. Oshie scored the goals for St. Louis, which has won two in a row coming into Chicago and has a pair of red-hot goalies with the playoffs approaching fast. Elliott and Jaroslav Halak are both under 2.00 goals allowed per game and have combined for 15 shutouts.

"We definitely don't expect them to be playing this good, but they are and it's great," said Oshie, whose goal with four minutes left sealed Tuesday’s win. "It gives us a sense of confidence to go out and to make plays and to know they're going to be behind us. You look at their numbers this year, it's been unbelievable."

Blackhawks: Chicago had just found a winning formula without Toews centering the top line and providing an emotional spark almost every night as the Hawks' captain. Then Keith's elbow landed to the chops of Sedin a week ago and now Chicago's without the 2010 Norris Trophy winner and top puck-moving defenseman. After getting blown out by Nashville in their first game without Keith, the Hawks at least managed to claw out a point on Tuesday night in a 2-1 shootout loss in New Jersey. Second-year goalie Corey Crawford was almost up to the challenge of beating his boyhood idol, Martin Brodeur, but the Devils' star goalie was just one save better in the shootout. The Hawks also saw their power play woes continue, with another four going by harmlessly. Chicago hasn't even recorded a shot on goal in the past eight power plays, including a 5-on-3 opportunity late in the second period.

"We probably could have taken more shots … we're trying and getting pucks through, but they're either getting blocked or deflected," Hawks star forward Patrick Kane said. "On the 5-on-3, we probably could have had more movement."

Who's Hot: Elliott, who has yet to face the Blackhawks this season, eclipsed Glenn Hall's franchise record of eight shutouts in a season set in 1968-69. Elliott also leads the NHL in goals-against average (1.43) and save percentage (.943) and set a personal-best shutout mark for minutes. His previous high (174:35) was set March 20-26, 2010 with Ottawa and he's currently at 186:33 -- a Blues record for consecutive shutout minutes, which had been 186:15 held by Manny Legace (Dec. 28 to Jan. 28, 2007-08).

Injury Report: Roman Polak (bruised knee) is questionable, while Andy McDonald (bruised shoulder) has been out since March 16 for the Blues. … Toews (upper body/suspected concussion) had skated eight days in a row after working out on Tuesday, but hasn't been cleared to take contact yet. Steve Montador (upper body/suspected concussion) returned to action in New Jersey for the first time since Feb. 10 (22 games), but his head collided with Mark Fayne early in the third and didn't return. Ray Emery (upper body) didn't make the trip to New Jersey, but is expected to suit up.

Stat Pack: The Blues have scored 26 more goals than their opposition in the first period (64/38) and are 24-6-2 when leading after the first period.

Puck Drop: Chicago rookie Andrew Shaw is one of just three active players to log 19 or more points in 31 or less games this season. The other two are Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and St.Louis' McDonald.

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