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Blues-Hurricanes Preview

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Blues-Hurricanes Preview

GAME: St. Louis Blues (10-27-5) at Carolina Hurricanes (29-10-4).

TIME: Sunday, 1:30 p.m. EST.

The Carolina Hurricanes keep gaining strength as the season continues.

The Hurricanes look for their seventh win in a row and league-best 20th home victory when they meet the lowly St. Louis Blues at the RBC Center.

Carolina won its sixth straight game with a 5-4 overtime win Friday against the Nashville Predators. Frantisek Kaberle scored the game-winner on a penalty shot and Cory Stillman added three assists for the Hurricanes, who won despite letting a two-goal third-period lead slip away.

"We seem to find a way to make it interesting for everybody," said Rod Brind'Amour, who scored twice. "That's not the way it should've went. The first two periods we should've scored more ... but we hung in there."

Carolina won despite an off night from Martin Gerber, who made only 15 saves but recorded his 22nd win, one behind Miikka Kiprusoff of the Calgary Flames for the league lead.

Gerber, who will represent Switzerland at next month's Turin Olympics, has won his last six starts, including a 30-save performance Jan. 7 in a 3-0 shutout of the New York Islanders. He had seven straight wins between Oct. 22-Nov. 11 and a five-game run from Nov. 13-23.

The 'Canes still own the largest lead among the six division leaders - 12 points over the second-place Atlanta Thrashers - despite getting little production from leading scorer Eric Staal.

Staal only has four assists in his last eight games. He had seven goals and 13 assists during a season-best 10-game points streak from Oct. 20-Nov. 11 and a pair of four-game points streaks.

St. Louis wraps up a five-game road trip trying to avoid its season-high sixth loss in a row.

Despite 37 shots on goal Friday against Kari Lehtonen, the Blues were blanked for the third time this season, falling 2-0 to the Thrashers.

"We're just not being able to find the back of the net," said Blues coach Mike Kitchen, whose team has managed just two goals on the road trip and five during the losing streak. "That's what happens when you're pushing and you're pressing. ... We need to get a break along the line here."

The Blues' 10 wins are fewest in the league and 105 goals ties them with the Columbus Blue Jackets for the league low.

This is the first meeting between the teams since the Blues dropped a 2-0 decision on Jan. 6, 2004. The Hurricanes franchise were the Hartford Whalers when they last won consecutive games against St. Louis on Nov. 21 and Dec. 10, 1986.

STANDINGS: Blues - 25 points, 5th place, 38 PB, Central Division. Hurricanes - 62 points, 1st place, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Blues - Mike Sillinger, 14 goals; Doug Weight, 28 assists and 37 points; Jamal Mayers, 95 PIM. Hurricanes - Staal, 26 goals and 55 points; Stillman, 33 assists; Mike Commodore, 82 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Blues - Power play: 14.3 percent (41 for 286), 26th in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.9 percent (248 for 257), 21st. Hurricanes - Power play: 19.2 percent (55 for 286), 9th. Penalty killing: 80.2 percent (191 for 238), 23rd.

GOALTENDERS: Blues - Curtis Sanford (4-9-1, 2 SO, 2.73 GAA); Jason Bacashihua (3-4-0, 0, 3.95). Hurricanes - Gerber (22-7-2, 3, 2.72); Cam Ward (7-3-2, 0, 3.79).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Hurricanes, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 6, 2004; Hurricanes, 2-0. At Raleigh, N.C., Danny Markov and Kevyn Adams scored first-period goals and Kevin Weekes made 19 saves for the Hurricanes. Chris Osgood finished with 22 saves for the Blues.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blues - 5-14-2 on the road; Hurricanes - 19-4-1 at home.


Associated Press

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