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Blues need points badly as they face new-look Caps

by Corey Masisak
BLUES (28-26-9) at CAPITALS (34-20-10)

TV -- FS-Midwest (HD), CSN-DC (HD)

Last 10 --
St. Louis 4-6-0; Washington 5-5-0

Season series --
It's the second and final meeting this season between these interconference opponents. Washington won the previous meeting, 4-1, at Scottrade Center. Nicklas Backstrom had 2 goals in the Caps' final win before an eight-game losing streak.

Team scope:

Blues --
St. Louis has lost five of six games, including a 6-0 rout by Calgary at home Tuesday night. Starting goaltender Jaroslav Halak is out with a broken hand and backup Ty Conklin just passed through waivers. The Blues are currently 13th in the Western Conference and without a New Jersey Devils-esque surge, will be out of the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons.

"Anything can happen, we can make a great push," general manager Doug Armstrong said. "Ben [Bishop] might be the next Patrick Roy, you never know. We're hoping for the best, but we're dealing in reality."

Capitals -- The new-look Caps didn't look much different Tuesday night. After adding Jason Arnott, Marco Sturm and Dennis Wideman to help ignite the offense, Washington went 59 minutes without a goal against a goaltender who has spent time as a backup in the AHL this season before Brooks Laich saved the Capitals with a last-minute goal and then Alex Ovechkin stole the second point in overtime with a beautiful tally.

Washington has now won two games in a row -- even if the Capitals looked unconvincing for large stretches of both victories (which were both against the 28th-place Islanders). The Capitals have not won 3 games in a row since a 3-1 victory in the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Heinz Field. 

Who's hot --
Chris Stewart has 6 goals in his first seven games with the Blues. St. Louis center Patrik Berglund has 20 points in 21 games. … Ovechkin has 4 goals and 9 points in the past seven games -- that's not hot by his career standards, but he does have at least a point in six of the past seven games for the first time since Nov. 24-Dec. 6. Laich has goals in back-to-back games.

Injury report 
-- The Blues originally said Halak had a bruised hand but now say there is a broken bone. Talented forward David Perron has missed most of the season with a concussion. Also out for the Blues are center Vladimir Sobotka (broken foot) and defenseman Nikita Niktin (lower body). … Defensemen Mike Green (head/ear) and Tom Poti (groin) are out for Washington. So too is right wing Eric Fehr (shoulder). Green remains at home in Calgary because of a death in his family.

Stat pack --
Only 10 teams have yielded more power-play goals than the Blues (43), but combine that with a League-leading 1 shorthanded-goal against and St. Louis is actually tied for 11th in fewest special teams goals allowed.

Puck drop --
The big decision for Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau moving forward is where to deploy all of his new chess pieces. Arnott appears to be a safe bet centering the second line, and his wings against the Islanders were Laich and Alexander Semin -- the two guys who have spent the most time on the second line this year.

Sturm began the game on the top line as the right wing with Ovechkin and Backstrom but also spent time on the third unit with Marcus Johansson. Mike Knuble is the team's most-used right wing on the top line, and Sturm could settle in as the No.3 left wing next to Johansson and Fehr (once he returns from the shoulder injury).

Wideman skated with Scott Hannan in his first game, but could also be paired with a healthy Tom Poti or Jeff Schultz in the future. Boudreau is likely to keep his kid pairing of Karl Alzner and John Carlson together, but how the other two sets of defensemen are aligned once everyone is healthy remains to be seen.

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