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Blues take four-game win streak into game vs. Jackets

by Mike G. Morreale
BLUES (21-19-7) at BLUE JACKETS (18-23-9)

Last 10 -- St. Louis 4-4-2; Columbus 3-5-2

Season series -- This is the third of six meetings. On Jan.12, St. Louis earned a 4-1 win behind 26 saves by goalie Chris Mason. The Blues took a 3-0 lead on nine shots against Columbus goalie Mathieu Garon, who was pulled in favor of Steve Mason after one period. The Blue Jackets scored 3 goals in the third period for a 5-2 home win on Nov. 30, when R.J. Umberger recorded his second career hat trick.

Big Story -- Don't look now but the Blues are suddenly on a roll behind a season-high four-game winning streak -- including a 4-1 victory on Saturday against the New York Rangers. St. Louis scored three third-period goals, including an empty-netter, to topple the Rangers at Scottrade Center. The Blues' 11-5-4 record (26 points) on the road to start the 2009-10 season matches their best 20-game road start in franchise history. They also recorded 26 points in both the 1999-00 and 2000-01 campaigns.

"Certainly liked the result," coach Davis Payne told the media after the victory over New York. "We played a pretty solid first period, thought we came off the gas a little bit in the second. But we got back to St. Louis Blues hockey in the third and obviously came out with a big win."

Team Scope:

Blues -- One reason St. Louis has been a bit of a roll of late has been the play of goalie Chris Mason, who made 21 saves against the Rangers to notch his fourth straight victory and the 100th of his career. Mason is 15-13-6 this season with a 2.47 goals-against average and .912 save percentage. Mason, who is in his second season with the Blues after spending four with the Nashville Predators, finished 27-21-7 last season with a 2.41 GAA and .916 save percentage.

"We're definitely playing a heck of a lot better than we were," he said. "We're sticking to our game plan, we're playing physical and solid defensively. This is where we should be tough, and we're starting to play like we should be."

Blue Jackets --
On Nov. 23, the Blue Jackets were ninth in the NHL in scoring, but they've plummeted to 26th, ahead of only the Rangers, Red Wings, Bruins and Hurricanes. The club, which has lost 24 of its last 30 games, has scored two or fewer goals in 13 of its last 17. Perennial scoring leader Rick Nash had gone 11 games without a goal -- the longest drought of his career -- before scoring twice in a 6-4 loss to the Blackhawks on Saturday.

"I've never worried about it," Nash told The Columbus Dispatch. "My goals always seem to come in bunches. I don't get some for a while, and then I make up for it."

Who's Hot --
St. Louis center David Backes became the fifth Blues player to reach 10 goals this season when he connected into an empty net in a victory over the Rangers on Saturday. … Columbus forward Antoine Vermette has notched 3 goals and 8 points in his last six games. He's also collected 5 goals and 13 points the past 15 games.

Injury Report --
Columbus defenseman Rostislav Klesla (torn groin/abdominal muscle) is out until February while defenseman Marc Methot (shoulder) and forward Fredrik Modin (bruised foot) remain day-to-day. … Blues forward D.J. King (hand) was assigned to the American Hockey League on Saturday for a two-week conditioning stint.

Stat Pack --
Chris Mason made 10 of his 19 saves in the third period of a 1-0 victory over the Minnesota Wild last Thursday -- his first shutout of the season and the 19th of his career. … Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets became the last club in the NHL to be shut out this season when they lost 3-0 to the Blackhawks on Thursday at United Center.

Puck Drop --
The Blue Jackets have lost an NHL-high seven times this season when leading after two periods. The club has also struggled against Central Division opponents -- they're 2-6-4 against Chicago, Detroit, Nashville and St. Louis this season after going 10-10-4 in 2008-09. St. Louis, meanwhile, is 5-5-1 against Central Division foes.

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