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Canes continue road trip with matchup vs. Blues

by Brian Hunter /
HURRICANES (11-12-4) at BLUES (14-9-4)


Last 10:
Carolina 3-3-4; St. Louis 5-4-1

Season series:
This is the only meeting between these teams on the 2010-11 schedule. When they met last season, St. Louis claimed a 5-2 win in Carolina on Oct. 28, 2009. David Perron started a three-goal burst for the Blues in the opening period and cut the Hurricanes' comeback hopes short with an empty-netter.

Big story:
After enduring a rough 2-6-2 stretch in which he yielded 32 goals, Jaroslav Halak has won consecutive starts for St. Louis. He actually started to round back into form in a Nov. 20 start against the Devils -- in six of his eight appearances starting that night, he's allowed two goals or fewer and posted a .913 save percentage or better.

"I think when you stop some pucks at the beginning of the first period, the guys see that and it probably gives them some confidence and they don't play on their heels," Halak told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after Thursday's 4-1 win over the Blue Jackets. "I need to do the job back there and help the guys."

Team Scope:

Hurricanes: This marks the midway point of a five-game road trip for Carolina, which finishes it up next week against Southeast Division rivals Florida and Atlanta. Cam Ward did all he could in the Hurricanes' 2-1 shootout loss to the Stars on Friday, stopping 28 shots, but all the offense could manage in his favor was Jiri Tlusty's second-period goal. Andrew Raycroft was flawless in the penalty-shot tiebreaker and Brad Richards beat Ward to decide the game.

"It's always tough when you lose in a shootout," Ward said. "I thought it was a pretty up-tempo game, both teams were pretty stingy. And then Raycroft makes that great save (on Joe Corvo) in overtime to put it into the shootout, and then the thing about the shootout is it's a flip of a coin. It can go good or it can go bad."

Blues: Injuries and inconsistency threatened to derail a great start by St. Louis, but the team will be chasing a third-straight win Saturday and a perfect 3-0 week after previous victories over Vancouver and Columbus. Alexander Steen, Jay McClement and Vladimir Sobotka gave the Blues a perfect 3-for-3 night on the power play against the Blue Jackets and the penalty-killing unit was flawless in eight opportunities.

"We need good special teams," coach Davis Payne told the Post-Dispatch. "We need good team hockey. We need a little bit more discipline, we don't need to give up that many power plays to an opponent. But the formula of solid special teams, solid on the PK … and our power play chipping in when it gets the opportunity, all that is crucial and we need it to continue."

Who's hot: Tlusty has goals in consecutive games and Corvo has 1 goal and 2 assists so far on the Hurricanes' road trip. … Steen has 3 goals and 1 assist during the Blues' two-game winning streak.

Injury report: Without Perron for over a month now due to concussion-like symptoms, St. Louis recently lost forward Andy McDonald for the same reason. Also sidelined are forward TJ Oshie (ankle) and defenseman Roman Polak (wrist).

Stat pack:
The Hurricanes have lost four of five shootouts this season. … The Blues had gone 0-for-22 on the power play dating back to an Alex Pietrangelo first-period goal against the Devils before busting out of the slump Thursday.

Puck drop: St. Louis has played only 12 of its first 27 games on home ice but sports one of the better winning percentages in the NHL with its 9-2-1 mark -- it's a dramatic turnaround from last season when the team was mediocre at the Scottrade Center and only got back to .500 (18-18-5) by winning its final six in a row there.

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