The Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues hold down the top two spots in the Central Division, which should add a little extra spice to their Wednesday Night Rivalry game at Scottrade Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV).
The Blackhawks are first in the Central with a 9-3-1 record and have won six in a row. But one of their three losses came four weeks ago, when the Blues started the season at United Center and left with a 5-2 victory. St. Louis (7-4-2) comes into this game after back-to-back weekend victories against the Columbus Blue Jackets and Colorado Avalanche.
It's the first of three visits to St. Louis by Chicago in less than two months. The Blackhawks play at Scottrade Center again on Dec. 17 before the teams head outdoors for the 2017 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Busch Stadium on Jan. 2.
Here are 5 reasons to watch this edition of Wednesday Night Rivalry:
The Blackhawks and Blues know each other well. They should. After all, they've been together since 1970, when the NHL placed Chicago in the Western Division along with the six teams that had joined the League in the 1967 expansion. Since then, the Blues and Blackhawks have battled each other in the West (1970-74), Smythe (1974-81), Norris (1981-93) and Central (1993-present) Divisions. The Blackhawks lead the all-time series 144-113-35-10; however, the Blues have won 12 of the 21 regular-season games since the start of the 2012-13 season, though six of those victories have come in overtime or shootouts. The Blues also ended the Blackhawks hopes of repeating as Stanley Cup champions by defeating them in seven games in their Western Conference First Round series in April.
Leader of the pack
It's not surprising a member of the Blackhawks entered the week as the NHL's top scorer; forward Patrick Kane won the Art Ross Trophy last season. But Artem Anisimov, who often centers a line that includes Kane, began the week atop the scoring race with 17 points (one more than Kane). All 17 points (including eight goals, which tied him for the League lead) have come during an 11-game point streak after he was kept off the scoresheet in Chicago's first two games.
Video: DAL@CHI: Kane speeds by defense, finishes backhand
Crawford's star turn
Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford is one of the League's hottest goalies, and he's a big reason the Blackhawks are on a roll. After losing three of his first four decisions, Crawford has won five consecutive starts while allowing a total of five goals. He went 3-0-0 last week, allowing three goals on 105 shots, and was named the NHL's Second Star. Crawford's goals-against average is down to 2.01, and his save percentage is up to .936. He's also 14-5-5 in the regular season against the Blues.
Video: CHI@DAL: Crawford makes two tough stops, freezes puck
Too much Tarasenko
For the Blackhawks to win, they'll have to do something they've rarely succeeded at: shutting down Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko. The 24-year-old has 16 points (10 goals, six assists) in his 16 regular-season games against Chicago. That includes two goals and an assist in the win at United Center on opening night. Tarasenko also had four goals and two assists when the Blues defeated the Blackhawks in their playoff series in April, and he's coming off a 40-goal season in 2015-16.
Video: CBJ@STL: Tarasenko delivers the game-winner in OT
Elite coaching matchup
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who's retiring after this season, enters Wednesday with 764 victories, fourth on the all-time list. He needs 36 more to become the third coach in NHL history to reach 800 wins. Hitchcock also needs 19 wins to pass Al Arbour for third on the all-time list, but No. 3 is as high as he's likely to go. That's because the No. 2 position is held by Chicago's Joel Quenneville, who comes into the game with 810 victories, including 307 with the Blues from 1996-2004.