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Columbus continues trip in St. Louis

by Mike Battaglino /

BLUE JACKETS (16-14-7) at BLUES (19-14-2)


Last 10: Columbus 6-2-2; St. Louis 6-4-0

Season series: This is the third of four meetings, with the last one coming next Friday. The St. Louis Blues won both previous games: 4-1 on Jan. 31 and 2-1 on Feb. 23, each with a different goaltender (Brian Elliott, Jaroslav Halak).

Big story: After the teams played at the end of January, St. Louis was 6-1-0 and Columbus was 2-5-1. They meet Friday with the Blues holding a one-point edge in the standings (40-39) as they compete for a Stanley Cup Playoff spot from the Western Conference.

Each team won Thursday at a place they had not recently: The Blues defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 in a shootout for their first win at United Center in nine games. The Blue Jackets won a game against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena in regulation for the first time since April 3, 2006.

Team Scope:

Blue Jackets: In addition to the debut of forward Marian Gaborik after an NHL Trade Deadline deal, Columbus welcomed back forwards Brandon Dubinsky and Nick Foligno from injury Thursday.

"You see a lot of new faces, a little bit of a change of scenery gave everybody a little bit of extra energy and some more legs tonight," defenseman Dalton Prout told Fox Sports Ohio. "And I think winning helps your energy levels all the time."

Gaborik had a goal and an assist for his first multipoint game since March 3 with the New York Rangers.

"I think the other thing [Gaborik] provides is kind of an intangible thing, about just confidence among our group," coach Todd Richards said. "Having a guy that's a threat to score a goal at any minute."

The Blue Jackets are 3-5-0 in the second of back-to-backs this season, all but one of those on the road.

"We have to play the same way [we did Thursday]," forward Matt Calvert said. "We're playing desperate hockey right now. We've just got to keep on climbing the standings because if you lose a game, it could mean your playoff hopes. We're going to keep on doing what we do best, play to our strengths … it's a tough barn to play in but we're going to go in there and give it our best shot."

Blues: St. Louis also added significant players, defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold, in trades this month. But perhaps more important, Elliot stopped 33 shots in his first start since March 3 after coming back in relief Monday when Halak was injured.

"You never want to see a teammate go down, but it's part of the job, you have to be ready to go in," said Elliot, who had made only one other appearance since Feb. 11. "Guys blocked a lot of shots that game [Monday] for me and let me kind of feel my way in, and it definitely carried into [Thursday] as well."

Jake Allen will start in net for the Blues, who are 2-4-1 in the second of back-to-backs.

"We need two points however we can get 'em: beg, borrow, steal, scratch and claw," captain David Backes told Fox Sports Midwest. "And that's the way we played tonight against a good team, and we need more efforts like that, and have to do it again tomorrow night."

Who's hot: Calvert has five points in his past four games. Dubinsky had two assists in his first game since March 19. … The Blues have killed 21 of their opponents' past 22 power plays. Forward Adam Cracknell scored his first two goals of the season Thursday. Forward Chris Porter had two assists, doubling his season's point total.

Injury report: Blue Jackets forward Jared Boll (lower body) and defenseman Tim Erixon (upper body) are out. … Blues forward Scott Nichol (soreness) is out. T.J. Oshie (bruised left foot) and Halak (groin) are on injured reserve.

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