BLUES (44-18-7) at BLUE JACKETS (22-39-7)
FS-O (HD), FS-MW (HD)
St. Louis 8-2-0; Columbus 5-4-1.
This is the fourth meeting of the season and the second of a traditional weekend back-to-back between these Central Division rivals.
The League's best team faces off against Columbus for the second day in a row on Sunday. If Saturday's result is any indication, there should be few surprises when the home-and-home moves north to Nationwide Arena. The Blues won their fourth straight, 4-1, and snapped Columbus' own four-game winning streak in the process.
Since a 2-0 loss to Vancouver to open January, St. Louis has roared to the top of the NHL with four consecutive wins over Western rivals. Wins over San Jose, Chicago and Anaheim set up a meeting with Columbus on Saturday, but a win over the upstart Blue Jackets wasn't as much of a guarantee as it seemed just 10 days ago. Columbus came to Scottrade Center winners of four straight and determined to throw a wrench into St. Louis' remarkable home record. In the end, the steady Blues prevailed for an NHL-leading 29th time at home. David Perron
, Chris Stewart
, T.J. Oshie
and Alex Pietrangelo
all scored, and Brian Elliott
lowered his goals-against average to 1.61 and snapped a three-game losing streak.
"I know we can play a lot better than we're playing right now and I think we will when we get pushed here," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I think we have another gear that we can play at. We're playing nice right now. I think we can go a lot higher than this."
Nobody can accuse Columbus of folding early. The Jackets – out of the postseason race since Christmas – kicked off March with four straight wins, all against teams fighting for their playoff lives. Wins over Colorado, Phoenix (2) and Los Angeles painted an impressive picture, but the Jackets received a harsh wake-up call Saturday night at Scottrade Center. Little went right, with St. Louis outshooting Columbus, 29-22, and the Jackets squandering all four of their penalty chances. The Blues converted 2-of-6 and, of course, there's the matter of the final score of 4-1. Interim coach Todd Richards said the Blues were just too much for his team to handle.
"They play fast. They play big," Richards said. "I think the depth on their team is one factor. I don't think (Blues coach Ken Hitchcock) is concerned with any matchups. He's kind of just rolling his lines.
"The defense they have, they do a great job of moving the puck up the ice and at key times, they're getting the saves they need from their goalies."
St. Louis, when scoring three or more goals. The Blues are 36-0-0 this season when accomplishing the feat.
Injury Report: Kent Huskins
is day-to-day for St. Louis with a bruised left hand. Kris Russell
(concussion-like symptoms), Jamie Langenbrunner
(broken left foot), Matt D’Agostini (concussion) and Alexander Steen
(concussion-like symptoms) are on injured reserve. For Columbus, Steve Mason
(lacerated left hand) and Derek Dorsett
(upper body) are day-to-day, while Derek MacKenzie
(concussion), Fedor Tyutin
(broken right hand), Jared Boll
(broken foot), Marc Methot
(broken jaw) and Kristian Huselius
(groin) are all on injured reserve.
The Blues tied a franchise record for home wins (29), but they are not nearly as good on the road. St. Louis is 15-14-3 away from Scottrade Center, and Columbus is a winner of two straight at home.
After Saturday's game, goalie Curtis Sanford
(25 saves) teased out reasons for St. Louis' success.
"They just come at you," said Sanford, who made 25 saves. "They come at you in waves. They work hard from the first drop of the puck until the last buzzer. You always have to be paying attention because they have some skilled guys as well that can make some really quality plays."