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Panthers return home to challenge Blues

by Mike G. Morreale
BLUES (23-20-8) at PANTHERS (23-23-6)

TV -- FS-MW (HD), FS-F (HD)

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

Season series --
This is the only meeting of the season between these inter-conference teams. They met once last season -- Florida goalie Tomas Vokoun stopped 34 shots in a 4-0 victory in St. Louis. In 2008-09, each team won on its home ice. The Blues blanked the Panthers 4-0 on Oct. 25, 2008, with Brad Boyes scoring twice and goalies Ben Bishop and Marek Schwarz combining on the shutout. David Booth's hat trick helped the Panthers answer back with a 5-3 win on March 7, 2009.

Big story -- Florida is within six points of eighth-place Carolina with one game in hand in the fight for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference following a come-from-behind 4-3 overtime victory over New Jersey last Friday. Florida plays its next five games on home ice and the sixth at Southeast Division rival Tampa Bay.

Team Scope:

Blues --
St Louis, six points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference, has lost 11 of 14. The most recent setback came Sunday, 4-3 in overtime to Tampa Bay. Patrik Berglund, David Backes and Nikita Nikitin scored goals for the Blues, but defenseman Eric Brewer was whistled for holding 3:40 into the extra session and Tampa's Vincent Lecavalier connected 1:13 later. Ty Conklin started his second straight game in the absence of Jaroslav Halak and made 36 saves on 40 shots.

Panthers --
Florida closed out the final game of a season-high six game road trip (2-3-1) in New Jersey on Friday with a 4-3 overtime victory, snapping a three-game losing streak in the process. Mike Santorelli got the first shorthanded goal of his career with 7:08 remaining in regulation to pull the Panthers into a 3-3 tie before Rostislav Olesz won the game for Florida with three minutes remaining in the extra period. Olesz, who has 5 goals this season, has 2 goals and 4 points in his last five games. Vokoun stopped 28 shots to earn his 18th win of the season.

Who's hot --
Panthers wing Steve Bernier, a healthy scratch for three straight games, now has 2 assists in his two games since returning to the lineup. Bernier has notched an assist in each of his past three games. … For the Blues, Backes has 10 points (8 goals) in the last 15 games and Alexander Steen has produced 15 points (4 goals) in the last 14 contests.

Injury report --
Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (eye) and forwards David Perron (concussion) and Dave Scatchard (lower body) are on injured reserve for the Blues and goalie Jaroslav Halak has missed the past two games with an upper-body injury. … The Panthers are without right wing Evgeny Dadonov (broken finger).

Stat pack --
When TJ Oshie assisted on Berglund's second-period goal against Tampa on Sunday, it marked the 100th point of his young NHL career. Oshie, 24, has 35 goals and 65 assists in 153 career games spanning two-plus seasons with the Blues.

Puck drop --
"They're up there with the other teams fighting for a playoff spot," Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said of the Panthers. "They sustain a lot of intensity in their games. They move the puck well. They have a good power play. They have a lot of good stuff."

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