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Red Wings aim for third straight over Blues

by Brian Hunter

BLUES (6-5-1) at RED WINGS (7-4-1)


Last 10: St. Louis 4-5-1; Detroit 6-3-1

Season series: Fourth of five meetings between these Central Division rivals; the final one won't come until early April. After St. Louis cruised past Detroit on opening night, the Red Wings have evened up the aggregate score with a two-goal win and a four-goal victory. Henrik Zetterberg is the offensive leader in the series with three goals and six points.

Big story: These teams have proven since the season opener that it's easy to get carried away by first impressions. In the first game of the post-Nicklas Lidstrom era, the Red Wings looked like a club that would have trouble challenging for the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season, while the Blues appeared a runaway train set to rampage through the Western Conference again. There's still three quarters of the season to go, but the fortunes of both have turned in the ensuing weeks.

Team Scope:

Blues: A big sigh went up Monday when it was assumed St. Louis was getting goalie Jaroslav Halak back in the lineup against Los Angeles, but then the Blues scratched him prior to the game with what's believed to be a re-aggravation of the groin injury that had him on injured reserve. Brian Elliott got the nod instead and the Blues went down to their fifth straight defeat, 4-1 at the hands of the Kings. A power-play goal by Alexander Steen late in the second period was all their offense.

"This was the homestand from hell," coach Ken Hitchcock said after the Blues went 0-3-1 during the extended run at Scottrade Center. "We lost our goalie, we didn't play as well and now we've got to take this onto the road and we've got to be much more accountable for each other. We don't compete at a high level for 60 minutes and we pay the price because of it."

Red Wings: Halfway through a four-game homestand of its own, Detroit happens to be enjoying the results so far. The Red Wings have taken the first two at Joe Louis Arena and enter on a three-game winning streak overall. They can thank Jimmy Howard for Sunday's 3-2 win over the Kings, with some late help from Jonathan Ericsson. Howard made 37 saves in the first two periods alone, 45 for the game, and Ericsson answered a late L.A. tally by scoring with 4.5 seconds left in regulation.

"If you watched that game, I think you'd say Howie stole that one for us, no doubt about that," defenseman Niklas Kronwall said.

Who's hot: Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk has four assists in the last three games and 12 for the season, tied for fourth in the NHL and first among blueliners. … Zetterberg has six assists in the last four games and 13 for the season, tied for the League lead. Pavel Datsyuk has goals in consecutive games.

Injury report: Halak remains day-to-day for St. Louis, while forward Jamie Langenbrunner is set to undergo hip surgery and is likely out for the season. … Detroit forward Todd Bertuzzi (back) is day-to-day. Goalie Jonas Gustavsson (groin), defensemen Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder) and Brendan Smith (shoulder) and forwards Jan Mursak (collarbone), Mikael Samuelsson (groin) and Darren Helm (back) are on injured reserve.

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