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Sharp-shooting Hawks look for five in St. Louis

by Brian Hunter
BLACKHAWKS (5-2-1) at BLUES (2-1-2)


Season Series: Second of six meetings this season between these Central Division rivals. The first one came Monday, when the Blackhawks rallied for a 3-2 overtime win on a Patrick Sharp goal. The Blues had been staked to a 2-0, third-period lead after David Perron scored twice, but Marian Hossa needed just 2:31 to knot things up with a pair of his own and force the extra period.

Big Story: Chicago stumbled a little out of the gates, dropping three of its first four, but now the Blackhawks ride a four-game winning streak into Friday’s game at the Scottrade Center. They also possess a trio of the NHL’s top point producers in Hossa (7-4-11), Sharp (6-2-8) and Tomas Kopecky (1-7-8), an underrated player who finds himself reaping the benefits of playing on a line with Hossa and captain Jonathan Toews.

"Just give (Hossa) the puck when he's got speed," Kopecky said of his strategy. "Just look for him or Taser, and then just skate hard to the net and stop in front. Sometimes the simpler play for me is better."

Team Scope:

The wins this week have come in dramatic fashion for Chicago. After coming back to beat the Blues, the Blackhawks captured their third in a row on home ice with a 2-1 shootout victory over the Canucks on Wednesday. They were perfect against Roberto Luongo in the shootout, as Toews, Sharp and Patrick Kane all connected, with Kane’s goal the decisive one. Viktor Stalberg scored in regulation and Marty Turco finished with 36 saves.

"It wasn't the prettiest game, but two points are two points," said Hossa, who was held without a point for the first time this season. "We grind until the end, (got) a shootout win, two points and we're happy with it."

Blues: This is the completion of a home-and-home for St. Louis, which unlike Chicago didn’t have a game in between. The Blues, who struggled at home much of last season while faring a lot better on the road, have reversed that trend to begin the 2010-11 season. They opened with a pair of wins at the Scottrade Center, but have since gone 0-1-2 on the road. The players are aware they let a valuable point slip away against the Blackhawks earlier this week.

"There's always details you can do better," Perron said. "It's a question of bouncing back the next time we play them."

Who's Hot: Turco has won four consecutive starts for the Blackhawks, stopping 136 of 144 shots for a .944 save percentage. ... T.J. Oshie has 1 goal and 4 assists during a four-game points streak for the Blues and leads the team in scoring.

Injury Report: Chicago is healthy with the exception of defenseman Brian Campbell, who remains out with a sprained knee. ... St. Louis has forward Cam Janssen (concussion/bruised sternum) and defenseman Nikita Nikitin (broken wrist) on injured reserve.

Stat Pack: Stalberg, acquired by the Blackhawks from the Maple Leafs in the Kris Versteeg trade, has scored twice in the last three games. ... Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak stopped 42 of the 44 shots he faced in the team’s previous two home games.

Puck Drop: A story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch earlier this week pointed out that while St. Louis has outshot its opponents 190-124 this season, they’ve had issues putting the puck in the net. Checker Matt D’Agostini leads the team with 3 goals.

"At least we've got the mindset to put the puck on net," forward Brad Boyes told the paper. "(But) if we're not scoring, obviously we're not taking the right shots. You don't win by how many shots you get. You win by how many goals you get. There's definitely a correlation between good shots and just shots on net."

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