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Slumping Canucks host red-hot Blues

by John Kreiser

BLUES (31-7-5) at CANUCKS (23-13-9)


Last 10: St. Louis 9-0-1; Vancouver 3-3-4

Season series: The St. Louis Blues are making the first of two visits to Rogers Arena this season. The Vancouver Canucks won 3-2 in overtime on Oct. 25 in their lone visit to Scottrade Center.

Big story: The Blues wrap up a three-game trip to Western Canada looking for their eighth win in a row. They made it seven straight victories since the Christmas break by routing the Calgary Flames 5-0 on Thursday, and they're catching the Canucks in a slump. Vancouver has dropped five in a row, though one of the losses was in overtime and two came in shootouts.

Team Scope:

Blues: St. Louis comes to Rogers Arena holding down first place in the Central Division. They are even with the Chicago Blackhawks at 67 points following the win in Calgary, but the Blues have three games in hand on the defending Stanley Cup champs.

Five players scored and Jaroslav Halak stopped 33 shots as the Blues got some revenge for a 4-3 shootout loss at Calgary on Dec. 23. St. Louis is 7-0-0 since, the longest current winning streak in the League and the longest for the Blues since they won nine in a row in October-November 2002.

"It's nice to string a couple together here," captain David Backes said. "It seems like you have to stay paced with some of these other teams in the West.

"It's a good feeling in here. We have different guys stepping up and different guys picking each other up when they falter. It's a good recipe."

Canucks: Vancouver was less than 75 seconds away from what would have been one of its most satisfying wins of the season Tuesday, only to wind up losing. The Canucks scored four unanswered goals after spotting the Pittsburgh Penguins a 2-0 lead. But they allowed a pair of sixth-attacker goals to send the game past regulation, and Sidney Crosby scored the lone goal of the shootout to give Pittsburgh a 5-4 win.

That loss came two days after the Canucks gave up a sixth-attacker goal to the Anaheim Ducks and lost 4-3 in overtime.

"Once we get that lead, we need to keep playing offensively and on our toes and not sitting back trying to protect it," defenseman Dan Hamhuis said after practice Thursday.

One problem for the Canucks has been their lack of success in the shootout; they've lost six of eight. Coach John Tortorella, an avowed opponent of the tiebreaker, nonetheless had his players practicing it Thursday.

"We did it. Whether it helps or not -- some guys can work on or introduce certain things," he said. "It is what it is. It's impossible to simulate game situations."

Who's hot: Blues goaltender Brian Elliott, who figures to get the call after Halak played in Calgary, has won seven consecutive decisions, allowing nine goals in that span. Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo has seven points in his past four games. … Canucks forward Daniel Sedin has five points in the past five games.

Injury report: The Blues are without forward Alexander Steen (concussion), their leader goal-scorer, and defenseman Roman Polak (ankle). … Vancouver starting goaltender Roberto Luongo (ankle) is out, as are forward Alexandre Burrows (jaw) and defensemen Alexander Edler (knee), Ryan Stanton (ankle) and Andrew Alberts (upper body).

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