BLUES (10-9-5) at BLUE JACKETS (12-9-4)
St. Louis 5-3-2; Columbus 4-4-2
First of six meetings this season between Central Division rivals. St. Louis dominated in 2008-09 by winning five of the matchups. Keith Tkachuk scored four goals for the Blues, while Brad Boyes, T.J. Oshie
and Alex Steen
added three apiece. Chris Mason posted a 4-1-0 record in net. The Blue Jackets were led by captain Rick Nash
and defenseman Fedor Tyutin
with three goals each.
Four teams made the Stanley Cup Playoffs out of the Central Division last season, and it is shaping up to be ultra-competitive once again. Columbus currently sits in a three-way tie for ninth in the Western Conference with Vancouver and Detroit, one point out of a playoff berth, while St. Louis is in 12th, four points back. Even on the last day of November, this shapes up as a critical game with a potential four-point swing.
A third consecutive win was in its grasp after St. Louis opened up a 2-0 first-period lead against visiting Detroit on Saturday night. But the Red Wings, who had gone nearly 176 minutes without scoring a goal, rallied from that deficit and another of 3-2 in the third period to defeat the Blues 4-3 in the shootout. A fluke goal by Henrik Zetterberg with 56.7 seconds left forced overtime.
"It was a tight game, and they made a play at the end of the game to tie it," coach Andy Murray said. "We had the right people, in our opinion, on the ice at the end that we wanted to have out there. They made a play and scored a goal.
"Certainly when you're leading in the last minute, you want the win."
It wasn't long ago that Columbus held a lead in the Central, but hot streaks by Chicago and Nashville combined with an 0-3-2 stretch for the Blue Jackets has dropped them into a tie for third with the Red Wings. Like the team they will be playing Monday, the Jackets let a two-goal lead slip away on home ice Saturday night and lost in a shootout, 4-3 to Calgary.
"In order to win with the lead, you have to win the board battles, not give up odd-man rushes," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We were doing really well until we lost two big ones."
Backes has goals in three straight for the Blues, to go with a pair of assists and a plus-6 rating during that span. Boyes has goals in two straight and a four-game points streak. … Huselius has points in seven of the last eight for the Blue Jackets, registering five goals and six assists during that span.
St. Louis defenseman Eric Brewer is questionable with a bruised back, while forward D.J. King is on injured reserve after surgery on his right hand last month.
Columbus is close to getting forward Andrew Murray back from a triceps tear that has sidelined him for over a month. Forward Derek Dorsett
remains out with a concussion and forward Fredrik Modin has yet to play this season and is on injured reserve after knee surgery.
St. Louis had won all 10 games this season prior to Saturday night when scoring three or more goals.
The Blues' amazing run last season from 15th in the West to a playoff berth involved three wins over the Blue Jackets in the final 16 days of the regular season. That included a 3-1 win in the most recent meeting on April 10, when St. Louis punched its ticket to the postseason.