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Surging Ducks drop in on Blues

by Brian Hunter

DUCKS (20-3-3) at BLUES (15-10-2)


Last 10: Anaheim 7-1-2; St. Louis 6-4-0

Season series: Third and final meeting of the regular season. The Ducks will go for the sweep, having won 6-5 in a shootout in St. Louis on Feb. 9, and 4-2 in Anaheim on March 10. Bobby Ryan leads all scorers in the two games with three goals and five points for the Ducks. Francois Beauchemin has five assists.

Big story: Anaheim has reached 20 wins in half the number of games it took the 2011-12 Ducks to get there -- they were 20-24-8 after 52 games last season en route to missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs. St. Louis remains in Chicago's rearview mirror in the Central Division standings, but has won two straight to take over the fourth seed in the Western Conference.

Team Scope:

Ducks: The goaltending tandem of Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth has had to weather its share of injury concerns in this shortened season -- Hiller missed time early, and now Fasth has been out for the past two games. It hasn't mattered, because whichever one finds himself between the pipes on a given night responds in turn to keep Anaheim's engine running smoothly. Hiller stopped 33 shots and a pair of shootout attempts Thursday night in Dallas, and goals by Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf in the penalty-shot tiebreaker lifted the Ducks to a 2-1 victory.

"We're working," Getzlaf told the Orange County Register. "When you work, you get breaks. Guys are working hard and battling. We got a little depleted lineup right now. Guys are doing a great job stepping into those roles."

Blues: With the save percentages of Jaroslav Halak and especially Brian Elliott not matching up to NHL standards, much less the elite numbers they put up a season ago, the door has opened in St. Louis for rookie Jake Allen to see extended playing time. He's performed, with seven wins in eight starts, and on Thursday night he achieved a milestone by stopping all 28 shots in a 3-0 victory over visiting Phoenix. Chris Stewart supported him with a pair of goals and Alex Steen had a goal and two assists in his return to the lineup.

"It's something I've dreamed of, especially as a kid getting a shutout in the NHL," Allen said. "I never would have realized it would have been this quick, but I definitely appreciate all the work the guys did. It's something I won't forget.

"It's sort of a whirlwind the last month or so, whatever it's been. I'm still taking it in stride. I'm really pleased with the way I've played. I couldn't have asked for a better start, but I try to stay even-keeled, stay ready for the next game on Saturday. Just take things one day at a time."

Who's hot: Hiller has won four consecutive starts for the Ducks, allowing just four goals over that span and posting a .965 save percentage. Andrew Cogliano has goals in two of the past three games. … Stewart has back-to-back two-goal games for the Blues. Over the past six games, he has six goals and 12 points. His 13 goals are just two fewer than he scored in 79 games last season.

Injury report: Anaheim is currently without forward Corey Perry due to a suspension. Fasth (upper body) is expected to dress, as Jeff Deslauriers was returned to the minors on Friday. Forward Brad Staubitz (facial laceration) is practicing while wearing a visor, but is still on injured reserve along with forward Nick Bonino (lower body). … St. Louis forward T.J. Oshie is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Forwards Jamie Langenbrunner (hip), Vladimir Tarasenko (concussion) and Andy McDonald (knee) are on injured reserve.

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