Even though Brian Elliott has recorded shutouts in his last three trips to the crease, the NHL-leading St. Louis Blues are expected to go with Jaroslav Halak in net tonight, as they visit the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center.
Elliott recorded his third consecutive shutout in Tuesday's 3-0 win over visiting Nashville. All told, Elliott has a league-high nine shutouts on the season and his latest effort allowed him to pass Glenn Hall for the most blankings in a season by a St. Louis goaltender. Hall set the original record during the 1968-69 season, which was the Blues' second campaign in the NHL.
Elliott and Halak have combined for 15 shutouts this season, tying the modern NHL record (since 1967-68) for the most blankings in a campaign. Elliott also has set a club mark with a shutout streak of 186 minutes, 33 seconds, but he's not expected to get a chance to extend that run at the start of tonight's game.
Halak is 1-1-1 over his last three games, but is 25-11-6 with a 1.90 goals- against average and .930 save percentage. Elliott, who has started nine less games than Halak this year, is 23-9-3 and leads the league with a 1.48 GAA and a .943 save percentage.
Thanks in large part to the play of both goaltenders, St. Louis has already clinched a playoff berth and is closing in on its first Central Division title since the 1999-2000 season. The Blues are eight points in front of idle Detroit with just five games to play for both teams.
With 105 points, St. Louis is also two ahead of Vancouver for the top seed in the West and is tied for the overall NHL lead with the New York Rangers.
Elliott made 24 saves to earn his most recent shutout in Tuesday's home test against the Predators.
"It's something to be proud of, but we still have work to do," Elliott said about extending his streaks.
Jamie Langenbrunner celebrated his 1,100th career game with a goal, while David Perron and T.J. Oshie also scored for the Blues, who improved to 30-4-4 at home on the season to set a new franchise mark in home victories.
The Blues, who have won two straight after a 1-2-2 stretch, are 18-16-5 on the road this season.
The Blackhawks are battling for playoff positioning and enter tonight as the sixth seed in the West. Chicago is three points behind fifth-seeded Nashville and the Blackhawks can clinch a postseason berth tonight with a win and a regulation loss by Phoenix against San Jose.
Chicago has lost its last two games after posting a five-game winning streak from March 13-21. The Blackhawks were able to record a point in their most recent setback, dropping a 2-1 shootout decision Tuesday night in New Jersey.
Travis Zajac's goal in the fifth round of the shootout lifted the Devils to the 2-1 win and Martin Brodeur frustrated Chicago with 37 saves through regulation and overtime.
"We got a lot of shots on [Brodeur] but we just couldn't find a way to get them through," Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said.
Brent Seabrook scored the lone regulation goal for Chicago, while Corey Crawford turned aside 21-of-22 shots in the loss. Crawford could get the start again tonight, as fellow goaltender Ray Emery is questionable with an upper- body injury.
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews missed his 17th consecutive game with a concussion on Tuesday, and although the star forward has been skating with the team, he has still yet to be cleared for contact.
This evening's test marks the sixth and final regular-season meeting between the Blackhawks and Blues this season. Chicago has taken three of the first five encounters and has also won five of seven in the series overall. St. Louis has lost six straight and eight of its last nine tests in the Windy City.
Chicago is 26-8-5 as the host this year compared to a 16-18-4 road record.