Blackhawks, Blues set for division battle
The last time Chicago and St. Louis got together Blues 0 victory.
That was also the debut of Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock after the club fired Davis Payne following a lousy 6-7-0 start. Hitchcock and Company will try to the ruffle the feathers of the Blackhawks once again when the two Central Division rivals clash tonight from the Scottrade Center.
Vladimir Sobotka, Chris Stewart and T.J. Oshie all scored in the first meeting against Chicago, which has still won nine of the last 14 matchups in this series. The Blackhawks haven't fared too well in the Gateway City, however, losing four of the previous five meetings there.
Chicago has won three of four and seven of 11 games overall, including Friday's 5-4 shootout win versus the New York Islanders at the United Center. Jonathan Toews posted the lone score in the shootout, while Toews, Patrick Sharp, Andrew Brunette and Ben Smith all scored in regulation for the Blackhawks, who are tied with Detroit for the Central lead with 33 points. The Blues are only two points off the pace with 31 points.
"Even though we're going to make mistakes every single game, we're going to find ways to win," said Chicago goalie Corey Crawford, who made 37 saves and stopped all three attempts in the shootout. "The main thing was that we had a little more energy and preparation for tonight's game than the last one."
The Blackhawks are aiming for their third straight road win and own a 7-6-1 record away from the Windy City. Toews leads the NHL with 18 points (9g, 9a) on the road this season. The Hawks are 4-3-0 in the first game of a back-to- back, 4-1-1 in the second contest and 3-1-0 against division foes.
St. Louis is coming off a 3-2 shootout loss at Colorado last night, as Kevin Shattenkirk and Patrik Berglund both scored and Halak made 33 saves. The Blues had a four-game winning streak stopped and went 2-0-1 on a three-game trip.
"We got away from our game in the third, protecting the lead rather than increasing it," Shattenkirk said.
The Blues had been 11-0 on the season when leading after two periods before Friday, and are still a dominant 8-1-3 since Hitchcock took over. They will open a five-game homestand tonight versus Chicago, Detroit, Anaheim, San Jose and the New York Rangers, and are 8-2-1 as the host. The Blues are two wins shy of 900 franchise home wins.
Hitchcock's club has posted points in 11 of the past 12 games and may get forward David Perron back Saturday from post-concussion syndrome. Brian Elliott could get the call tonight between the pipes and leads the league with a 1.31 GAA and a .951 save percentage. He is riding a six-game winning streak and hasn't yielded more than two goals in any of his first 11 starts.