Hurricanes hope to extend current surge vs. Blues

( - The Carolina Hurricanes will try to match their longest winning streak of the season when they host the surging St. Louis Blues in Friday's battle at PNC Arena.

Carolina returned from the All-Star break to notch Tuesday's 4-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. The win was the Hurricanes' third straight, leaving them one victory shy of tying a season-high four-game streak from Nov. 1-7.

The 'Canes also own a solid 7-2-1 record in January, but despite the recent run of positive results, they are still 19 points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Staal brothers powered Carolina's most recent victory, as Eric Staal posted a goal and one assist while younger sibling Jordan contributed a pair of helpers to the winning effort.

Jordan Staal missed the first few months of the season with a broken leg, but he has one goal and seven assists in 11 games since coming back from the injury. The two-way centerman's return to the lineup also has helped Carolina in terms of wins and losses, as the 'Canes are 7-3-1 with Staal on the ice this season.

Nathan Gerbe, Justin Faulk and Jiri Tlusty also lit the lamp on Tuesday, while Anton Khudobin picked up the win thanks to a 28-save effort.

"Before the game I was preparing myself to have fun. It's fun to play against really good teams," said Khudobin.

Khudobin expects to get the start over Cam Ward for a fourth straight time tonight. He has won six straight decisions and hasn't lost since Dec. 21 when he absorbed a tough 1-0 road loss against the New York Rangers.

The Russian backstop's lone career outing against the Blues came in a 3-1 home win on Jan. 31 of last season. Khudobin stopped 27-of-28 shots to anchor the Carolina victory. Ward, meanwhile, received a 5-4 shootout loss at St. Louis on Jan. 10, allowing four goals on 35 shots in the meeting from earlier this month.

Tlusty left Tuesday's game briefly after going head-first into the boards, but returned later to score Carolina's final goal of the game. The forward was held out of practice on Wednesday, but he returned on Thursday and is expected to play tonight.

The Blues enter tonight riding an 8-0-1 point streak over their last nine games. St. Louis pushed its winning streak to three games with Thursday's shootout victory over the Nashville Predators, who hold a four-point lead over the Blues for first place in the Central Division.

St. Louis carried a 4-3 lead into the third period on Thursday, but the Predators were able to salvage a point thanks to James Neal's tying goal with 2:38 left in regulation. However, Brian Elliott, who made 33 saves through overtime, came up with three key stops in the shootout to help the Blues grab the extra point from their divisional rivals.

On his 26th birthday, Kevin Shattenkirk scored the decisive goal in the shootout and added an assist in regulation. Jaden Schwartz, T.J. Oshie, Steve Ott and Ryan Reaves all tallied goals for the Blues.

"I thought we played hard," said Oshie. "They're a great team and they made a pretty strong push at the end there. Unfortunately, they got a point out of us, but when a team puts that much pressure on you, one's bound to go in."

David Backes posted an assist to extend his point streak to eight games. he has seven goals and eight helpers during the tear, which is the NHL's longest current point streak. Backes' teammate, Alex Steen, had a 10-game point streak before failing to reach the scoresheet on Thursday.

Blues forwards Patrik Berglund and Jori Lehtera both left Thursday's game with upper-body injuries and did not return. They are both expected to miss tonight's contest.

Prior to the game, Blues goaltender Martin Brodeur, who announced his retirement earlier on the Thursday, participated in a ceremonial faceoff. Brodeur, the NHL's all-time leader in wins and a future Hall of Famer, played in seven games with St. Louis in 2014-15 after spending his first 21 seasons with the New Jersey Devils.

Jake Allen will get the start in net for the Blues tonight. His only career outing against the Hurricanes came earlier this month when Allen picked up a win in relief of Elliott. Allen stopped 19-of-20 shots in the 5-4 shootout win over the visiting 'Canes after taking over for Elliott in the first period.

St. Louis has won two of the last three meetings against the Hurricanes overall, but Carolina has claimed two straight and five of the past six encounters in Raleigh.

The Hurricanes, who will begin a four-game road trip tomorrow against the Rangers, are 11-9-2 on home ice this season. St. Louis, meanwhile, is 11-9-2 on the road and will complete a brief two-game swing this Sunday in Washington.