Blues-Blackhawks Preview

It took 83 seasons before the Chicago Blackhawks set a franchise
record for wins. The Original Six club is now in position to
establish another for points.

Fresh off their milestone victory, the Blackhawks look to add to
their record books and move into a tie atop the Western Conference
on Wednesday night when they face the St. Louis Blues for the final
time in 2009-10.

With a 5-2 victory at Dallas on Tuesday, the new Central
Division champions reached 50 wins for first time. Colin Fraser
scored twice and Patrick Kane had his team-high 30th goal as
Chicago (50-22-7) stretched its latest run to four and won for the
22nd time on the road – also a franchise-first.

“We want to be playing our best game heading into the playoffs,”
said Fraser, a fourth-line center who doubled his goal total to
four.

Though he’s not been named a full-time starter, Antti Niemi
certainly has the numbers to show why he should be. The rookie made
26 saves against the Stars for his 24th win, and he’s 4-0-0 with a
1.07 goals-against average after losing 4-2 in St. Louis in March
30.

The Blackhawks had 49 wins in 1991-92 and also in 1970-71, when
they set a club mark with 107 points. Chicago matched that point
total the following season.

Coach Joel Quenneville’s club has three games left to eclipse
that, but the Blackhawks still have their eyes on finishing first
in the West. Chicago trails Pacific Division champion San Jose by
two points, and the Sharks are idle Friday.

“Our objective is to finish first,” Quenneville said.

One player looking to break out of a late swoon for Chicago is
Patrick Sharp, who hasn’t scored a goal in four games, and remains
stuck on 24. All four of Sharp’s goals against the Blues this
season have come on the road.

A late surge ultimately wasn’t enough to get St. Louis (39-31-9)
back into the postseason. The Blues were eliminated Tuesday when
Colorado defeated Vancouver in a shootout to claim the final
playoff spot in the West.

St. Louis won for the fifth time in six games with a 2-1
overtime victory over Columbus on Monday. Erik Johnson’s power-play
goal with 61 seconds left in the extra session kept the Blues’ slim
hopes alive.

Andy McDonald had a goal and assist, and Chris Mason made 27
saves to leave him one win short of 30.

Mason has faced Chicago three times this season, going 2-1-0
with a 2.01 GAA. Ty Conklin, who hasn’t played since losing to
Detroit on March 24, has given up nine goals in two losses to the
Blackhawks.

The Blues have split two games this season at the United Center.
St. Louis fell 3-0 on Dec. 16 as Cristobal Huet turned aside 27
shots for his second of four shutouts so far. On Feb. 3, David
Backes scored twice against Huet to help the Blues to a 3-2
win.