Blackhawks-Blues Preview

The St. Louis Blues have won their last three matchups with the

Central Division-leading Chicago Blackhawks but won’t have their

top scorer available for this one.

The Blues will try to overcome Alexander Steen’s absence and cut

their deficit in the division Saturday night.

St. Louis (24-7-5) has earned two wins over Chicago this season

and Steen scored two of his 24 goals in those games. His goal with

21.1 seconds left gave the Blues a 3-2 home victory Oct. 9 – one of

only two regulation defeats for the Blackhawks in their first 19


Steen, though, will miss his second straight contest due to a

concussion and was placed on injured reserve Saturday. No timetable

has been set for his return.

Chicago (27-7-6) has suffered just one regulation defeat in its

last 10 contests, going 7-1-2, and Patrick Sharp had a hat trick on

his 32nd birthday in a 7-2 rout of visiting Colorado on Friday.

Patrick Kane also extended his point streak to a career-high 13

games, and Jonathan Toews registered four points as the Blackhawks

improved to 4-0-1 in their last five.

“It’s special any time you can (score a hat trick),” Sharp said

after his third career three-goal game. “But on a birthday, where

some of the guys are giving me heat for being an old-timer, it

makes it feel even better.

“Tonight, I was getting set up with some good plays, and once

you start scoring the way we were tonight, you get a good feeling

and you just want to keep that going.”

The Blues are 5-1-2 in their last eight and 2-0-1 in their past

three games, but suffered a 4-3 shootout loss in Calgary on Monday

in their final game before the Christmas break. After not allowing

a power-play goal in four consecutive games, St. Louis gave up two

to the Flames and blew a two-goal lead in the third period.

Mark Giordano scored the tying goal with five seconds left in

regulation on a man advantage.

“It’s uncharacteristic but a learning lesson for us,” captain

David Backes said. “We played a team tonight that played their

butts off and was on an uphill trajectory all game. They got better

as the game went on, and we plateaued and took our foot off the gas

a little bit.”

Backes has a team-best four points (two goals, two assists)

during St. Louis’ win streak against Chicago but he’s been held off

the score sheet in his last three overall games. The Blues, who are

seven points behind the Blackhawks, haven’t won four straight in

the series since March 3, 1998-Jan. 7, 1999.

St. Louis has played four fewer games than Chicago.

Kane will try to help the Blackhawks expand their divisional

lead by adding to his red-hot play. He has seven goals and 15

assists during his streak, and has recorded at least one point in

25 of his last 26 games.

Kane had a goal and an assist in the loss in St. Louis on Oct.

9. Toews has 11 goals and 15 assists in his last 22 games against

the Blues but like Kane, he was held without a point in a 3-2

shootout loss Oct. 17.

It’s unknown if Antti Raanta will make his ninth straight start

or if the Blackhawks will give Jason LaBarbera his first with the

team. Chicago acquired LaBarbera from Edmonton on Dec. 14 after

injuries to Corey Crawford (lower body) and Nikolai Khabibulin