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