Blue Jackets-Blues Preview
With their defense and special teams leading the way, the St.
Louis Blues have surged to the top of the Western Conference
standings and are in contention for the second Presidents’ Trophy
in team history.
The Blues will try to continue that success during a
home-and-home set that begins Saturday night against the surging
Columbus Blue Jackets, who likely won’t have starting goaltender
Steve Mason available.
St. Louis (43-18-7) has allowed two goals or fewer over eight
straight games and has won seven of those. That stretch has vaulted
the Blues to a one-point lead over Vancouver in the West.
“It’s always nice to look at the standings when you are first,”
goaltender Jaroslav Halak said. “More fun that way. This was
important for us.”
St. Louis is also vying with the Canucks and New York Rangers
among others for the best record in the league. The Blues won their
only Presidents’ Trophy in 1999-00.
Halak has recorded all seven of those wins for his second such
win streak this season and second of his career. He matched his run
from Jan. 3-21 by stopping 24 shots in a 3-1 win over Anaheim on
St. Louis also extended a streak of consecutive penalty kills to
35 in that victory and improved to 20-1-3 in its last 24 home
“We’re not the most talented team in the National Hockey
League,” coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We just find ways to win.
That’s what this team is about.”
Brian Elliott might start Saturday in place of Halak, who could
return for Sunday’s game in Columbus that starts a season-high,
seven-game road trip. Elliott has lost three straight, including a
2-0 defeat in Vancouver on March 1, but is still among the league
leaders with a 1.63 goals-against average and a .937 save
He made 23 saves in a 2-1 win in Columbus on Nov. 27 and is
3-0-1 with a 2.45 GAA in four all-time starts against the Blue
Jackets (22-38-7). If Elliott starts, he’ll face a team that’s won
four in a row – its longest win streak since a five-game run Nov.
17-24, 2010 – but lost Mason to an injury during a 3-1 home victory
over Los Angeles on Thursday.
Mason’s left hand was cut by teammate John Moore’s skate after
Moore was knocked into the net in the second period. The former
Calder Trophy winner needed 15 stitches to close the wound and is
not expected to play this weekend.
“It’s frustrating but we still got the win so that was the most
important thing,” Mason said. “We’ll see how quickly the hand
That leaves Curtis Sanford or Allen York, recalled from the
team’s ECHL affiliate in Chicago on Friday, to start the next two
games. Sanford stopped all 13 shots he faced Thursday but couldn’t
end a three-game losing streak.
He was on the losing end of the Nov. 27 matchup, his only career
game against St. Louis. York has appeared in five NHL games, none
versus the Blues.
Whoever starts will try to lead Columbus to only its ninth
victory in 28 games against St. Louis. The Blue Jackets snapped a
five-game skid in the series with a 2-1 home win Feb. 14 in which
Mason outdueled Halak.
St. Louis is 12-1-1 in its last 14 home matchups, including a
6-4 win Dec. 18. The Blues scored four goals in the third period of