Blues-Blackhawks Preview

Despite their recent hot streak, a frustrating loss their last time out cost the St. Louis Blues the lead in the Presidents’ Trophy race.

Their hold on the top spot in the Western Conference could be in jeopardy as well.

The Blues look to bounce back and strengthen their grip on first place in the West on Sunday when they visit the short-handed Chicago Blackhawks, winners of two in a row.

St. Louis (52-18-7) came into Saturday’s matchup with Colorado having gone 5-1-0 in its last six, but fell 4-0 in a chippy affair. The Blues have scored two or fewer goals in four straight games and seven times in nine.

"We were a little bit more individuals tonight (than a team), and that’s not gonna win you games," defenseman Barret Jackman said. " … Right now, we’re not playing our best hockey, but it’s something we can turn around tomorrow in Chicago, and I’m sure we’ll talk about it tonight when we land and get things back on the right page."

St. Louis now finds itself behind Boston for the NHL lead, as the Bruins won Sunday to move two points ahead. St. Louis is also battling to hold off Anaheim, San Jose and Colorado for first in the conference.

"We’ve got probably half, or maybe over half, the team that’s seems like we’re playing hard at the start, or for 10 minutes and then we seem to go away and want to play different," center T.J. Oshie said. "We’re not a team that’s ever won, we’re not a team that’s been on the top for this long, so we have to learn that people are gonna give us their best game and we gotta keep playing hard."

Chicago (44-19-15) was also having trouble scoring goals during a three-game losing streak, totaling four, but has rebounded to win two in a row. The Blackhawks have scored six in victories over Minnesota and Columbus despite playing without injured star forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Ben Smith lifted Chicago to a thrilling victory over the Blue Jackets on Friday, tapping in a rebound with 3.7 seconds left on a wild scrum. Four Blackhawks had goals and Duncan Keith registered three assists, while Antti Raanta made 24 saves in playing the second game of the back-to-back set.

”You play the right way and you give yourself a chance,” coach Joel Quenneville said. ”You get balance and you keep yourself mentally aware of what you need to do, play the team system and everybody complements each other. The last two wins are very exciting from where we were just a couple of days ago.”

Colorado’s win gave it a three-point edge over Chicago for second place in the Central Division.

Corey Crawford, who stopped 25 shots in the 3-2 shootout victory over the Wild on Thursday, is likely to be back in net for this game. He beat the Blues 4-0 with 23 saves in the teams’ last matchup March 19 at Chicago, the Blackhawks’ first win in four meetings this season.

Brian Elliott will get the start for the Blues to close out their back-to-back set after Ryan Miller made 25 saves Saturday. Elliott has gone 3-1-0 with a 0.94 goals-against average in his last four games, including a brief relief stint March 19 in which he came on for an ineffective Miller and stopped all three shots faced in 12 minutes.