Blues hope to continue home success vs. Blackhawks (Dec 17, 2016)

BY AP • December 16, 2016

ST. LOUIS -- The matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues will be one of the highlights of the NHL season on Jan. 2, when the two teams meet outdoors in the Winter Classic at Busch Stadium.

Coach Ken Hitchcock and the Blues have not even begun to think about that game, however. They have another game with the visiting Blackhawks first, coming up on Saturday night.

Chicago comes into the game off a 5-4 win over the Islanders on Thursday night in New York, improving to 4-0-1 in its last five games. One of the keys to the win was a revived power play, which produced three goals. That was one more goal than the Blackhawks had scored on the power-play in their previous games this month.

That power-play will be put to the test against St. Louis, which beat the New Jersey Devils 5-2 on Thursday night to improve its home record to 11-0-3 in the last 14 games.

The Blues killed off two power play chances for the Devils, and have now killed off 19 of opponent's last 20 chances with a man advantage. They own the second-best penalty kill percentage in the league.

For the season, St. Louis allowed only five power-play goals in 62 chances in their 18 home games.

That's just one of the reasons behind the success at Scottrade Center, where Jake Allen -- expected to start in goal for the seventh consecutive game -- is 11-0-2 this season.

Key to Thursday night's win, in addition to one goal and two assists from a red-hot Vladimir Tarasenko, was goals from three forwards who have been struggling to score this season.

Jori Lehtera scored his fourth goal in 26 games, Patrik Berglund his second in 31 games (into an empty net) and Nail Yakupov his third in 19 games.

Getting more contributions from those players would increase the Blues' chances of continuing to play so well at home.

"It seems at home we've got some good chemistry going," said defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who also scored against the Devils. "We rotated pretty much everybody tonight, and everybody had good legs."

Added Tarasenko, "I feel like we feel more confident here. So now we have a job to do to -- figure out why our road record (4-9-1) is not really good. I feel pretty good about our team this year and we still have a lot of time. We believe in our work, we believe in our coaching staff and try to stay as close as we can together to try and win games like this."

The Blackhawks will be without starting goalie Corey Crawford, who has been out since undergoing an appendectomy on Dec. 3. He skated on Thursday for the first time since the surgery but there is still no timetable for his return.

Center Jonathan Toews did return to the lineup this week after a back injury forced him to miss nine games.



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