BLUES (14-12-5) at BLACKHAWKS (20-8-3)
Last 10 -- St. Louis 6-3-1; Chicago 6-3-1
Season series -- Amazingly for two division rivals, the Blues and Hawks are meeting for the first time this season. St. Louis won four of the six games between the teams in 2008-09, going 2-1 in regulation and 2-1 in OT/shootouts.
Big story -- The Hawks are shaping up as the class of the Central Division despite not generating a lot of goals. Sunday's 4-0 win over TampaBay marked the first time in five games that Chicago scored more than once in regulation (they did get a second goal in overtime to win two of those games). The Blues are much better on the road (8-2-3) than at home (6-10-2), although they come to the UnitedCenter after a 4-3 home win against Calgary on Tuesday.
Blues -- Being off for three days after blowing a 3-0 lead at home in a 5-3 loss to Edmonton apparently was just the tonic for the Blues, who outlasted Calgary after the team honored new Hall of Famer Brett Hull.
The Blues allowed five goals in less than 18 minutes against the Oilers to turn an apparent victory into a galling defeat. They battled the Flames back-and-forth until T.J. Oshie scored with less than five minutes left to break a 3-3 tie.
"I think we learned from our mistakes," Oshie said. "We talked about putting a 60-minute game together. We had our heads on straight."
Blackhawks -- Antti Niemi figures to be in his usual spot -- on the corner of the bench -- when the Blues and Hawks take the ice. But it's not because Chicago's backup goaltender isn't doing the job.
Niemi got a rare start in the Hawks' most recent game on Sunday and responded with 18 saves in the victory over TampaBay. He has three shutouts -- one off the League lead -- in just seven starts.
"It's been a nice one-two punch," coach Joel Quenneville said of Niemi and starter Cristobal Huet. "Niemi's solid. You see his size and his presence in the net. He challenges and his rebound control is in order."
Who's hot -- Blues forward David Backes is heating up after a slow start -- he has 6 goals in his last 10 games, including one on Tuesday. Oshie has scored twice in his last three games. … Marian Hossa has produced nine points in nine games for the Hawks since joining the team after offseason shoulder surgery. He had a goal and an assist in the win over the Lightning.
Stat pack -- St. Louis has lost just once in regulation in its 13 one-goal games, but has dropped five others in overtime or a shootout (7-1-5). The Western Conference has been beating up on the East, but the Blues must have missed the memo: They are just 2-4-2 against Eastern Conference teams, but 12-8-3 against the West. … The Hawks are lethal when they get the first goal -- Sunday's victory gave them a record of 17-3-2 when they score first. They are also 17-5-3 when they outshoot the opposition.
Puck drop -- It's hard to believe these two rivals have gone 10 weeks into the season without facing each other. Expect plenty of hitting early from two teams that historically haven't liked each other.
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