Columbus Blue Jackets vs. St. Louis Blues
TRAFFIC ADVISORY: Fans traveling to Sunday's 6 p.m. game vs. Columbus will want to note that all lanes of Eastbound I-64 will be closed in downtown St. Louis from Jefferson to 6th Street beginning at 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 16. The lanes will remain closed through Sunday, Dec. 18 at 8 p.m. If you're traveling to Sunday's game, please make alternate travel plans and allow extra time for your commute. Motorists are encouraged to use Jefferson to I-44 as a detour to get downtown.
BLUE JACKETS (9-19-4) at BLUES (18-9-4)
TV: FS-O (HD), FS-MW (HD)
Columbus 3-6-1; St. Louis 7-1-2.
This is the second of six season meetings between these Central Division rivals. On Nov. 27, St. Louis beat Columbus 2-1 on a David Backes
power-play strike late in regulation. The game marked another of Brian Elliott
’s 15 games – out of 16 starts – in which he has allowed two goals or fewer.
St. Louis returns to Scottrade Center – where the Blues have won four straight – after losing Saturday in Nashville, 2-1 in a shootout. The Blues welcome Columbus, which is making an unenviable habit of helping struggling opponents get back on track. The Blue Jackets lost four of five on their recent homestand, and enter St. Louis off of back-to-back one-goal losses to slumping Los Angeles and Tampa Bay, respectively.
After conceding two first-period goals to the Lightning, Columbus mounted a comeback to bring themselves within one, at 3-2, going into the third period. There, despite a late power play and some point-blank opportunities, Bolts goalie Mathieu Garon thwarted Columbus at every turn.
"You can't get behind in this League," Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel said. "We had chances but couldn't beat their goaltender early on. We had to find a way to do that, especially when we had momentum going our way."
That said, no one can accuse the Jackets of being one-dimensional, as Columbus also proved capable of squandering an early lead the game before against Los Angeles. After riding a Jeff Carter goal into the third period on Thursday, two Los Angeles goals in that period gave the Kings their first win in six games.
If a loss can be positive, St. Louis’ shootout defeat at the hands of Nashville was it. Backup goalie Jaroslav Halak
only allowed one goal on 20 shots in relief of the League’s top keeper, Elliott, the Blues made a late comeback to force overtime and came away with a point in a hostile Bridgestone Arena. Best of all, St. Louis finally converted on their League-worst power play when T.J. Oshie
scored on the Blues’ sixth man advantage.
"We earned the power plays because of our hard work and our determination," St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. "What can you say? We didn't finish the chances we had. We played a heck of a hockey game and deserved a lot better fate."
Still, the Blues had only half the chances of their opponents (shots were 40-20 in favor of Nashville), and the goal came from what has been a highly unreliable power-play unit.
Oshie may only have 10 goals and 21 points on the season, but the young star facilitates much of the St. Louis offense. With his goal Saturday, he has three tallies and two assists over his last five games.
Goalie Steve Mason (cramping in right quadriceps) and winger Derek Dorsett (left leg) both played Saturday against Tampa. Kristian Huselius (groin) will miss 4-6 weeks. … Jason Arnott
missed Saturday’s game with an illness. Vladimir Sobotka
(left ankle), Kent Huskins
(bruised left ankle), Andy McDonald
(concussion) and B.J. Crombeen
(broken left scapula) are on injured reserve.
If the Jackets can force a shootout with St. Louis, one of their only positive stat categories could play to their advantage. Columbus is fifth in the League with a 3-3 record in shootouts, including 2-2 on the road with a .636 save percentage.
"It's frustrating. I don't really know the words for it. We wanted a 4-1, 5-0 stand to get back into it, but it just didn’t happen." – Columbus winger R.J. Umberger on his team's recent 1-4-0 homestand.