Red Wings, Blues battle to break tie in Central
Saturday, 12.31.2011 / 1:06 AMBLUES (21-11-5) at RED WINGS (23-13-1)
TV: FS-MW (HD), FS-D
St. Louis 6-2-2; Detroit 6-4-0
Fourth of six meetings between these Central Division rivals. St. Louis took the first two, Detroit the most recent -- all three were one-goal affairs. Alex Steen
of the Blues leads all scorers in the series with 3 goals, one a game-winner.
With the Blackhawks one of only six teams idle Saturday, either the Blues or Red Wings will seize the opportunity to take over second place in the Central Division and pull within three points of Chicago, also the current leader in the race for the Presidents' Trophy. Each team will be playing the second of a back-to-back set and comes off a tough one-goal defeat Friday.
The coaching switch to Ken Hitchcock changed the fortunes of St. Louis in many positive ways, but the Blues still can't seem to get the better of the Predators, who have beaten them three times -- twice in the past two weeks. In this instance, a 2-1 shootout loss was sealed when Martin Erat finally solved Jaroslav Halak
in the fifth round and Kevin Shattenkirk
was denied by Pekka Rinne on the Blues' final attempt. T.J. Oshie
had their lone goal of regulation, while Halak turned in a strong outing with 33 saves.
"It's frustrating for the whole team, especially for someone like me who takes pride in scoring shootouts," said Oshie, who returned to the lineup after missing two games with a left wrist injury. "To see the effort that Jaro put forth for us tonight and to not get him that extra point … it's unacceptable, I think."
A regulation win in Chicago and Detroit would have cut the Blackhawks' lead to a single point and been in position to pass them with two more points Saturday. But the Red Wings let a pair of leads provided by Justin Abdelkader and Todd Bertuzzi goals slip away, and eventually were dealt a 3-2 loss as Brent Seabrook had the go-ahead score early in the third period. At the end of the night, coach Mike Babcock offered up a lukewarm assessment of his team's performance.
"We got a real good night out of (Abdelkader's) line and got a good night out of (Cory Emmerton's) line. The bottom line is we weren't good enough. That's it," he said.
Oshie has 5 goals and 3 assists in his last nine games for the Blues. … Bertuzzi has 4 goals and 6 assists in his last 11 games for the Red Wings.
Steen missed Friday's game for St. Louis with concussion-like symptoms, while defenseman Kris Russell
was placed on injured reserve and is expected to miss three weeks with a groin injury. Also on injured reserve are forwards Andy McDonald
(concussion) and Ryan Reaves
(hip) and defenseman Kent Huskins
(ankle). … Detroit forward Darren Helm missed Friday's game with a groin injury, while forwards Patrick Eaves (jaw), Chris Conner (hand) and Tomas Holmstrom (groin) are on injured reserve.
The Blues are 1-for-17 on shootout attempts this season. They've lost their last six penalty-shot tiebreakers dating back to March 7 victory over the Blue Jackets. … Danny Cleary picked up his 200th career assist Friday on Abdelkader's goal.
Hitchcock hasn't had a great deal to complain about since taking over behind the St. Louis bench, but he bemoaned the club's struggles in the shootout following Friday's game.
"Since I've been here, this is the third time we've had a chance to win the shootout outright with the last shooter, and not being able to do it is frustrating for the players and frustrating for Jaroslav," he said.