Blues and Blackhawks ready for a post-holiday clash

News-DemocratDecember 28, 2013 

After recharging their batteries with some holiday downtime, the St. Louis Blues are ready to renew hostilities with the Chicago Blackhawks.

A sellout crowd is expected for this annual post-Christmas rite of winter with the Blackhawks and their fans set to invade Scottrade Center on Saturday night.

The Blues (24-7-5) have lost three of their last four games, including a 4-3 shootout defeat Monday at Calgary when they were unable to protect a 3-1 lead in the third period.

Chicago remains in first place in the Central Division standings, but have dropped both of their meetings with the Blues falling 3-2 on Oct. 9 and 3-2 again on Oct. 17 in a game decided in a shootout.

The long-running rivalry is always heated and the teams could lock horns again in the playoffs with the NHL's new division-based format.

The Blues have been playing without injured forwards Alexander Steen (upper body), Vladimir Sobotka (upper body) and Ryan Reaves (hand) and injured defensemen Roman Polak (ankle) and Jordan Leopold (hand).

The club on Friday recalled forwards Dmitrij Jaskin and Chris Porter from the minor-league Chicago Wolves.

Steen (24 goals, 38 points) has not played since leaving in the second period of Saturday's 6-0 victory over Edmonton. Polak is on injured reserve and hasn't played since last Thursday against Montreal.

The Blackhawks were at home Friday night against the Colorado Avalanche, while the Blues have not played since Monday.

Heading into Friday's game, the Blackhawks were 6-1-1 in their previous eight games. Continuing to lean heavily on a highly productive offense, the Blackhawks have scored five or more goals 15 times.

Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford has been out since Dec. 8 with a lower-body injury, with Antti Raanta stepping up. Before Friday, Raanta was 8-1-2 with a 2.20 goals-against average.

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