Blackhawks-Blues Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 27, 2013
The St. Louis Blues' dominance this month sent them back to the playoffs, but their seeding is still undecided ahead of the regular-season finale. The top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks are the only team that's been better than the Blues in April. St. Louis attempts to gain home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs Saturday night when they try to beat the Blackhawks for just the second time in seven tries. The Blues (28-17-2) have won 11 of 14 this month after beating Calgary 4-1 on Thursday. That impressive stretch has moved them into fourth in the Western Conference, one point ahead of Los Angeles and San Jose. St. Louis only holds the tiebreaker against the Sharks, who host the Kings later Saturday. Beating Chicago (36-6-5) would ensure the Blues avoid potentially dropping into sixth to face Vancouver in the opening round. However, they're 1-3-2 over the last six meetings with the Blackhawks, falling 2-0 at home in the latest matchup April 14. St. Louis has since won all five of its home games, allowing one goal in each. The Blackhawks also have been outstanding in April with a 10-1-2 record, beating the Flames 3-1 on Friday to continue a dominant season that includes the franchise's second Presidents' Trophy. "It's an important game," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told the team's official website. "You move on one way or the other, but it's an important game. It's two good teams. "Chicago's arguably the best team in a long time in the league the way they've played. We're going to have to be at our best to win the hockey game. ... It's obviously more important for us than it is for them." Chicago isn't going to take it easy, either. "We want to be playing our best hockey going into the playoffs," Corey Crawford said after making 25 saves Friday. "We don't want to take anything too lightly. It's hard when you get away from your game to get it going when the playoffs come. The speed steps up." Crawford may be back in net since Ray Emery is nursing a lower-body injury. They've combined for a league-leading 2.00 goals-against average, and the Blackhawks last led the NHL defensively in the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season. Crawford is 6-0-1 with a 1.44 GAA over his last seven games versus the Blues and has shut them out twice this season, including the last meeting. Brian Elliott has been terrific in net for St. Louis, winning 10 of his last 12 games with a 1.30 GAA and three shutouts. He's started every time during the five-game home winning streak, compiling a 0.97 GAA since the loss to Chicago despite stopping 24 of 26 shots. The Blues last won six straight at home Dec. 6-26, 2011. Chris Stewart leads St. Louis with 18 goals and 36 points, but he's been held off the scoresheet in four meetings with the Blackhawks this season and was a minus-2 in the last matchup. Stewart has four points over his past two games.
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