Originally posted on FOX Sports  |  Last updated 2/8/12
The St. Louis Blues are in the thick of a four-team race for the Central Division crown due in part to their success against Eastern Conference foes. Facing the surging New Jersey Devils may provide one of their toughest tests yet. New Jersey seeks its sixth straight victory Thursday night when it hosts St. Louis, which has earned 22 of a possible 24 points against the East this season. Four of the five victories during the Devils' run have come against teams currently holding postseason spots in the conference. The steak began with a 4-3 shootout win over the East-leading New York Rangers on Jan. 31 and continued with a controversial 1-0 win over them Tuesday. Martin Brodeur made 30 saves to earn his first shutout, though New York had the potential tying goal waved off in the final seconds. David Clarkson's first-period goal on the power play held up. "We played a great hockey game, right from the start," Brodeur said. "We said it would probably be a dirty 1-0 game that we would have to win. That's exactly what happened." New Jersey's ability to beat the top teams in the East has given it confidence as it makes a push toward the playoffs. "The last week has been good, beating the Rangers twice, Pittsburgh and Philly," Brodeur said. "We had a hard time early to do that. Now we seem to come through against these teams." The Devils should be in for another tough battle against the Blues, who are 10-0-2 against the East after winning 3-1 in Ottawa on Tuesday. St. Louis scored twice in the first four minutes and David Perron scored his second goal of the game in the third period for the Blues, who are in a tight race with Nashville and Chicago chasing first-place Detroit in the Central. Brian Elliott had 28 saves to beat his former team and improve to 16-5-2 with a league-leading 1.66 goals-against average. He recorded a 24-save shutout the last time he faced the Devils on Jan. 26, 2010, while playing with the Senators. "You really want to get back in that winning feeling and doing it here is obviously pretty big for me," said Elliott, who lost his previous two starts. Whether Elliott or Jaroslav Halak - 8-2-0 with a 1.29 GAA in his last 10 starts - is in net Thursday, St. Louis hopes to slow Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk. Parise picked up an assist Tuesday and has five goals and three assists during a six-game point streak. Kovalchuk was held scoreless to end his streak of three consecutive three-point games, though he had three goals and seven assists during his previous four contests. The Blues have had trouble offensively of late, as Tuesday marked only the second time in their last seven games they scored at least three goals. Perron's goals were his first two points in five games. St. Louis has won the last two meetings, beating Brodeur 1-0 on March 20, 2010, in New Jersey before Halak made 35 saves in a 3-2 win Nov. 20, 2010, in the most recent matchup.
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