(SportsNetwork.com) – The St. Louis Blues return to the site where their
2013-14 season ended when they visit the United Center on Wednesday to face
the rival Chicago Blackhawks.
Things were looking good for the Blues last spring when they grabbed a 2-0
series lead over Chicago in the opening round of the playoffs. However, the
Blackhawks won four straight to claim the series and finished off St. Louis
with a 5-1 rout at the United Center on April 27.
The Blues return to the Windy City on Wednesday having won two straight and
four of their last five games. St. Louis also has 34 points on the season,
placing the Blues in a tie with Nashville for the top spot in the Central
Division. The Blackhawks are three points behind.
St. Louis met Chicago on home ice on Oct. 25 and notched a 3-2 regulation
victory to beat the Blackhawks for the fifth time in the last seven regular-
season meetings. Chicago, however, is 10-0-2 in the last 12 meetings at United
Center and that’s without counting the Blackhawks 3-0 home mark in last
spring’s postseason encounter.
The Blues head to Chicago with a new addition to their roster in tow, as
Martin Brodeur is with the club after signing a one-year deal on Tuesday. The
veteran goaltender joined the Blues last Wednesday on a professional tryout
after Brian Elliott suffered a lower-body injury during a shootout loss to
Ottawa on Nov. 25.
With Elliott potentially sidelined for weeks, the Blues opted to sign Brodeur.
The 42-year-old had spent his entire career with the New Jersey Devils,
capturing three Stanley Cup titles and winning the Vezina Trophy four times.
However, the Devils opted not to re-sign Brodeur this offseason and turned to
Cory Schneider to serve as the franchise goalie.
An obvious future Hall of Famer, Brodeur is the NHL’s all-time leader in wins
(688), shutouts (124) and games played (1,259).
The Blues expect to use Brodeur as a starter at some point during their
current road trip, but it won’t be tonight as Jake Allen is slated to get the
call in net.
Allen helped St. Louis earn two points in its most recent outing, as the Blues
edged the Minnesota Wild in a shootout to begin the road trip.
Vladimir Tarasenko scored in the final round of the shootout to lift the St.
Louis to a 3-2 victory. After Allen stopped a Jason Pominville wrister,
Tarasenko skated in and snapped a wrister into the left corner of the net for
Tarasenko also scored in regulation for the Blues as did David Backes. Allen
posted 36 stops in the win.
“(Allen) saw a lot of rubber and did a phenomenal job of just giving us a
chance,” Backes said.
The 24-year-old Allen has never faced the Blackhawks in his career.
Chicago enters tonight’s showdown on its second three-game winning streak
since the middle of November. The Blackhawks, who have won six of seven, last
picked up four straight victories from April 3-9 of last season.
The Blackhawks’ most recent victory came Saturday in Los Angeles, as Chicago
exacted a small measure of revenge against the Kings for last spring’s defeat
in the Western Conference finals. L.A. eliminated the Blackhawks in seven
games despite blowing a 3-0 series’ lead.
Brad Richards scored twice to lead the Blackhawks to the 4-1 victory in L.A.
Richards, of course, played last season for the New York Rangers, who lost to
the Kings in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Daniel Carcillo and Brandon Saad also lit the lamp on Saturday and Kris
Versteeg supplied two assists for the Blackhawks. Corey Crawford turned aside
19 shots in his 14th consecutive start.
“We were definitely ready tonight and it showed,” Crawford said. “It showed
from the start all the way to the finish.”
Crawford will not make a 15th straight start tonight after suffering what the
team termed an “off-ice lower-body injury.”
Antti Raanta will get the start tonight, making his first appearance since
Oct. 25. He is 0-1-1 with a 3.88 GAA in two career games against St. Louis.
Chicago recalled goaltender Scott Darling on Tuesday evening, presumably to
serve as the backup in Crawford’s absence.
In other news, Chicago forward Patrick Sharp returned to practice Wednesday
for the first time since suffering an injury to his right knee on Nov. 4.
Sharp, who has three goals and six assists in 13 games this season, is
considered day-to-day and could return to game action later this week.