Blues hope to end Blackhawks' unbeaten streak
ST. LOUIS, Feb 28, 2013 (Belleville News-Democrat - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Chicago's 3-2 overtime win over Edmonton on Monday gave the St. Louis Blues their wish -- a chance to hand the Blackhawks their first regulation loss this season.
Chicago's 16-0-3 start has set an NHL record for the longest unbeaten streak to begin a season. Dating back to last season, the Hawks have not lost in regulation in their previous 25 games.
The Blues (10-6-2) and Blackhawks renew their long rivalry at 7 p.m. Thursday at Scottrade Center.
"They are a very good hockey club, I'm not taking anything away from them," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "But so are we, and we know we can play with them. But we have to play the way we play, which is hard on teams.
"We've got to play the right way for 60 minutes or we're not going to beat them. You're not going to beat Chicago playing 40 minutes, you've got to play 60 minutes of really good, sound hockey."
The Blackhawks grabbed a 3-0 lead and held on to beat the Blues 3-2 on Jan. 22 in Chicago.
The Blackhawks won a Stanley Cup in 2010 and are enjoying their status atop the league standings under former Blues coach Joel Quenneville.
"You can feel it," Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa told the Chicago Tribune. "Every team is ready for us as they try to stop this team and try to be the first. It's getting tougher and tougher. (Teams) check harder and everybody gets prepared for us more and more."
The 'Hawks have been on such a roll that both of their goalies have eight victories.
Corey Crawford, who will start Thursday against the Blues, is 8-0-3 with a 1.50 goals-against average and .941 save percentage. Backup Ray Emery is 8-0 with a 2.08 goals-against average.
Stellar goaltending has been a big part of the streak since 13 of Chicago's 19 games have been decided by one goal. The 'Hawks are 10-0-3 in those games.
The latest was Monday's OT win over Edmonton as Hossa collected the game-winner.
Star forward Patrick Kane has erupted for 10 goals and 24 points in 19 games while Hossa (nine goals, 15 points), Patrick Sharp (four goals, 15 points) and Jonathan Toews (seven goals, 15 points) are also off to hot starts.
The Blues have lost three straight to the Blackhawks, with all three games decided by one goal. Two went to a shootout.
Chicago will be facing a hot goalie in Jaroslav Halak, who is 16-1-1 in his last 18 home starts.
Elliott trying to regain confidence.
Blues goalie Brian Elliott has lost each of his last five decisions and has not won since Jan. 31. Elliott is hoping extra work on the ice and in the video room with goaltending coach Corey Hirsch will lead to a turnaround.
"It's all on-ice," he said when asked about what has helped the most in his bid to restore order to his game. "You can watch as much video as you want, but if you don't practice it, it's not going to do anything for you."
Hitchcock said Elliott will start either Friday at home against Edmonton or Sunday in Dallas.
"I think we need to get Ells going here," Hitchcock said Wednesday. "He's had another good day of practice today, he looks fine."
Elliott hasn't played since Feb. 11 and during the Blues' losing streak was replaced by rookie Jake Allen, who won three of his four starts before being reassigned to the minors.
What is Hitchcock looking for in Elliott, whose goals-against average has climbed to 3.57 while his save percentage has plummeted to .849
"I think just stop the puck, but more important stability of position," Hitchcock said. "He's been very good now for almost 10 days, so I think if he just continues down that path he'll be up and running. Allowing him to have all this instruction has helped him. He's gotten back on track."
Struggling goalies are a tough entity. Some need to play a lot to regain their confidence, while others benefit from time out of the net to regroup.
"You're trying to do all the right things and you think you are sometimes -- and sometimes you're not," Elliott said. "It's just different perspectives, different things that you can watch yourself and make those little adjustments. You start to feel good about your game and trust your game."
Elliott has taken advantage of his down time and is looking forward to his next opportunity.
"Sometimes it's good to step and back look at things and calm down a a little bit, worry about what you need to worry about and not what everybody else is," he said.
Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NormSanders
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