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Blackhawks-Blues Preview

AP - Sports

The St. Louis Blues have won their last three matchups with the Central Division-leading Chicago Blackhawks but won't have their top scorer available for this one.

The Blues will try to overcome Alexander Steen's absence and cut their deficit in the division Saturday night.

St. Louis (24-7-5) has earned two wins over Chicago this season and Steen scored two of his 24 goals in those games. His goal with 21.1 seconds left gave the Blues a 3-2 home victory Oct. 9 - one of only two regulation defeats for the Blackhawks in their first 19 games.

Steen, though, will miss his second straight contest due to a concussion and was placed on injured reserve Saturday. No timetable has been set for his return.

Chicago (27-7-6) has suffered just one regulation defeat in its last 10 contests, going 7-1-2, and Patrick Sharp had a hat trick on his 32nd birthday in a 7-2 rout of visiting Colorado on Friday. Patrick Kane also extended his point streak to a career-high 13 games, and Jonathan Toews registered four points as the Blackhawks improved to 4-0-1 in their last five.

"It's special any time you can (score a hat trick)," Sharp said after his third career three-goal game. "But on a birthday, where some of the guys are giving me heat for being an old-timer, it makes it feel even better.

"Tonight, I was getting set up with some good plays, and once you start scoring the way we were tonight, you get a good feeling and you just want to keep that going."

The Blues are 5-1-2 in their last eight and 2-0-1 in their past three games, but suffered a 4-3 shootout loss in Calgary on Monday in their final game before the Christmas break. After not allowing a power-play goal in four consecutive games, St. Louis gave up two to the Flames and blew a two-goal lead in the third period.

Mark Giordano scored the tying goal with five seconds left in regulation on a man advantage.

"It's uncharacteristic but a learning lesson for us," captain David Backes said. "We played a team tonight that played their butts off and was on an uphill trajectory all game. They got better as the game went on, and we plateaued and took our foot off the gas a little bit."

Backes has a team-best four points (two goals, two assists) during St. Louis' win streak against Chicago but he's been held off the score sheet in his last three overall games. The Blues, who are seven points behind the Blackhawks, haven't won four straight in the series since March 3, 1998-Jan. 7, 1999.

St. Louis has played four fewer games than Chicago.

Kane will try to help the Blackhawks expand their divisional lead by adding to his red-hot play. He has seven goals and 15 assists during his streak, and has recorded at least one point in 25 of his last 26 games.

Kane had a goal and an assist in the loss in St. Louis on Oct. 9. Toews has 11 goals and 15 assists in his last 22 games against the Blues but like Kane, he was held without a point in a 3-2 shootout loss Oct. 17.

It's unknown if Antti Raanta will make his ninth straight start or if the Blackhawks will give Jason LaBarbera his first with the team. Chicago acquired LaBarbera from Edmonton on Dec. 14 after injuries to Corey Crawford (lower body) and Nikolai Khabibulin (groin).

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