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24-13-9

Blues-Canucks Preview

AP - Sports

A seven-game winning streak has left St. Louis perched atop the Central Division.

The Blues will try to extend that run and take sole possession of the division lead Friday as they close a three-game Canadian swing against the slumping Vancouver Canucks.

After Thursday's 5-0 win at Calgary, the Blues (31-7-5) are in position to post their longest winning streak since a nine-game run from Oct. 15-Nov. 5, 2002. They are sitting on 67 points in a first-place tie with Chicago.

The Canucks (23-13-9), meanwhile, are winless in their last five.

St. Louis has scored at least five times and has 21 goals combined in its last four games, an onslaught that has come while top scorer Alexander Steen is recovering from a concussion.

"It's nice to string a couple together here," captain David Backes told the team's official website. "It seems like you have to stay paced with some of these other teams in the West.

"It's a good feeling in here. We have different guys stepping up and different guys picking each other up when they falter. It's a good recipe."

Five different players scored against the Flames and 11 recorded at least a point. Vladimir Tarasenko and Vladimir Sobotka each had a goal and an assist and have three straight multipoint games. Tarasenko has 11 points during the win streak, while Sobotka has eight points on a five-game point streak.

Alex Pietrangelo also scored and has seven points on a four-game streak.

Jaroslav Halak, who had been battling an illness, played for the first time since Dec. 28 and made 34 saves for his third shutout of the season.

"I thought the best player in the game was our goalie," Hitchcock said. "I thought Halak was outstanding. He really did a nice job for us. He shut the door."

Brian Elliott has made it difficult for Hitchcock to keep him on the bench with a seven-game winning streak of his own. Since Dec. 21, Elliott has a 1.32 goals-against average and two shutouts.

He's 3-1-1 against Vancouver since Oct. 26, 2011, with a 1.38 GAA, though Halak got the start in a 3-2 overtime loss at home to the Canucks earlier this season. Ryan Kesler scored twice for Vancouver in the win.

The Canucks were in good position to get a win Tuesday against Pittsburgh but let a two-goal lead slip away in the final minutes, going on to lose 5-4 in a shootout. It was the second time in three nights that they led by two and lost after regulation.

"It's happened way too many times," captain Henrik Sedin told the team's official website about the blown leads. "We should have at least five of six more points right now. We have to take a look and see what we are doing wrong."

This time around, they allowed two goals in the final 1:11 of the third period.

"This one was a doozy," coach John Tortorella said. "We are going to try to exorcise it and get it away from us. I thought we showed more confidence tonight. Day by day we will try to get better."

The Canucks have been without No. 1 goalie Roberto Luongo for the last two games after he suffered a sprained ankle Saturday in Los Angeles, which was his return from a groin injury. He is considered day-to-day.

His backup, Eddie Lack, has cooled off lately with a 3.57 GAA in his last four starts.

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