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25-20-9

Blues-Hurricanes Preview

AP - Sports

St. Louis' Alexander Steen continues to produce despite another injury. He's also helped the Blues return to their winning ways.

Steen will try to extend a five-game point streak while leading his club to a fourth consecutive win and a share of first place in the Central Division on Friday night at the Carolina Hurricanes.

Steen was NHL's second-leading goal scorer with 24 before suffering a concussion Dec. 21. He missed 11 games until Jan. 18, but has quickly returned to form.

Steen has three goals and four assists in the last five games and has played with a lower-body injury in the past two. That ailment has kept him out of recent practices but he's still managed to contribute to his team's resurgence.

St. Louis is 19-1-2 when Steen scores compared to going 17-10-3 when he doesn't.

"I'm trying to do what I can to stay in it," Steen said. "It's not the first time with an injury and you learn from experience. I'm starting to feel better and better."

The Blues (36-11-5) had lost four of six before their current win streak. They avenged a 7-1 drubbing at New Jersey on Jan. 21 on Tuesday as Jaroslav Halak made 23 saves in a 3-0 victory.

Steen scored his 27th goal 3:25 into the game and Patrik Berglund assisted on St. Louis' two scores in a penalty-filled third period.

"All around we were better," said forward Brenden Morrow, who had one of the goals in the third. "Jaro made some big saves for us early until we found our game."

The Blues, winners in 10 of 14 on the road, have a franchise-best 77 points in 52 games and can move into a tie with Chicago atop the Central by earning another two on Friday. They've played four fewer games than the Blackhawks.

St. Louis will face a Carolina team that's eager to get back in the win column after a 3-0 loss in Montreal on Tuesday. The Hurricanes (24-20-9) had scored 17 goals during a four-game win streak and had at least three in each of their prior six contests.

The visit to the Canadiens was their fifth game in seven days.

"We seemed to be out of gas a little bit," captain Eric Staal said. "You never want to use that excuse, but we have played a lot of hockey here.

"We'll get refreshed and look forward to our next game."

Carolina has also won 10 of 14 while moving into contention for an Eastern Conference playoff berth and six of eight at home, but lost in its only matchup with St. Louis this season Nov. 16. Steen had the tiebreaking goal in the third period and an assist in that 4-2 home victory.

St. Louis scored its first two goals in the second period of that game but gave up two short-handed scores in the final five minutes of that frame.

The Blues outshot the Hurricanes 32-20 and Brian Elliott made 18 saves. St. Louis is expected to put Halak back in net Friday.

Halak is 7-1-1 with a 1.69 goals-against average and two shutouts in his last 10 starts. He's 1-2-1 with a 2.22 GAA in his four lifetime starts against Carolina, but the most recent of those was a 2-1 shootout loss Dec. 11, 2010.

The Hurricanes have won four of the past five home games against St. Louis with the latest taking place March 15, 2012. Cam Ward made 40 saves in a 2-0 victory but remains out with a lower-body injury.

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