Several storylines converge when the St. Louis Blues host the Columbus Blue Jackets March 31 at the Scottrade Center. The NHL's best team plays the worst in a game that could clinch the Central Division title and no worse than a second seed for St. Louis. The Blues come into the game with 49 more points than Columbus.
The game might be a David versus Goliath matchup that could spoil the party for St. Louis.
Although claiming one team has dominated the NHL's worst team is almost a misnomer as many clubs have clobbered Columbus, the St. Louis Blues have truly dominated the Blue Jackets this season. St. Louis is 4-1 thus far against Columbus in 2011-2012. St. Louis has outscored its Central Division rival 15-9. Only once has Columbus scored more than two goals against St. Louis this season.
This may be the final chance for a Blues' goaltender to break the NHL season mark for shutouts. Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott have combined for 15 shutouts, tying the post-expansion mark set by the 1969-1970 Chicago Blackhawks, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Breaking that record would be sweet since the dreaded Blackhawks currently hold the mark.
The Blue Jackets come into the game with their minds on an upset. Columbus pulled one of the biggest surprises in the NHL this year with a 4-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings in Columbus March 28. Just two nights earlier, the Red Wings destroyed Columbus in Michigan 7-2.
The Blues have three homes games in a row from March 31 to April 6. After the game against Columbus, St. Louis has a good three-day rest period before playing Detroit. There is also a one-day break in between the previous game in Chicago March 29 and the next game at home. Columbus plays March 30 against the Florida Panthers. The Blue Jackets will be a tired team when they make it to Scottrade Center.
Return from Injury
Alex Steen returned from a concussion March 25 after missing nearly three months. He's played in three games in the past week with two points. Getting Steen back in the action now will get him ready for the playoffs in two weeks.
Head coach Ken Hitchcock spent part of four seasons coaching Columbus from 2006 to 2010. He had one winning season that led to a playoffs before the Blue Jackets were swept in 2009. He's only lost to Columbus once since leaving the club.
William Browning was born in St. Louis and has been a lifelong Blues fan.
- Columbus Blue Jackets