Chicago (28-33-6) at St. Louis (41-22-6)

Cloudy Currently: St. Louis, MO
Temp: 54° F
  • Game info: 8:00 pm EST Thu Apr 3, 2003
  • TV: ESPN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

With their prospects of gaining home ice in the opening round of the playoffs fading quickly, a home-and-home series against the Chicago Blackhawks comes at the perfect time for the St. Louis Blues.

The Blues hope to begin a season-ending three-game win streak when they host the Blackhawks.

St. Louis trails the Colorado Avalanche for the fourth seed in the Western Conference and home ice in the first round of the postseason. Unless Colorado can catch Vancouver for the Northwest Division title, the Blues will meet the Avalanche in the first round.

The Blues visit Chicago on Friday before closing the regular season Sunday at Colorado.

Pavol Demitra and Scott Mellanby each had a goal and two assists, but St. Louis couldn’t protect a two-goal third-period lead and settled for a 5-5 tie against the Edmonton Oilers on Monday.

“The playoffs are right around the corner and this game could very well have cost us the home playoff spot,” Mellanby said. “That’s what makes this so frustrating.”

After allowing just nine goals in his first five games with the Blues, Chris Osgood has yielded 11 in his last two.

“I’m not blaming Osgood at all,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We gave up too many chances.”

While finishing fourth is the Blues’ highest priority, they can also use their final three games to incorporate defenseman Chris Pronger and right wing Valeri Bure into the lineup.

Pronger has not been at his best since returning from offseason knee and wrist surgery, going a minus-4 in two games. Bure has one assist in his first two games with St. Louis after missing six weeks with a knee injury.

Chicago, out of the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons, has been one of the league’s worst teams the past two months, winning just seven of 34 games (7-20-4-3).

The Blackhawks surrendered three goals in an 89-second span of the third period Sunday in a 4-4 tie against Edmonton.

With starting goalie Jocelyn Thibault sidelined with post-concussion syndrome, rookie Michael Leighton is expected to start at least two of the final three games for Chicago.

“Leighton was pretty good when he was up here before, and he was in some tough hockey games,” coach Brian Sutter said.

STANDINGS: Blackhawks - 74 points, 3rd place (tied), 32 PB, Central Division. Blues - 98 points, 2nd place, 8 PB, Central Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Blackhawks - Steve Sullivan, 25 goals and 57 points; Alex Zhamnov, 41 assists; Chris Simon, 146 PIM. Blues - Demitra, 33 goals, 55 assists and 88 points; Reed Low, 222 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through April 1): Blackhawks - Power play: 12.2 percent (36 for 296), 29th in NHL. Penalty killing: 85.1 percent (303 for 356), 9th. Blues - Power play: 20.1 percent (76 for 379), 4th. Penalty killing: 82.1 percent (308 for 375), 23rd.

GOALTENDERS: Blackhawks - Leighton (0-3-2, 4.00 GAA); Steve Passmore (2-5-2, 3.70). Blues - Osgood (21-16-5, 4 SO, 2.90); Brent Johnson (16-12-5, 2, 2.41).

SEASON SERIES: Tied, 1-1-1.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 23; Tie, 3-3. At Chicago, Alexander Khavanov, Al MacInnis and Dallas Drake scored third-period goals as St. Louis rallied for a point.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blackhawks - 12-18-6-4 on the road; Blues - 23-10-4-3 at home.

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