St. Louis (16-6-1) at Columbus (8-14-1)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Columbus, OH
Temp: 70° F
  • Game info: 7:00 pm EST Fri Dec 12, 2003
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The St. Louis Blues look to keep pace in the battle for the Central Division lead when they take on the Columbus Blue Jackets for the first time this season.

The Blues are playing well, posting a 5-1-2 mark in their last eight games, but have fallen into second place behind Detroit in the Central. The Red Wings beat the Blues on Nov. 29 and tied them Dec. 4, giving them three of a possible four points from their closest competition in a six-day span.

Detroit has gone 6-1-1 in its last eight to take the division lead.

St. Louis won its second in a row Tuesday, as Chris Pronger scored 30 seconds into overtime to give the Blues a 3-2 victory over the red-hot Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre.

“It’s a huge win,” Pronger said. “It’s a great feeling to stop a team that’s playing with that kind of confidence. It shows us how well we can play against some of the top teams in the league.”

Penalty killing has been a major factor in the Blues’ recent strong play. St. Louis held Toronto scoreless on seven power-play opportunities, and has killed 41 of its opponents’ 43 power-play chances in the last 11 games.

“The penalty kill has been a huge part of our success,” center Doug Weight said. “I loved the way we played. Unfortunately, they got a goal with 17 seconds left, but we bailed ourselves out in overtime.”

The Blues will be completing a two-game road trip Friday before opening a four-game homestand Saturday against Los Angeles. St. Louis is 9-2-1 at the Savvis Center this season.

The Blue Jackets managed a 1-1 tie with the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night, earning a point against the team with the NHL’s best record. Columbus, though, is just 1-4-1 in its last six.

Columbus nearly pulled out the victory, but Sami Kapanen scored with 1:08 left in regulation to give the Flyers the tie.

The goal somewhat spoiled an outstanding performance by Blue Jackets backup goaltender Fred Brathwaite, who stopped 40 shots.

“I got a chance to get in there and we got a point,” Brathwaite said. “But we should have had two.”

Following the outstanding effort, Brathwaite could get the start Friday against the Blues, with whom he played last season.

St. Louis beat Columbus in three of five meetings last season, outscoring the Blue Jackets 18-4 in the three wins.

STANDINGS (through Dec. 10): Blues - 35 points, 2nd place, 2 PB, Central Division. Blue Jackets - 21 points, 4th place, 16 PB, Central Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Blues - Keith Tkachuk, 14 goals; Pavol Demitra, 17 assists and 26 points; Pronger and Mike Danton, 50 PIM. Blue Jackets - Rick Nash, 18 goals and 21 points; Geoff Sanderson, Andrew Cassels and Todd Marchant, 9 assists; Jody Shelley, 81 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 10): Blues - Power play: 22.1 percent (23 for 104), 5th in NHL. Penalty killing: 87.4 percent (111 for 127), 3rd. Blue Jackets - Power play: 15.3 percent (21 for 137), 16th. Penalty killing: 84.2 percent (96 for 114), 16th.

GOALTENDERS: Blues - Chris Osgood (14-6-1, 2 SO, 2.13 GAA); Brent Johnson (2-1-1, 1, 2.12). Blue Jackets - Marc Denis (7-12-3, 2, 2.66); Brathwaite (1-3-1, 2.75).

2002-03 SEASON SERIES: Blues, 3-2.

LAST MEETING: Dec. 29; Blues, 5-2. At St. Louis, Cory Stillman and Martin Rucinsky scored against the NHL’s best penalty-killing unit as the Blues rallied to win and complete a sweep of a home-and-home series.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blues - 7-4-1-1 on the road; Blue Jackets - 8-5-3-0 at home.

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