Blackhawks-Blues Preview

The Associated Press

The ability to win close games has been a key reason for the Chicago Blackhawks' record start.

Like the NHL leaders, the St. Louis Blues have grown accustomed to playing tight games of late.

Still undefeated in regulation and looking for a season-high seventh straight victory, the visiting Blackhawks expect to face a stiff challenge from the Blues on Thursday night.

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Chicago (16-0-3) extended its league record for consecutive games without a regulation defeat to a start a season by rallying for a 3-2 overtime win over Edmonton on Monday. Marian Hossa scored the winner to help the Blackhawks conclude a 6-0-1 home stretch.

"Without sounding arrogant, it's just business as usual,'' said forward Patrick Sharp, who recorded his 400th point while assisting on Hossa's goal.

"We keep finding ways to win. That's important at any time of the year. Those one-goal games, we're on the right side of them."

Chicago is 10-0-3 in games decided by one goal. Each of its last five and all but one on the homestand were decided by that margin.

"Seven games in a row at home ... that's a tough thing to get points out of every game," coach Joel Quenneville told the NHL's official website. "It was good for the guys. They should be commended for being consistent in their approach, kind of comparable to our start.

"We've put ourselves in a good spot, but expect teams to be ready and gunning for us."

Chicago has won three straight versus St. Louis (10-6-2), all at home and all by one goal with two going to a shootout. Corey Crawford made a season-high 32 saves in a 3-2 win Jan. 22.

Though the Blackhawks have dropped five of seven at St. Louis, they're 8-0-2 away from the United Center and looking for a fifth straight road victory.

The Blues have split their last four games, all decided by one goal. They improved to 6-2-2 in such contests while ending an 0-4-1 home stretch with a 2-1 victory over Columbus on Saturday.

St. Louis has averaged 3.3 goals while going 6-2-1 on the road, but 2.8 while posting a 4-4-1 home mark. The Blues were 30-6-5 in St. Louis in 2011-12.

"I think just getting the feeling of winning again is going to do wonders for us at home now,'' coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I think this helps us so much because we play at such a higher level on the road and with such a higher level of intensity, where we're waiting for things to happen at home and then they don't happen and we get discouraged.''

St. Louis' Jaroslav Halak made 19 saves and allowed his first goal in three home starts Saturday. Halak has posted a 1.38 goals-against average during a 16-1-1 home stretch, and he's 3-0-0 with a shutout and 1.00 GAA at home versus Chicago.

Crawford could be in net after backup Ray Emery improved to 8-0-0 with a 2.08 GAA on Monday. Among the NHL leaders at 8-0-3 with a 1.50 GAA, Crawford returned from a three-game absence due to an upper-body injury to stop 28 shots in Sunday's 1-0 victory over Columbus.

Crawford, though, is 1-1-1 with a 3.57 GAA at St. Louis.

Sharp has seven goals and nine assists in his last 16 games against the Blues.

St. Louis' Chris Stewart has recorded two goals and four assists in his last six overall.

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