Blues-Flames Preview

The Associated Press

The St. Louis Blues will be heavily favored to extend their longest win streak of the season, but the lowly Calgary Flames have proved not to be pushovers for them.

These teams have split two one-goal matchups, and the Flames were the last club to beat the surging Blues as they get set to meet Thursday night in Calgary.

St. Louis (30-7-5) seeks to win seven straight in a season for the first time since a nine-game run Oct. 15-Nov. 5, 2002. The Blues haven't lost since a 4-3 shootout defeat Dec. 23 at the Saddledome.

That rare loss was a disheartening one for the Blues, who blew a two-goal, third-period lead as the Flames' Mark Giordano scored the tying goal on the power play with five seconds left in regulation.

St. Louis also nearly let a three-goal lead entering the third period slip away before holding on for a 3-2 home win over Calgary (15-22-6) on Nov. 7.

The Blues' last contest at Calgary marked the start of Alex Steen's seven-game absence due to a concussion. Steen continues to lead the club with 38 points.

Now St. Louis could also be without forward T.J. Oshie, who has 37 points. Oshie had to be helped off the ice late in the third period after a knee-on-knee collision with Taylor Hall in a 5-2 victory at Edmonton on Tuesday.

That would mean that even more of the scoring load would shift to David Backes, who ended a five-game goal drought Tuesday with his 17th. Backes played his second game after missing three with an upper-body injury.

''We've got things to work on but we are certainly trending in the right direction,'' Backes said. ''We've done a lot of good things in these last six games. I didn't play for half of those and our best player, Alex Steen, has been out for a little while."

The effort against the Oilers wasn't good enough for coach Ken Hitchcock even though his team held a 30-18 advantage in shots and got goals from five players. The coach felt the announcement of Olympic rosters had something to do with it, with 10 St. Louis players headed to Sochi.

''We didn't play well,'' Hitchcock said. ''I think it had to do with a lot of the drama that goes on. It really affected our players. We didn't have the focus that we have had and we will need to get it back on this road trip.''

He wasn't the only unhappy coach Tuesday as the Flames' Bob Hartley saw his team fall 6-0 in Phoenix, one night after Calgary ended a four-game slide with a 4-3 win at Colorado. Hartley was pleased with Tuesday's scoreless first period but felt the Flames caved in after the Coyotes took an early 2-0 lead in the second.

''We're part of a process where excuses will not be a part of it,'' Hartley said. ''They were better than us. We kind of fell apart after those two goals.''

The Flames are the worst offensive team in the Western Conference with 2.26 goals per game and could be hard-pressed to break out if Brian Elliott opposes them. Elliott has posted a 1.15 goals-against average in winning his last six starts, although he has lost both of his previous outings in Calgary.

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