Blues-Jets Preview

The Associated Press

Following a rare poor defensive performance, the St. Louis Blues tightened things up in impressive fashion against the defending Stanley Cup champions.

Now they'll try to avoid a letdown against a struggling Winnipeg Jets team that could be without Evander Kane.

With Brian Elliott expected to get his first start, the Blues look to open the season 6-1 for the second year in a row Friday night when they visit Winnipeg.

St. Louis (5-1-0) had given up just seven goals while winning its first four games before Jaroslav Halak yielded four on 26 shots before getting pulled in a 6-2 loss to San Jose on Tuesday.

Halak, however, returned to form Thursday by stopping 27 of 29 shots - and all three shootout attempts - in a 3-2 win at Chicago. The Blues, who hope to challenge the Blackhawks atop the Central Division, also defeated their rivals 3-2 in St. Louis on Oct. 9.

''We're getting to a stage now that they're where we want to be," said center T.J. Oshie, who scored the decisive shootout goal.

Coming off the big victory, the Blues hope to stay focused in this second of back-to-back road games. They're expected to turn to Elliott as they try to match last year's start that led to their second straight playoff appearance.

Elliott hasn't started since allowing two goals on 16 shots in a 2-1 loss to Los Angeles in Game 6 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series.

Though Kane's right leg injury is believed to be minor, he needed help off the ice during Wednesday's practice and did not participate the following day. The winger, tied for the team lead with three goals, is expected to be a game-time decision.

With Bryan Little also banged-up but likely to play, the Jets (3-4-0) could certainly use Kane's skill. Since scoring 10 times during a promising 2-0-0 start, they've totaled seven goals while dropping four of five games.

They couldn't get any of their 36 shots past Carey Price in Tuesday's 3-0 loss to Montreal.

Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg's leader with 19 goals last season, has only one goal and three points. The Jets hope he can get going in this matchup since he has five goals and six points in five career games against the Blues.

Wheeler scored twice in a 3-2 shootout loss to visiting St. Louis on Feb. 25, 2012, the only other meeting since Winnipeg moved from Atlanta.

"They're a team that's tough to play against because they check very well and don't give you much offensively," Winnipeg coach Claude Noel said of the Blues. "You have to earn every inch of ice."

Though Ondrej Pavelec stopped 22 of 24 shots against the Canadiens, he has a 3.05 goals-against average and looks to avoid his fifth straight loss.

Center Alexander Steen has goals in five of six games for St. Louis, which ranks among the NHL's top scoring clubs with 24 goals.

Steen's father, Thomas, scored 817 points in 950 games for the Jets from 1981-95.

The Blues seeks their fourth consecutive victory over the Winnipeg/Atlanta franchise.

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