Ducks-Blues Preview

The Associated Press

The St. Louis Blues have relied on their stingy defense to surge to the top of the Western Conference standings.

A home matchup with the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night might help them continue that success in their own end and add to that slim lead in the West.

St. Louis (42-18-7) is giving up only 1.88 goals per contest overall and has yielded two or fewer in each game over a 6-1-0 stretch. A 5-1 rout of visiting Chicago on Tuesday and Vancouver's loss to Dallas gave the Blues a one-point lead over the Canucks in the West.

"It's exciting, but we realize there's a lot of hard work left," said center Andy McDonald, who scored a pair of goals and has five over the past four games. "Most importantly, we've got to make sure that we're getting our game ready for the playoffs."

The Blues, whose 91 points are also tied for the most in the NHL with the New York Rangers, killed off five Blackhawks power plays to extend their streak to 32. Jaroslav Halak made 19 saves during his sixth consecutive win, one shy of matching his career-best streak from Jan. 3-21.

Halak might get the chance to try to match that streak against a team that's scored two or fewer goals in eight consecutive road games. Like St. Louis, Anaheim (29-28-10) is trying to rally for a playoff berth after a mid-season coaching change, but losses in three of its last four away from home haven't helped.

Coach Bruce Boudreau's Ducks are currently 12th in the West and six points behind a group of three teams tied for eighth. An inspired third period Monday against visiting Edmonton helped them avoid falling back in that race.

Corey Perry scored two of his team's three goals during that frame in a 4-2 victory. Bobby Ryan had the other score for Anaheim, which had lost in three of its previous four games.

"We still believe in this dressing room," said Perry, who scored his 200th career goal during the win. "If we keep winning our share of games, we're going to be there."

The Ducks will try to do that winning during a three-game road trip that includes visits to Pacific Division-leading Dallas and another team that's on the playoff bubble, Colorado. Anaheim will then play six of its next seven at home.

Teemu Selanne will try to help get that trip off to a strong start while becoming the highest-scoring Finnish player in league history. The winger matched Jari Kurri's 1,398 points, tied for 19th all-time, with an assist on Ryan's goal Monday.

"I would never imagine I would have as many points as Jari Kurri," said Selanne, who has a five-game point streak against the Blues.

Selanne will also try to help the Ducks end a four-game skid in St. Louis, which is 19-1-3 in its last 23 home games. The Ducks suffered their most recent defeat at the Scottrade Center on Dec. 8, when T.J. Oshie scored a pair of goals to send Anaheim to a 4-2 defeat.

The Ducks, though, recorded a 4-2 win over the Blues at home Oct. 16 with Ryan providing two goals and an assist. The winger has five points in this season's two matchups (three goals, two assists), and his 11 career goals against St. Louis are tied for his most against any opponent.

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