|CHI||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||0|
|STL||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||1|
Coach Joel Quenneville knows his Chicago Blackhawks have already assured themselves a successful eight-game road trip.
They'll try to finish it on a strong note Friday night when they visit the Central Division rival St. Louis Blues.
Chicago (30-14-8) embarked on this trip - the second-longest in franchise history and the longest for any NHL team this season - after losing three of four contests entering the All-Star break. The Blackhawks have responded by winning in five of their first seven stops on the swing to improve their overall road record to 16-10-3 - fourth-best in the league.
"It's been a good trip," said Quenneville, whose club has won 12 of its last 15 games away from home. "We're going into a game that hopefully (Friday) we can make it a great trip. We won in some tough buildings and we won in different fashions."
Goaltending was the biggest reason for Wednesday's 3-1 victory over Atlanta. Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews scored power-play goals, but the Blackhawks were outshot 37-28. Nikolai Khabibulin made 36 saves to bail out his teammates.
"We weren't our best, but at the same time (Khabibulin) was," Quenneville said. "You need those type of games. We've had a few this year."
Khabibulin and offseason acquisition Cristobal Huet have helped Chicago concede the fourth-fewest goals in the league (134). The two have rotated starts over the last 23 games, and Huet is expected in net Friday.
Khabibulin will likely not even be available. He is considered day-to-day after suffering what Quenneville described as a "lower-body injury" at the end of Wednesday's game. Chicago recalled Antti Niemi from Rockford of the AHL to serve as Huet's backup.
Huet boasts a 2.01 goals-against average in five career games versus the Blues. He has a win and a loss against them this season.
St. Louis (22-25-6) beat Huet 2-0 on Jan. 21 at the United Center in the teams' latest meeting to improve to 3-1-0 in the season series. The teams' first three contests were all decided after regulation.
"Every game's been tight, every game's been close against them," Quenneville said. "They're playing very well, one of the top teams in the league over the last three weeks, so we're expecting a tough game."
St. Louis has collected at least a point in 10 of its last 12 games (6-2-4), but has blown two-goal leads en route to consecutive losses. The Blues led 3-1 entering the third period Thursday night in Nashville, but wound up losing 4-3 in a shootout.
"We have to be able to close games out better," Blues coach Andy Murray said. "You have expectations that guys will get the job done."
Goaltender Chris Mason took the loss, but stopped 31 shots and has been playing well overall, with a 1.78 GAA and a .937 save percentage in his last 10 games. He made 21 saves to shut out the Blackhawks in January.
Blues winger Brad Boyes, meanwhile, has four goals and nine assists in his last nine games overall, and has two goals and six assists in his last seven matchups with Chicago.
|Apr 01 '09||STL 1 at CHI 3||S. Pahlsson|
|Feb 13 '09||CHI 0 at STL 1||B. Boyes|
|Jan 21 '09||STL 2 at CHI 0||J. Woywitka|
|Jan 17 '09||CHI 2 at STL 1 - OT||M. Havlat|
|Nov 14 '08||STL 4 at CHI 3 - OT||A. McDonald|
|Oct 18 '08||CHI 3 at STL 4 - SO||T. Oshie|