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The St. Louis Blues have played well over the last month, and they're about to get a little stronger.
After missing almost 13 months with a concussion, David Perron makes his return to the ice when the Blues host the rival Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night.
Despite having its four-game winning streak snapped with a 3-2 shootout loss at Colorado on Friday, St. Louis (14-8-3) is 8-1-3 since Ken Hitchcock replaced the fired Davis Payne as coach. The return of one of the game's bright young stars could provide an even bigger boost for a club that has missed the playoffs the last two seasons.
A first-round pick by St. Louis in 2007, Perron posted 50 points in 2008-09 and 20 goals the following season. He had five goals and two assists in 10 games before his 2010-11 campaign was cut short by a concussion he suffered against San Jose on Nov. 4, 2010.
One of the team's best stickhandlers and skaters, Perron is finally healthy enough to return and contribute after missing 97 games.
"It's been a long road, obviously," said Perron, who has five goals in his last three games against the Blackhawks. "I didn't expect it to be that long, in a short career so far. I'm just glad to be back to 100 percent healthy now and ready to go."
With Perron back in the mix, the Blues try to bounce back after they blew a one-goal third-period lead Friday.
"A shootout is a shootout," Hitchcock said. "We didn't extend the lead and it came back to haunt us."
Kevin Shattenkirk and Patrik Berglund each had a goal for the Blues, who have scored exactly two goals in four straight games and six of their last seven.
The Blues have managed to find success despite their lack of offensive production thanks to some solid goaltending. After Jaroslav Halak made 33 saves at Colorado, Brian Elliott is expected to put his six-game winning streak on the line Saturday.
Elliott, who has allowed six goals and recorded two shutouts during his run, has posted a 1.19 goals-against average while winning nine of his last 10 starts. He is 1-0-1 with a 1.44 GAA versus Chicago, playing both games with Ottawa.
Though the Blues have won just five times in their last 14 against Chicago, four of those victories have come in the teams' last five meetings in St. Louis. T.J. Oshie had a goal with an assist and Shattenkirk added two assists in a 3-0 home win over the Blackhawks on Nov. 8 in Hitchcock's St. Louis debut.
Chicago (15-8-3) looks to avenge that defeat while trying to build on Friday's 5-4 shootout victory over the New York Islanders. Jonathan Toews had a goal with an assist and added the lone tally in the shootout as the Blackhawks won for the third time in four games.
"We have to keep winning, keep getting points," said Toews, who has four goals and four assists in his last four games. "We made some mistakes (Friday) but we'll learn from it. Things are starting to come together, it's good for everybody."
Toews has two goals and five assists in his last six games at St. Louis.