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National Hockey League
Preview
Chicago at St. Louis
When: 8:00 PM ET, Thursday, April 17, 2014
Where: Scottrade Center, St. Louis, Missouri

Once the trendy pick for the Presidents' Trophy, the St. Louis Blues quickly fell out of favor as the season entered its final leg. After ending the campaign on a six-game losing streak, the Blues look to put the brakes on their skid when they host Game 1 of their Western Conference first-round series against the reigning Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday. Ryan Miller saw his fortunes change following a blistering start after being acquired from cellar-dwelling Buffalo, losing five decisions while posting a gaudy 3.56 goals-against average.

Miller's task will not be easy as reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner Patrick Kane and captain Jonathan Toews are expected to return to Chicago's lineup. Kane has been sidelined since March 19 with a left knee injury while Toews sat out the last six games of the Blackhawks' season following a brutal hit from Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik. St. Louis won three of the five meetings between the Central Division rivals, although Chicago claimed the final two decisions.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS2, CSN (Chicago), FSN Midwest (St. Louis)

ABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS (46-21-15, 3rd in Central Division): Corey Crawford has dominated St. Louis in his career, posting an impressive 11-2-3 mark with two shutouts - including a 23-save gem in a 4-0 win on March 19. Ben Smith and Marcus Kruger scored in that contest and each tallied again in Chicago's 4-2 triumph over the Blues on April 6. Smith finished with four goals in the final six games and Marian Hossa netted five in the last 10.

ABOUT THE BLUES (52-23-7, 2nd in Central Division): Coach Ken Hitchcock's club was decimated by injuries as St. Louis was shut out three times and mustered all of five goals during its losing streak. Captain David Backes, who has been idled by a foot injury, expects a physical matchup against the Blackhawks. "There's no love lost, no secrets," he said. "It's going to be one heck of a series."

OVERTIME

1. St. Louis RW Vladimir Tarasenko could crack the lineup on Thursday after being sidelined since March 15 following surgery to repair a fracture in his right hand.

2. Chicago LW Patrick Sharp collected two goals and two assists in the season series.

3. Blues C Vladimir Sobotka (lower body) and LW Brenden Morrow (foot) participated in practice on Tuesday and Wednesday, although RW T.J. Oshie (upper body) remained on the sideline.

SERIES PREDICTION: Blackhawks in 6
Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W/L Strk Home Away Day Night Div
Chicago 46-21-7-8 L2 27-7-2-5 19-14-5-3 3-0-0-0 43-21-7-8 13-13-1-2
St. Louis 52-23-4-3 L6 28-9-3-1 24-14-1-2 6-5-0-0 46-18-4-3 ---
Last Meeting
Chicago St. Louis
Date Away Home Shots Saves PP Shots Saves PP
4/6/14 STL 2 CHI 4 35 21 0-4 23 31 1-3
Player Stats
Previous Matchup
Total Points Player  
Chicago J. Morin 2
St. Louis D. Backes 1
Goals Player  
Chicago M. Kruger 1
St. Louis J. Schwartz 1
Assists Player  
Chicago B. Bickell 1
St. Louis D. Backes 1
Saves Player  
Chicago C. Crawford 21
St. Louis B. Elliott 31
Season
Total Points Player  
Chicago P. Sharp 82
St. Louis A. Steen 64
Goals Player  
Chicago P. Sharp 36
St. Louis A. Steen 34
Assists Player  
Chicago D. Keith 55
St. Louis A. Pietrangelo 46
Saves Player  
Chicago C. Crawford 1454
St. Louis B. Elliott 660
Quickchart Matchup
Chicago Off vs  St. Louis Def
3.18 GF
2.29 GA
33.1 Shots
26.4 Shots
50 PP
42 PK
St. Louis Off vs  Chicago Def
2.91 GF
2.59 GA
29.3 Shots
27.2 Shots
56 PP
46 PK