BLUES (42-14-6) at AVALANCHE (41-17-5)
TV: Altitude; Fox Sports Midwest
Last 10: St. Louis 6-3-1; Colorado 7-3-0
Season series: This is the third of four games between St. Louis and Colorado. The Blues have taken the first two, outscoring the Avalanche 11-4. David Backes (two goals, three assists) has led the Blues in the first two meetings. Ryan O'Reilly has a goal and assist vs. St. Louis.
Big story: Both teams are in pursuit of the Anaheim Ducks for the Presidents' Trophy and first place in the Western Conference. The Avs (87 points), who trail the Blues by three points and the Blackhawks by one in the Central Division, are looking for a statement win against St. Louis following a lopsided defeat at Scottrade Center in November followed by a competitive game at Pepsi Center a couple weeks later that nevertheless resulted in another loss.
Blues: One reason St. Louis has a leg up in its quest to win the Central is its dominance within the division. The Blues have proven their superiority against all comers. A 2-1 win against the Nashville Predators on Thursday was their 14th win in a row vs. the Central, and they're 16-0-1 in the division this season.
Brian Elliott could get a start in goal this weekend with the Blues also playing Sunday at the Minnesota Wild, but the man of the moment is Ryan Miller, who's 3-0-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average since being acquired from the Buffalo Sabres.
"Our goal was to lead the division at the Olympic break, and we did that, and now the goal is to try to win the Presidents' Trophy," St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. "What the heck, that's important to us. It puts value in what's left of these (20) games now, and we want to take advantage of this. It's important for our guys."
Avalanche: This is the start of a four-game homestand for surging Colorado, giving it a great opportunity to mount a final-mohth run at the Central title. The Avs rallied from a pair of one-goal deficits Thursday night in Detroit and defeated their old rivals, the Red Wings, 3-2 in overtime.
Colorado has been averaging more than four goals per game during its current run, aided by the record-setting play of rookie Nathan MacKinnon. His assist on defenseman Andre Benoit's OT goal to beat Detroit gave him a 13-game point streak. All that did was break an NHL record held by Wayne Gretzky for the longest point streak by an 18-year-old.
"We're not digging our heels in and coasting to the playoffs at this point," forward Matt Duchene said. "We have our foot down on the gas, and we're pressing forward. We're not the old Avs anymore. We're not that team we've been the last four years that tries not to lose. We're the team that always tries to win and goes for it no matter what. It's so fun right now. We're looking around this room, and we realize we have something special. So we just have to keep it going."
Who's hot: Blues forward Magnus Paajarvi has goals in two of the past three games. … For the Avalanche, MacKinnon has five goals and 13 assists during his run, while Duchene has three goals and seven assists during a career high-tying six-game point streak. Forward Ryan O'Reilly has three goals and six assists during a five-game point streak, and defenseman Erik Johnson has one goal and five assists during a three-game point streak since returning to the lineup after a two-game suspension (slashing).
Injury report: St. Louis defenseman Jordan Leopold (ankle) and forward Vladimir Sobotka (knee) are sidelined, though Leopold could return as early as next week, and Sobotka has been skating. … Colorado forward Alex Tanguay (hip) is out for the season.
Colorado Avalanche.com web staff contributed to this story.
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