Hiller looks to help Ducks stymie Blues
BLUES (20-15-6) at DUCKS (23-18-4)
TV -- FS-MW (HD), FS-W (HD)
Last 10 --
St. Louis 5-4-1; Anaheim 6-4-0
Season series --
Only the second of the annual four-game set, the first a 5-1 fusillade at the hands of the Blues, who peppered Jonas Hiller
and Curtis McElhinney
with 53 shots at Scottrade Center. Last season was an even split, each team taking a home and away game.
Big story --
The Ducks have won five of their last six (the last two on Hiller shutouts) and the Blues have dropped four straight. Hiller got the nod for the All-Star Game over his counterpart up the Santa Ana Freeway, Jonathan Quick, and his recent performance certainly didn't hurt his case. He has back-to-back shutouts for the first time in his NHL career and hasn't allowed a goal in his last 154:50 of action. Not the kind of guy you want to run into if you're the Blues and trying to snap a losing streak.
They're 0-3-1 in their last four and don't want to match their previous five-game winless streak from Nov. 10-17. And when they're one-goal losses, like their last three at home, the half-full glass starts to look half-empty. The last head-scratcher was a 4-3 squeaker to Phoenix at Scottrade Center on Monday, a game which was looking pretty good after Matt D'Agostini and Brad Winchester scored 20 seconds apart. But the Coyotes made their shots count down the stretch, and they stole the game despite being outshot by the Blues 17-8 in the third period.
"There's not really much consolation in being close," defenseman Eric Brewer said. "There are some things that we are doing well out there. There's a fine line between winning and losing and now we're on the other side of it."
Road trips, of course, can refresh a team in a funk or drive them deeper into it. The Blues will end a stretch of 12 home games out of 15 by doing the California trip the next three, proceeding north to Staples Center and the Kings, then up the coast to San Jose.
Shutout streak notwithstanding, Hiller has been pretty good for going on a month now. Since Dec. 10, he's 9-3-0 over 13 games with a 1.45 goals-against average, right up there with the NHL elite. He's made 64 saves over his last two games against Columbus and San Jose, good enough to earn him the League's second star of the week.
"It's fun to play in front of Jonas. He's playing with a lot of confidence and he's not making any mistakes," center Saku Koivu
said. "It's a great feeling when your goaltender's playing that well because you know he's going to make some great saves, even when the other team gets some chances."
It's quite a contrast to the Hiller the Blues faced in October. He was pulled in the second period of that loss, and was 3-5-1 in October.
Who's hot -- Bobby Ryan
scored in his second straight game and Hiller made it hold up as the Ducks edged the Sharks 1-0 on Sunday. Teemu Selanne
and Ryan each scored twice in 6-0 drubbing of Columbus on Friday, giving Selanne 5 points in his last five games. Anaheim's other All-Star, Corey Perry
, leads the team with 45 points. Meanwhile, rookie defenseman Cam Fowler
earned his way into the NHL Honda SuperSkills competition during All-Star Weekend. He's the only defenseman from the 2010 Entry Draft currently playing with an NHL club.
Blues' All-Star selection David Backes has 3 goals in his last four games, while D'Agostini has 6 points in his last four. Winchester has scored in three straight games, a career high.
Injury report --
Blues forward Dave Scatchard (knee) is still on track for a February return, while there's still no timetable on forward Andy McDonald (concussion), out since Dec. 4. TJ Oshie's broken left ankle is still on the mend, and they're still saying late January for him. David Perron sustained a concussion Nov. 4 and has not resumed skating. … On the Ducks' side, Ryan Getzlaf
(nasal sinus fractures) remains out, as is forward Aaron Voros
(fractured orbital bone).
Stat pack --
Should Hiller extend his shutout streak, it will be his first against the Blues. He's 4-2-0 with a 3.33 GAA against them. The record for consecutive shutouts by a goalie is five, set by Brian Boucher of Phoenix during the 2003-04 season. The Blues have come up empty on their last 11 chances on the power play, contributing to a 14.7-percent success rate, fifth lowest in the NHL. Jaroslav Halak is 0-3-0 with a 4.00 GAA over his last four starts for the Blues, but got the win against the Ducks back in October.
Puck drop --
"It hasn't sunk in that I've been chosen. It's a dream come true, obviously." -- Backes after learning Tuesday that he had been named an All-Star for the first time