Preview: Blackhawks at Blues

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[March 09, 2016]  SportsDirect Inc.
 
 The Chicago Blackhawks hope to see a familiar face back in the lineup when they test their mettle against fellow Central Division heavyweights St. Louis and Dallas this week. Sidelined with a lower-body injury, veteran forward Marian Hossa is poised to return from an eight-game absence on Wednesday when the Blackhawks visit the Blues.

"Obviously it's going to be a great test for our team, a two big games on the road (and) Mom's trip. So, couldn't have timed it better," Hossa told CSN Chicago. The 37-year-old will join captain Jonathan Toews and Andrew Ladd on the top line for the Blackhawks, who have won three of four to reside one point behind first-place Dallas prior to Friday's contest at the American Airlines Center. Chicago also holds a two-point lead over St. Louis, which wrapped up its four-game road trip with three straight victories to improve to 9-3-1 in its last 13 contests. The Blues have won just one of three meetings with the Blackhawks, although Vladimir Tarasenko has scored three goals in the series - including the overtime winner in a 6-5 victory on Nov. 4.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TVA Sports

ABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS (41-21-5): Corey Crawford has yielded just five goals en route to winning his last three contests overall and is a blistering 14-4-4 with three shutouts in his career versus St. Louis. One such dominating performance occurred on Jan. 24, as the 31-year-old Montreal native turned aside all 25 shots he faced for his career-high seventh blanking of the season. Rookie Artemi Panarin scored in that contest and had two assists in a 4-1 victory over Detroit on Sunday for his second multi-point performance in his last three games.

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ABOUT THE BLUES (38-20-9): After missing three games with an upper-body injury, Jori Lehtera scored in his return to send St. Louis to a 4-2 victory over Minnesota on Sunday. The 28-year-old Finn has been held off the scoresheet in six of seven career meetings with Chicago - save for a two-assist performance in a 4-2 setback on Nov. 14. Jake Allen made 23 saves in that outing to take the loss, but has permitted just seven goals during his current three-game winning streak.

OVERTIME

1. St. Louis, which entered play on Tuesday with the top penalty kill in the NHL (86.6 percent), has thwarted nine of its last 10 short-handed situations.

2. Blackhawks F Marcus Kruger agreed to a three-year, $9.25 million contract extension on Tuesday.

3. Injured Blues LW Alex Steen (upper body) and G Brian Elliott (lower body) were on the ice on Tuesday, although both admitted that their respective return dates are at least two weeks away.

PREDICTION: Blues 4, Blackhawks 2

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