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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Wednesday, February 3rd (All times eastern)

St. Louis Blues (24-22-9) at Chicago Blackhawks (37-14-4), 8:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - Back home after their longest road trip of the season, the first-place Chicago Blackhawks will host the St. Louis Blues in tonight's Central Division clash at United Center.

The Blackhawks, who lead the Central and are second in the Western Conference with 78 points, went 5-3-0 during an eight-game swing that ended with Saturday's loss at Carolina.

Chicago is 21-5-1 as the host this year and is playing two straight and four of its next five in the Windy City. The Blackhawks, who have won five of their last six home tilts, are hosting Phoenix on Friday before visiting St. Louis the following day.

The Blackhawks were handed a 4-2 setback by the Hurricanes on Saturday as Brandon Sutter scored the eventual game-winning goal in the third period.

Marian Hossa and Andrew Ladd each had a goal and an assist for the Blackhawks. Cristobal Huet was less than impressive, allowing all four goals on 24 shots in defeat.

"(Carolina is) playing well -- they have a speedy team," said Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville. "They played a quick game. The last two periods (we were outscored); we had the puck and the momentum of the game, but they outscored us."

The Blackhawks could get a big boost tonight with the return of centerman Dave Bolland, who has been sidelined since early November following back surgery. Bolland had 19 goals and 47 points for Chicago last year and is expected to be activated from injured reserve in time for tonight's game.

The Blues, who are 21 points behind Chicago in the Central standings, have lost four of their last six games. St. Louis was able to earn a point its last time out, as it dropped an overtime decision Saturday against visiting Columbus. Kris Russell scored the game-winner 1:32 into overtime to lift the Blue Jackets to the 3-2 decision at Scottrade Center.

David Backes and Andy McDonald had power-play goals for St. Louis, while Chris Mason allowed all three goals on 19 shots.

"We always play tough against Columbus and they play us hard," Mason said. "They've got a lot of talent over there and I think they're underachieving. But obviously it's a game you want to have, just like any other."

On the injury front, the Blues have a handful of players who are questionable for this evening's contest. Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo and forwards B.J. Crombeen and Alexander Steen are dealing with lower-body issues, while D.J. King is nearing his return from a broken hand that has sidelined him since late October.

The Blues have a solid 15-8-4 record as the guest this year, but they have lost six of their last 10 road games.

Chicago has won both meetings with the Blues so far this year and has taken six of 10 overall in the series. St. Louis has lost five of seven and eight of its last 11 in Chicago.

02/03 10:31:29 ET


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