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National Hockey League

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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Thursday, January 23rd (All times Eastern)

St. Louis Blues (33-11-5) at New York Rangers (27-22-3), 7 p.m.

(SportsNetwork.com) - The St. Louis Blues will try to shake off their worst loss of the season when they visit the New York Rangers in Thursday's clash at Madison Square Garden.

The Blues are currently second to Chicago in the Central Division standings, but the club has struggled lately, losing four of its last six games. On Tuesday, St. Louis suffered its most lopsided loss of the season, getting slammed, 7-1, by the New Jersey Devils.

One night after opening a four-game road trip with Monday's 4-1 win in Detroit, the Blues were blown out in Newark. The Devils jumped out to a 2-0 lead with a pair of goals in a 24-second span less than three minutes into the game. St. Louis cut the deficit to 2-1 later in the first period, but New Jersey scored five unanswered goals the rest of the way.

Alexander Steen scored St. Louis' lone goal, while Brian Elliott allowed three goals on nine shots before being removed late in the first period. Jaroslav Halak turned aside just 10-of-14 shots in relief for the Blues.

"We've got some tough games coming up in the next couple of days and if we don't come together real quick we're going to have some lessons taught to us," said St. Louis center David Backes.

Vladimir Tarasenko missed his second straight game on Tuesday due to an illness and the Russian forward is questionable for tonight's game. The sophomore winger has 15 goals and 14 assists in 47 games this season.

The Blues are 15-6-3 as the visiting team this season and have lost two of their last three games as the guest. St. Louis is scheduled to close its current swing on Saturday against the New York Islanders before returning home for Tuesday's rematch against the Devils.

The Rangers, meanwhile, hope to bounce back from a loss after having a three- game winning streak halted in Tuesday's home test against the rival Islanders, who earned a 5-3 triumph at MSG.

The Blueshirts held leads of 2-0 and 3-1 on Tuesday, but allowed the Isles to tie the game by the end of the second period before Thomas Vanek recorded the game-winning goal on the power-play with 4:38 left in the third. Frans Nielsen added an empty-netter in the closing seconds to secure the win for the Islanders.

"Obviously their top line had quite an evening," said Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault. "It was, I thought, a hard-fought battle by both teams, but at the end of the day we made a couple of mistakes and they made us pay."

Rick Nash scored twice in the loss, while Chris Kreider had a goal and two assists. Nash has been on fire lately, scoring five times over his last three games and notching consecutive two-goal performances.

Cameron Talbot, subbing for an under-the-weather Henrik Lundqvist, halted 32- of-36 shots. Lundqvist could be back in Thursday's game, but New York's No. 1 netminder is 0-3-0 with a 3.06 goals against average in four career tests against the Blues.

Halak expects to get the call for St. Louis on Thursday. He is 6-4-0 with a 2.90 GAA in 11 lifetime appearances against the Rangers.

St. Louis recorded a 5-3 home win over the Rangers on Oct. 12. Backes scored twice in that game for the Blues, while Halak stopped 26-of-29 shots for the win.

The Blues have taken two straight and six of seven in this series and are 10-1-2 with a tie in the last 14 meetings overall. They also have won two straight and six of the past seven encounters in NYC.

01/23 10:44:11 ET

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