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River Deep, Mountain High: Blackhawks at Blues

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Chicago Blackhawks v St Louis Blues Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks and their surprising run of good fortune — to the tune of five wins in their last six games — into a game on Saturday against the St. Louis Blues at the Enterprise Center.

Like the last time these two teams met up back at the end of December, the Blues are still vying for a place in the playoffs. They’re still fifth in the Central Division, but they’ve gotten to within three points of a wild card spot. St. Louis would still have to jump the Colorado Avalanche and knockout either the Calgary Flames or Edmonton Oilers, so it’s definitely an uphill battle for the Blues to make the postseason.

Good news for the Blues is that they’re on a decent streak right now. They’re currently in the midst of a seven-game homestead, having gone 3-2-0 so far and riding a two-game win streak. The latter two wins weren’t against particularly difficult opponents — the Ottawa Senators and Nashville Predators — but the Blues did defeat them both convincingly. The 5-2 victory over the Predators was especially important and impressive because it knocked Nashville down a spot in the standings, and the Blues owned 61.84 percent of the shot attempt share and 55.68 of the expected goals share at 5-on-5. It was easily the Blues’ most dominating performance of the season.

During the Predators game, the Blues managed to get goals from five different scorers: Jordan Kyrou, Robert Thomas, Brayden Schenn, Brandon Saad, and Alexey Toropchenko. As is typical for the Blues, most of those names are from the top-six, but the team has been getting production chipped in from their lower lines more lately than they were even a month ago.

The team leaders during the last five games have been expected ones: Kyrou and Thomas both have two goals and three assists while Buchnevich added two goals and two assists himself. But typically lower-line forwards like Jake Neighbours (2 G, 1 A) and Tyler Pitlick (1 G, 2 A) have contributed in that span as well.

Another area of weakness for the Blues right now is their health: they have six players on injured reserve, including some pretty important names. Ryan O’Reilly is out with a broken foot, Vladimir Tarasenko is still recuperating from a hand injury, Robert Bortuzzo and Torey Krug both have undisclosed lower-body injuries. Some of these players have returned to practicing with their team but are not expected to play against the Blackhawks. Tarasenko and Krug, in particular, have been big losses as they’re both top-six producers for the Blues this season.

The Blues and Blackhawks have faced off twice already this season, with the Blues being victorious both times: first a 5-2 win on Nov. 16 and then a 3-1 victory on Dec. 29. Despite the score in the second game, it wasn’t that close, as the Blues dominated in every shot category. St. Louis has gotten moderately worse on the power play (23.5 percent to 22.9 percent) but slightly better on the penalty kill (71.4 percent to 74.1 percent) since the last meeting. If the Blackhawks want a chance to get their first win against St. Louis this season, taking advantage in the special teams battle could be one key road to victory.

Tale of the tape (statistics from this season)

Blackhawks — Statistic — Blues

42.67% (32nd) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 45.66% (28th)

41.10% (31st) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 46.45% (25th)

2.37 (31st) — Goals per game — 3.11 (18th)

3.63 (27th) — Goals against per game — 3.50 (25th)

56.2% (1st) — Faceoffs — 50.4% (14th)

20.3% (23rd) — Power play — 22.9% (14th)

74.8% (23rd) — Penalty kill — 74.1% (25th)

How to watch

When: 7 p.m. CT

Where: Enterprise Center, St. Louis

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

Radio: WGN 720

Live stream: Sling TV