Blackhawks-Blues Preview

The Associated Press

The St. Louis Blues have done their best in past meetings to counter Chicago's explosive offense with a physical brand of hockey, and that likely won't change when they host the Blackhawks on Wednesday night.

St. Louis, though, has proved through its first two contests that it can light up the scoreboard as well.

A popular pick to win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history, the Blues (2-0-0) are on the verge of winning their first three games for the first time since 1993 while scoring goals in bunches.

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They netted the game's first three goals within 10 minutes in a 4-2 win over Nashville on Thursday before scoring four in the second period of Saturday's 7-0 win over Florida.

Brenden Morrow and Derek Roy, signed in the offseason to help upgrade an offense that finished near the middle of the league in scoring last season, each scored Saturday, while Jaroslav Halak recorded his franchise-record 17th shutout with 19 saves.

"We knew all along that we probably don't have that superstar talent, but we're a grinding team that's solid throughout,'' said Morrow, whose goal was the 250th of his career. "Anyone can be the hero any given night.''

Jaden Schwartz added a goal and two assists, and he scored twice as the Blues won the most recent meeting with Chicago 3-1 on April 27 in another physical battle between the teams that has become the norm in recent years.

The Blackhawks mostly have withstood those tests, having won five of the last seven matchups overall, and Patrick Kane said the defending Stanley Cup champions know what to expect Wednesday.

"We know they're going to try and bring that physical element to the game," Kane said. "That's fine with us, we'll play that way and try to capitalize on power plays and scoring chances, whatever it may be."

Those battles have added intensity to a rivalry sure to pick up even more steam now that Chicago's historic rival, Detroit, is playing in the Eastern Conference.

"We feel they're our new rivalry now with Detroit leaving the division," forward Bryan Bickell said. "It's going to be a like a playoff atmosphere for sure because they're physical and a hard team to play against in their building."

The league's realignment has put more emphasis on divisional play, and the Blackhawks and Blues are expected to battle for the top spot in the revamped Central.

"You're looking at St. Louis thinking this could be a very important game the way things set up over the course of the season," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I'm sure they're excited about playing us as well."

Chicago (1-0-1) will be looking to bounce back after falling 3-2 in a shootout to Tampa Bay on Saturday despite outshooting the Lightning 39-16 and not allowing a shot on goal in the first period.

Kane and Brandon Saad each scored their second goal of the season.

"It was pretty near a perfect game for us,'' said goaltender Corey Crawford, who made 14 saves. "I had to find a way to come up with one save at the end to shut it down, and I didn't.''

Crawford is 6-0-1 with a 1.44 goals-against average in his last six appearances against the Blues, while Halak is 3-1-3 with a 2.08 GAA in seven career starts against Chicago.

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