Corey Crawford

Blues take over Central Division lead, beat Blackhawks

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The St. Louis Blues leapfrogged the Nashville Predators for the Central Division lead with a 2-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday night.

The Blackhawks are third in the Central Division and six points up on the Minnesota Wild, who hold the first wild card seed.

St. Louis has now won three straight while Chicago had its four-game win streak snapped.

Kris Versteeg opened the scoring at 14:12 of the first period, but it was all St. Louis after that.

David Backes tied it 1-1 at 6:07 of the second period with his 26th of the season and Olli Jokinen netted the game winner at 15:12 of the second.

Jake Allen made 38 saves for the win while Corey Crawford stopped 31 shots in the loss.

Both teams lost defensemen in the first period.

St. Louis was without Robert Bortuzzo for the final two periods due to an upper body injury.

Kimmo Timonen was hit by Blues’ forward Ryan Reaves midway through the first and left with an undisclosed injury. The Blackhawks announced post-game that Timonen is day-to-day.

Video: Crawford robs Stastny on a breakaway

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With the game tied 1-1 midway through the second period, Blues forward Paul Stastny had an excellent chance to give St. Louis a 2-1 lead.

However, Corey Crawford not only stopped Stastny on the initial shot, but the rebound as well.

Goalie Nods: Detroit continues rotation as playoffs near

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All the latest from the blue paint…

Petr Mrazek starts for Detroit as rotation continues

Jimmy Howard turned aside 22 of 24 shots in regulation en route to a 3-2 shootout win over Minnesota on Saturday, but Red Wings coach Mike Babcock announced well in advance that Howard and Mrazek would split Detroit’s goaltending duties this weekend. That’s nothing new for the Wings as Howard’s recent struggles have thrown his status as the team’s number one netminder in question.

The debate was also fueled by Mrazek’s strong play in March (2.18 GAA and .932 save percentage in six games), but he allowed three goals on 25 shots against Boston on April 2.

It remains to be seen if Detroit will enter the playoffs with a clear starting goaltender. Then again, it remains to be seen if Detroit will enter the playoffs at all. A loss against Washington tonight could certainly complicate matters for the Red Wings.

It’s not clear who will play between the pipes for Washington, although it wouldn’t be shocking to see Braden Holtby start on no rest.

Elsewhere…

Habs at Panthers: No confirmed goaltenders yet for this one, but Carey Price is rested so odds are Montreal will start him. Dan Ellis might get the nod for Florida after Roberto Luongo surrendered four goals on 22 shots on Saturday.

Sens at Leafs: Andrew Hammond vs. Jonathan Bernier

Blues at Hawks: Jake Allen vs. Corey Crawford

Goalie nods: Slumping Elliott sits, Allen starts for Blues

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All the latest from the blue paint…

St. Louis turns to Allen

With Brian Elliott having lost four straight and the Blues winning just once in their last six, Ken Hitchcock will turn things over to Jake Allen tonight for a tilt against Calgary.

Allen — who was in goal for St. Louis’ last win, a 3-2 OT decision over Pittsburgh — could potentially throw a wrench into the Blues’ plans of Elliott being their definitive playoff starter. Elliott hasn’t played well lately, going 1-3-1 with a .902 save percentage over his last five games, and Hitchcock did leave the door open slightly when asked if Ellliott could be usurped as the postseason No. 1.

“Obviously if [Elliott] doesn’t play well at all, then we’ve got to reassess it like any team does,” he explained, per the Post-Dispatch.

As for Allen, he’s gunning for his 20th win tonight and is coming off two pretty solid performances, stopping 24 of 26 shots in the aforementioned win over Pittsburgh, and 23 of 25 in a 2-1 OT loss to Detroit on Mar. 22.

For Calgary, Jonas Hiller will start in goal.

Elsewhere…

Isles at Jackets: Jaroslav Halak vs. Sergei Bobrovsky

Caps at Habs: Braden Holtby vs. Carey Price

Bolts at Sens: Ben Bishop vs. Andrew Hammond

Bruins at Wings: (No Boston starter yet) vs. Petr Mrazek

‘Canes at Panthers: Anton Khudobin vs. Roberto Luongo

Rangers at Wild: Henrik Lundqvist vs. Devan Dubnyk

Canucks at ‘Hawks: (No Vancouver starter yet) vs. Corey Crawford

Oilers at Kings: No starters for either team yet.

Get your game notes: Kings at Blackhawks

Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Chicago Blackhawks hosting the Los Angeles Kings at 8:30 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

TOP STORYLINES

• Back at United Center: This is the 3rd and final meeting of the season (each has 1 regulation win), but the first game at United Center since June 1, 2014 – Game 7 of last year‟s Western Conf. Final, which LA won 5-4 (OT).

• LA’s playoff push: The Kings are ending a 5-game road trip today (3-1-0 record thus far).

• The Kings swept NJ, NYR, and NYI on the same road trip for the 3rd time in franchise history. They are just one of three teams all-time to accomplish that feat (NSH, ANA). However, LA‟s winning streak was snapped on Saturday in the loss to MIN.

• LA has once again fallen outside the playoff picture, however the Kings have a game in hand on both the Flames and the Jets. In addition, the Kings lead the tiebreaker (ROW) against Winnipeg. A win tonight would put the Kings back in the playoffs (Wild Card if CGY also wins, 3rd in Pacific if CGY loses).

• Tonight ends the Kings’ most challenging remaining stretch schedule-wise. Four of their final 6 games after tonight are against teams out of the playoff race (EDM twice, COL, SJ). The other two games are crucial Pacific Division matchups and could determine LA‟s fate this season – at Vancouver in a week and at Calgary in the Kings’ penultimate game of the regular season.

• Late-season surges have been LA‟s identity in each of the past 3 seasons, as they have not clinched a playoff spot until the very end of the season.

• The Kings can become the first repeat champ since DET won in 1997 & 1998…on the other end of the spectrum, they could become only the 4th team since the 1967-68 expansion to miss the playoffs the season after winning the Cup, joining CAR (2006-07), NJ (1995-96) & MTL (1969-70).

• Chicago battling for position: Though the Hawks have won just twice in their last 5 games (2-3-0 record), they are coming off a come-from-behind 4-3 win in Winnipeg yesterday. While still 3rd in the Central, Chicago is under pressure from Minnesota (26-6-2 since Jan. 15 – most wins in NHL), and must keep winning to avoid being a Wild Card team. The Hawks have a game in hand on the Wild and one more matchup this season.

• Without Patrick Kane: After last night’s win, Chicago has now gone 9-4-1 without its leading scorer. Kane underwent successful surgery on Feb. 25 to repair his left clavicle fracture and was expected to be out 12 weeks from that time. That timetable likely puts Kane out until at least the WC Final. While he has been on the ice since, there is no change in the prognosis. At the time of the injury, Kane was tied for the league lead in points with 64 in 61 games.

• For the better part of March, Chicago had been winning games with improved defense to make up for the dip in scoring caused by Kane’s absence. Though those trends over the 14 games without Kane still hold, recently the Hawks have seen different results.

• Before the 4-goal outburst yesterday, the Hawks had scored 7 goals in the 5 previous games. And CHI now has allowed 12 goals over its last 3 games – it had allowed just 13 in the 9 games before that.

KINGS TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Jonathan Quick ranks 2nd in the NHL with 65 starts this season, which includes his current run of 14 straight. He was pulled after the first period against MIN – he stopped 7 of 9 shots. Despite the loss Saturday, Quick‟s play since Feb. 7 (the start of LA‟s season-high 8-game win streak) has sparked the Kings’ turnaroud

• This season vs. CHI: 1-1-0 record, 3.03 GAA, .887 SV%. This includes a 26-save performance in the most recent meeting (4-3 Kings win on Jan. 28).

• Regular season career vs. CHI: 7-13-1 record, 2.79 GAA, .908 SV%.

• Including playoffs, Tyler Toffoli has 15 points (8 goals) in 17 career games against the Blackhawks.

• Anze Kopitar has led the Kings in scoring each of the past 7 seasons, and his 60 points this season also leads the team. Kopitar had a 5-game point streak snapped in the loss to the Wild, but he still has 6 points in the 4 games on this road trip.

CHICAGO TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Since Kane was injured, 3 Hawks have stepped up offensively – captain Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, and Andrew Shaw. All 3 players scored in yesterday’s win.

• Toews – a Winnipeg native – scored the game-winning goal with 31 seconds left in regulation yesterday.

• Sharp went 19 games without a goal from Jan. 30 to March 12 (2nd-longest drought of career), but he now has 4 goals (and 4 assists) in the 8 games since, including the game-tying goal on a 3rd-period breakaway yesterday.

• Shaw had gone 13 straight games without a point leading up to Kane’s exit from the lineup. He has 7 points (5 goals) in the 14 games without number 88, including 4 goals in the last 4 games.

• Goaltender Corey Crawford has made 5 straight starts, and though he picked up the win yesterday stopping 31 of 34 shots, he has allowed 3+ goals in 4 of those 5 games.